Thompson Reach

Categories Nature and Science

When visiting Thompson Reach, it's hard to imagine that as recently as 2005, this pretty patch of native fauna and flora was an Army landfill with the unromantic name "Fill Site 6A." Though only a couple of acres in size, Thompson Reach tells a big story of transformation – one that continues today.

Looking Back

For thousands of years, a freshwater creek passed through this valley before flowing into the marsh at what today we call Crissy Field. In the 1860s, the site was turned into a vegetable garden and then into a firing range. Later, the Army expanded its hospital here, pushing the creek underground into pipes. In the 1970s, these buildings were demolished and the debris was left behind.

Restoration and Revitalization

In 2005, the Presidio Trust revitalized the site as part of the larger – and ongoing – effort to restore the Presidio's largest watershed, known as Tennessee Hollow.​ About 77,000 tons of landfill were removed and a 400-foot section of creek was brought back up above ground. Volunteers then planted 35,000 seedlings representing 156 native plants species.

It didn't take long before animals, birds, and insects returned to this lush watershed habitat​. The area even got a new name – Thompson Reach – which honors Dora Thompson, the chief nurse at the Army hospital in the early 20th century.

​View Butterflies at Thompson Reach

Today, Thompson Reach is a butterfly "hotspot" well worth a visit. View a helpful guide on the butterflies of Thompson Reach. 

A great place to see the action is from the adjacent Wayburn Redwood Grove, where benches overlook the creek. Thompson Reach is just off the Tennessee Hollow Trail ​and is a very short walk from the Presidio Transit Center.