El Polin Spring

El Polin Spring’s perennial water source bubbling up from serpentine bedrock in combination with a freshwater seep from the dunes above makes this valley one of the biologically richest sites in San Francisco’s Presidio. Nourishing life for centuries before its designation as a National Park, El Polin’s sheltered valley had been occupied by a rotating cast of bears and elk, indigenous people, early Spanish settlers including San Francisco’s legendary herbalist-healer Juana Briones, and military personnel. Besides bestowing the Tennessee Hollow namesake, the Tennessee Infantry Regiment at El Polin installed barracks and left a legacy of asphalt roads that plugged the freshwater seep; habitat-poor irrigated lawn in place of the seasonal wet meadow; a channelized stream; a symbolic non-functional cobble well and watercourse; and a landfill at these headwaters of Crissy Field’s tidal marsh.

Reclamation of the site reconciles the tension between El Polin’s cultural and natural resources by reopening the natural freshwater seep while maintaining the military’s circular road alignments via an elevated boardwalk. Flowing spring waters once again feed lush native scrub and grassland habitats—for frogs, fish, coyote, and birds—alongside public trails, outdoor classrooms and amenities as well as archaeological research. Ongoing archaeological investigations continue to unearth artifacts from native and early colonial settlements to reconstruct a more complete cultural understanding of the cast of creatures and characters sustained by El Polin’s spring and seep.


Presidio of San Francisco, CA


±3 acre




Presidio Trust


Enginious Structures (Structural)
Campbell Grading, Inc. (Construction)


Schematic Design through Construction Documents

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