There's an old legend that says if a woman drinks from the naturally-occurring fresh waters of El Polín Spring under the full moon, she'll have many children and a long life. The myth was widely circulated in the 19th century amongst the soldiers of the early Spanish Presidio, which in those days encompassed a small site just to the spring's northwest.
The old tale is probably just that, but there's one thing that's true: El Polín Spring is a place that brings forth life. People, plants, and animals have long thrived here, and the spring continues to attract many visitors.
About El Polín Spring
Located in the heart of the Presidio's largest watershed, Tennessee Hollow, El Polín Spring is central in the area's history. From time immemorial the spring was a source of fresh water for native families. The native Ohlone lived just downstream near today's Crissy Field in a village they called Petlenuc.
In 1776, the Spanish established their fort or "presidio" within walking distance of the spring. In 1812, colonial families set up a community of adobe houses, making El Polín Spring San Francisco's first suburb. Legendary healer and businesswomam Juana Briones lived here as a young girl. In the 1850s, the U.S. Army built a dam here, and a century later pushed the creek underground and built housing on top. Through all these periods, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife have found shelter and food in the area's diverse habitats.
Thanks to a decade-long restoration which brought the stream back above ground and restored native plant communities, today El Polín Spring is a wonderful place for birdwatching. Families come here to enjoy the picnic and barbeque area at the spring, located just a hop, skip, and jump from Julius Kahn Playground. Curious kids on field trips and history lovers learn from this "outdoor classroom," where archaeological evidence of the site's past is still waiting to be uncovered. Hikers stop for a relaxing respite before continuing their journey on a nearby trail.
If you want to contribute to the ongoing effort to restore El Polín Spring, come out for a drop-in volunteer day on the fourth Saturday of each month. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Visit El Polin Spring
El Polín Spring is located just off the Presidio's Ecology Trail. Restrooms are located on site and are open from 6 am to 6 pm. If arriving by car, there's two-hour parking near the spring and street parking near Julius Kahn Playground.
Discover El Polín Spring with this video >>