Extraordinary public art can be found at one entrance to Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego. Titled Watermarks, the long, curving mosaic wall stands adjacent to the water pump station at Mission Gorge Road and Deerfield Street. Hikers proceeding through a gate in the beautiful wall find themselves on the Deerfield Crossing Trail.
Watermarks was created in 2000 by Lynn Susholtz and Aida Mancillas of artist collaborative Stone Paper Scissors. According to this page of the San Diego Civic Art Collection website: “Applied to the wall is a highly detailed mosaic of tile, indigenous rock and metal pieces etched sporadically with petroglyphs, text and animal tracks…(the wall) serves to illustrate the ecological, historical and cultural importance of the park and the San Diego River. Once used by the Kumeyaay Indian tribe and the Spanish missionaries, the San Diego River connects our histories, cultures and lives.”
I took these photographs on a gray day between winter showers.
I love how the blue tile mosaic river flows and meanders along the earthy wall. Native plants like mesquite, wild onion, yucca and sage appear like fossils on river stones, each labeled with both their English and Kumeyaay names. On the ground and bench, you can see how nature’s fallen leaves, and rain water collected in the sculpted animal tracks, imbue this amazing artwork with even more life.
Six miles downstream, in 1769, the Spanish established the Misión San Diego de Alcalá, creating the demand for a mission waterworks system which was continually modified from 1775 through the 1830’s. The Old Mission Dam, located at the top of the gorge, was constructed of local stone, clay deposits from the river, and a cement mortar mixture over a solid foundation of bedrock. The dam provided a reliable water source for crops and livestock brought in by the Spanish. The dam and subsequent aqueduct connection were fully operational for less than twenty years.
(If you’d like to see photos of a hike to the Old Mission Dam, click here.)
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