Hikers head from the Kumeyaay Campground at Mission Trails Regional Park toward a shady nature trail that runs beside Kumeyaay Lake.
I enjoyed an amazing walk last weekend at Mission Trails Regional Park. The guided hike met under the flagpoles of the Kumeyaay Campground, and started down a pleasant nature trail at nearby Kumeyaay Lake. The hike then proceeded at a leisurely, easy pace along several trails by the San Diego River, ending up at the Old Mission Dam.
Every month, anyone can go on a variety of free interpretative nature walks at Mission Trails Regional Park. The walks are led by experienced trail guides, who point out the native flora and fauna, and relate the fascinating history of this mountainous wilderness in the city. To learn more check out the
Please enjoy my photos and read the descriptive captions to join me on a virtual hike. Not only will you experience natural beauty, but you’ll learn a bit about early San Diego history!
A couple walks slowly along the Kumeyaay Nature Trail, enjoying a beautiful November day.
Signs along the nature trail include descriptions of wildlife that can be found around Kumeyaay Lake (once called Hollins Lake). Open water can be glimpsed beyond cattails.
At Mission Trails Regional Park, birds of all feathers include quail, gnatcatchers, herons, egrets, ducks, woodpeckers, scrub jays, owls, and the endangered least Bell’s vireo!
The sign includes the following: “Because of our diverse habitats, San Diego County has 486 bird species–more than any other county in the United States! Birds from as far as the tip of South America to north of Siberia pass through, many stopping here either to breed in the summer or to winter in our mild climate.”
Photo of the San Diego River emerging from Kumeyaay Lake. This is near an outdoor amphitheater and fire pit. The park is a perfect place to learn about nature from rangers, and for stargazing at night!
An Autumn wildflower at Mission Trails Regional Park.
We head from the lake back toward the campground. Our pleasant hike has just begun.
Non-native plants can cause serious damage to natural areas and wildlife. Park staff and volunteers work to protect the natural ecosystems.
Hiking down the Grasslands Crossing Trail, my guide and I pass over the San Diego River. It has been a typically dry summer, and the pooled water here is still.
Leaves and reflections of trees in the quiet water.
We spied a wood rat’s nest of twigs and branches near the hiking trail. I learned these nests contain several rooms with different functions, not unlike a human home.
Larry the trail guide showed me a photo of a wood rat.
Now we are heading along the easy Grasslands Loop Trail, following the north bank of the San Diego River. Riparian trees such as willows, sycamores and cottonwoods thrive along the river.
Mountain bikers enjoy a warm, sunny morning at Mission Trails Regional Park.
Approaching an overlook of the Old Mission Dam.
Photo of the Old Mission Dam from the north. The dam was built around 1813 and powered a water wheel that drove a grist mill. A tiled flume brought water to Mission San Diego de Alcala, about five miles away.
Families play on the rocks near the Old Mission Dam at Mission Trails Regional Park.
Lush trees along the San Diego River. Autumn leaves have yellowed a bit.
We have descended onto Oak Canyon Trail, and are working our way down to the river and the historic dam.
Standing on the north end of the Old Mission Dam. Materials used in constructing the dam include abundant volcanic rock found in this area.
A slot in the dam wall where a water wheel was located. The river water, after driving the wheel, flowed along a tile-lined aqueduct south to the mission, where it was used to grow crops.
Walking along the Oak Canyon Trail. Mission Trails Regional Park is like a small wilderness inside the city of San Diego. At 5,800 acres, it’s the largest city park in California.
Riparian plants recover quickly after a fire because all are vigorous resprouters as long as they have a steady water supply.
Granitic rocks seen along the trail.
South Fortuna Mountain, elevation 1094 feet, rises to the south. Its sides are covered with native chaparral and sage scrub.
Crossing the San Diego River via a steel footbridge.
Looking down at the San Diego River. During rains, the river swells. The water runs down into Mission Valley and finally to the Pacific Ocean, sustaining an estuary near Mission Bay.
Larry, my knowledgeable trail guide, informed me that the tiny green vegetation is duckweed, an aquatic plant that floats on the water’s surface.
Sign at one end of the Oak Canyon Trail, near the Old Mission Dam.
A cool 3-D model of the Old Mission Dam beside the trail. The dam was constructed from granite boulders and limestone mortar. At the gap there was a 12-foot wide floodgate.
It’s possible to walk out onto the old dam, but one must be careful!
A vertical groove in the dam wall shows where the floodgate used to exist. The dam was completed around 1813, and the long flume to Mission San Diego was completed several years later.
Inscription in a boulder dated 1941, by the Daughters of the American Revolution. OLD MISSION DAM. Built 1813-1816. A part of the first permanent irrigation project by Padres and Indians in California.
A plaque by the old dam. In memory of Edwin L. Feeley. 1917 – 1971. Artist – Dreamer – Doer who as a gift to his city, moved rocks and people to bring about the restoration of this historic site.
Bright fluttering leaves of a river tree growing beside the Father Junipero Serra Trail, a road that leads past the Old Mission Dam.
Walking to the parking lot by the Old Mission Dam, also called the Padre Dam.
The site is a California historical landmark. A dam and flume system was finished between 1813 and 1816 by Indian laborers and Franciscan missionaries. It provided a reliable source of water for crops and livestock for Mission San Diego de Alcala. The system continued until 1831 when it fell into final disrepair.
Beautiful hiking trails, and a fascinating look back at early San Diego and California history await at Mission Trails Regional Park.
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