See habitat restoration in action on a Tennessee Hollow Watershed nature walk.
Habitat restoration has been happening all around the Presidio for more than two decades. Some of the most interesting – and beautiful – sites can be seen on a loop that starts and ends at the Presidio Visitor Center.
This nature walk highlights several restoration sites in the Tennessee Hollow Watershed. You’ll see where landfills have given way to landscapes and where native species flourish, while discovering bits of history along the way.
This itinerary covers about 2.6 miles and should take about two hours. Note: it does NOT cover all the restoration sites in the watershed. To see even more, download the Tennessee Hollow Watershed Walk or take a self-guide stroll on the Tennessee Hollow Trail.
Stop into the Presidio Visitor Center to get oriented, ask questions, and pick up a map of the entire Presidio. There are digital displays located throughout this historic building that in the Army days was the Presidio’s jail.
Directions: Walk east on the Presidio Promenade Trail, which traces Lincoln Boulevard. Just before you reach Girard Road, you’ll see a sign for the Tennessee Hollow Trail. Turn left and head north on the trail until you reach your next stop – Quartermaster Reach Marsh.
When the Doyle Drive highway to the Golden Gate Bridge was replaced with the Presidio Parkway, we brought an 850-foot length of stream back above ground. Now the waters at Quartermaster Reach Marsh flow to Crissy Marsh and San Francisco Bay, creating a brackish habitat that attracts migrating birds.
Tip: Birdwatch from the elevated bridge above the marsh. Check out the storytelling signs to learn about wetland restoration and the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps, which once operated here.
Directions: Head back south along the Tennessee Hollow Trail. Cross Lincoln Boulevard to stay on the trail and reach your next stop – YMCA Reach.
In 2013-14, we removed a parking lot to create a 1.5-acre riparian corridor and seasonal freshwater wetland. We brought the creek back above ground and planted 16,000 yerba buena, Indian paintbrush, seep monkey flower, and other native plants.
Tip: This area doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, so pause on a bench made from a recycled tree trunk to enjoy the peaceful view.
More than a century ago, this was a naturally wet meadow where all three streams of the Tennessee Hollow Watershed came together. It was filled in so the Army could build on dry land. In 2015-2017 we restored this seasonal wetland as a wet meadow, planting 20,000 plants representing 60 native species.
Tip: Walk out on the elevated boardwalk to see the meadow from above and read the story panels along the way. Depending on the season, you could hear some ancient non-human voices, including songbirds or possibly tiny chorus frogs.
Directions: Keep following the Tennessee Hollow Trail south all the way down MacArthur Avenue, lined with former soldiers’ homes now occupied by civilians. Keep going until you reach El Polin Spring.
This freshwater spring was used by Ohlone, Spanish, and Mexican families, and the U.S. Army. In 2011, we restored El Polín Spring, turning a paved road into a pedestrian trail and creating a wet meadow.
Presidio archaeologists continue to investigate here. They found building foundations dating from 1812 when colonial families, including Spanish Colonial businesswoman Juana Briones, built a community of houses.
Tip: Look for six panels around the trail loop that tell the story of the people, plants, and animals who’ve inhabited this special place. El Polín is the only part of the Presidio with interpretive signs in both English and Spanish.
Directions: Walk all the way back to the Lovers’ Lane footbridge. Turn left and walk until you reach Presidio Boulevard. Turn left and walk to Funston Avenue. Turn right on Funston and walk north. Cross Lincoln Boulevard to reach your next stop – Thompson Reach.
It’s our goal to make sure people can enjoy the Presidio’s natural beauty for generations to come. We work to protect native plants and animals while reducing our impact on the environment.
It’s hard to believe this area was once a landfill. In 2005, this was the first creek in the Tennessee Hollow Watershed to be “daylighted.” We removed 77,000 tons of Army-era debris and brought the stream above ground. More than 35,000 seedlings from Presidio Nursery were planted to create wildlife habitat. Since then, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of nesting birds, and stickleback fish have returned.
Tip: Check out the story panel to learn about Dora E. Thompson, for whom the site is named. She played an important role in the relief efforts after the 1906 earthquake and later became the chief nurse at Letterman General Hospital.
Directions: Walk west on the Presidio Promenade Trail along Lincoln Boulevard to reach your last stop – Presidio Transit Center.
You can find all-gender wheelchair-accessible restrooms inside Presidio Transit Center.
Experience wild open spaces, historic gun batteries, and Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Bridge views.