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 among 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.
Why we Love It: a place for history and nature (especially birdwatching)
What's Provided: picnic tables, grill, restrooms, informational displays
Getting There: access off the Ecology Trail; limited parking nearby
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 businesswoman 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.
What to Do
Bring your binoculars! Thanks to a decade-long restoration which brought the stream back above ground and restored native plant communities, El Polín Spring is a wonderful place for birdwatching.
There's a picnic and barbeque area here, featuring tables, grills, and nearby restrooms (open 6 am to 6 pm).
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.
If you have kids,
Presidio Wall Playground is just a short walk away.
El Polín Spring is located just off the Presidio's Ecology Trail. If arriving by car, there's two-hour parking near the spring and street parking near Presidio Wall Playground.
Discover El Polín Spring with this video >>