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El Polín Spring
With its remarkable charm, nature and history, El Polín Spring is an “outdoor classroom” welcoming school groups, birders, history buffs, and picnickers. It is located at the heart of Tennessee Hollow, the park’s largest watershed, just off the Ecology Trail.
The year-round, fresh water here gives life to some of the most ecologically rich wildlife habitat in the Presidio. Over centuries, water also made this a popular place for people to live. Native Ohlone, Spanish-colonial, Mexican, and U.S. Army-era settlers shaped the land, leaving traces that are still being discovered even today.
El Polín is the only named spring in the park. Some believe that the Spaniards called the spring El Polín, after their word for great wooden rollers used to load cargo aboard ships. Others believe that it might be a Spanish interpretation of a name passed down from the native Ohlone tribes who lived here.
El Polín Spring has been revitalized as a welcoming place to experience history and nature, or simply to enjoy the outdoors. A section of creek once buried in a storm drain is now opened up to the sun. Native plant restoration, made possible with volunteer support, brings seasonal blooms and amazing birdlife. A picnic area with barbecue, benches, gathering spaces, and new exhibits - including the park's first bilingual signs - invites a visit.
The transformation of El Polin is part of a larger vision for revitalizing the Tennessee Hollow Watershed.

See, Do, Learn, Explore

A photo of two people working on unearching a stone formation at El Polin Spring.

History + Archaeology

Ongoing discoveries are shedding new light on some of the Presidio's earliest residents.
A photo of a Townsend's Warbler sitting on a branch with many green leaves.


Bring the binoculars! El Polin is a magical place for birdwatching.
An image of flowering beach strawberry plants covering a wide spance of ground.

Plants, Water, + Wildlife

El Polin's waters support native plants, the Pacific Chorus Frog, Red-Tailed Hawks, and more.

A photo of the picnic area at El Polin Spring which features tables and grilling area beside a pond.

Picnic + Grill

El Polin's new picnic area is a lovely place for a tranquil gathering.
A photo of a kneeling woman planting a seedling

Volunteer Days

Volunteer days are held the fourth Saturday of each month at El Polin Spring.


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 Funding for this project has been provided in part through generous supporters including Mr. and Mrs. Matthew R. Barger, The James Irvine Foundation, The Kingfisher Foundation, Julie and Will Parish, and an agreement with the State Water Resources Control Board and the Department of Conservation Land Resource Protection, Watershed Program. To learn about how you can contribute, please contact Kathryn Morelli at (415) 561-3050.


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Kids + Families

A group of small children walk along El Polin Loop trail, a packed earth path surrounded by green grass, with an adult supervisor.

KIDS on Trails + Quest

These self-guided adventures make it fun for kids to discover the historic and natural treasures near El Polin Spring.

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