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Lauren Wilkinson, San Diego River Ecology
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Lauren Wilkinson, San Diego River Ecology


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  • 1. San Diego River Then and Now
  • 2. History San Diego River’s history is long and winding. Has existed for more than two million years Extends for more than 50 miles Flows through Mission Trails Park one of the largest Urban Parks. Kumeyaay used the river to their advantage Even before Europeans arrived Kumeyaay realized they needed to control the flow and direction of river They used rocks to create ponds and marshes which helped develop the land. By damming the river the Kumeyaay were able to create areas to bathe as well as create habitats for animals such as fish. They used plants and other materials to build homes, to create clothes, and to make other useful items. Any of the material and resources found in Mission Trails Park would be things that the Kumeyaay would have used. Some plants native to the area are black mustard, buckwheat, black sage, deerweed, and poison oak. Kumeyaay would use these plants in their daily lives.
  • 3. History According to Ruth Alter, “It is likely that the Parks natural landscape was altered in the past by Kumeyaay intervention.” These interventions allowed the Kumeyaay to prosper and survive. According to Kumeyaay history the river would change directions causing their migration patterns to change For the Kumeyaay the river was their lifeline Kumeyaay knew the land needed to be kept clean in order to keep living off the land The river has changed courses many times and before the Spanish arrived the river flowed into Mission Bay and the San Diego Bay Due to its unreliable nature the Spaniards used Indigenous people to construct the first dam.
  • 4. Sacred River “And down there, the river – source of water, source of legend. Source of life.” The river has always been an important feature to the Kumeyaay. It is sacred to them and their way of life. The river was sacred so they made sure to allow it to remain as natural as possible. According to Kumeyaay legend if you follow the path of the river you will be able to trace the history of all of its inhabitants. Larry Banegas of Barona relates a tale passed down through oral history:  “Sometimes the river changed directions. It didn’t always run where it does now. For thousands of years, the people were in one place. Then the river changed directions and parted the people as well as the land. After a time, the river came back together. When it did, the people were completely different in the language they spoke and the way that they thought.” And with that the mysterious river comes to life, as does its true beauty. Through oral history one is given a glimpse at why the Kumeyaay did their best not to destroy the land.
  • 5. Old Mission Dam Old Mission Dam is located in Mission Trails Park and as can be seen in the photos it is still functioning and an important feature to the landscape.First dam to cross San Diego Old Mission Dam on theRiver. Circa 1813 San Diego River
  • 6. Ebbs and Flows As the river was subject to droughts and flooding settlers began to make plans that would allow them to control the river. During the late 1800’s Kumeyaay tribes would lose their land and river. The loss of some 3,000 acres would eventually be the home of the El Capitan Dam. Such losses would force the Kumeyaay tribes into poverty, that would not end for many decades. The El Capitan brought the first sign of hope. It would bring about the first real attempt at controlling the floods. As San Diego continued to grow there would be a need for water, thus forcing the city to outsource for water. The loss of land would only continue as the 20th century began.
  • 7. 20th Century Vs. the River The river faced its greatest changes in the 20th century. The development of Mission Valley would prove to be too much for the San Diego River The constant flooding and droughts forced the city to begin purchasing water from Southern California Mountain Water Company Because of natural flooding, San Diegans feared that the Dams would fail. Forcing the city to destroy the Switzer Canyon Reservoir. This man made disaster would flood downtown San Diego. Bridge located in Old Town that was destroyed by flooding. Circa 1916 (right)
  • 8. 20th Century Vs. The River Majority of changes occurred in the latter part of the 20th century. During the early part of the century what we call Mission Valley was all agricultural land This agricultural period lasted until the 1940’s The late 1940’s would bring about the redevelopment of Mission Bay. This redevelopment would now force the river to empty into the ocean instead of the bays. After the war and beginning with the 1950’s San Diego shifted gears and became more metropolitan Between 1950 and the 1970’s Mission Valley was redeveloped to include shops, hotels and restaurants, culminating in the 1980’s with the San Diego River Improvement Project. Even though this project would cause walls, bridges and barriers to be built to keep the river running in a controlled course the river has been known to flood. Much of this flooding occurs near Fashion Valley Mall and Qualcomm Stadium.
  • 9. The Future The changing landscape of Mission Valley in 1961. At one point the river ran right through Mission Valley, but with multiple course changes and a growing city the river began to shrink.
  • 10. Our RiverMission Trails Map. Shows the current Redevelopment map of Mission path of the river. Bay. Circa 1948
  • 11. What We See Today  San Diego River from a bridge in Mission Valley taken in the afternoon.  The landscape around the river varies.  The immediate surroundings include plants, shrubs and ducks.  When you turn around you are made aware of the city that surrounds the river.  Cars go driving by, there is smog and plenty of pollution
  • 12. Top Left: SanDiego Riverflooding in 1979.Top Right:Personal photoof the river takenthis yearBottom Center:Personal phototaken this year.
  • 13. Redevelopment Underway  Mission Valley today after its transformation through the Redevelopment Project.  Even though the river is not as vast, the redevelopment project has been able to preserve much of the habitat.  Redevelopment project has been recognized for its preservation efforts as well as its control of flooding.
  • 14. Today and Beyond With a century of changes it is no wonder the San Diego River still exists. We are left with a much smaller river, but one that is still majestic. Even though the river has experienced many changes the natural habitat has managed to remain in tact. This habitat is still home to ducks and many native plants. No matter the changes the river will always be a force in San Diego. It tends to be ignored unless it has rained and flooded the valley. One nice feature in Mission Valley is the bike and walking trail that spans much of the river. With a majority of the river running through Mission Valley conservation has become important.
  • 15. Today and Beyond In 2001 The San Diego River Park Foundation was created. This non-profit organization raises money in hopes of connecting communities together through the river. Their goal is to a healthy river system that is connected by open spaces, parks, and community facilities that span the length of the river. The beauty of this organization is that they are attempting to bring a community together again, by using the land. We are so disconnected from the land, thus allowing the river to become an afterthought rather than a concern. But with the help of the river foundation it may be possible to see the river as an attraction again.
  • 16. Importance The river is an important San Diego icon that should be explored. One should see the rover as an extension of one of the largest urban parks in the United States, Mission Trails. If you view the river in this way you tend to see things in a different light and grasp the importance of conservation. Everyone should go and view the river and watch it course through the valley and should visit the Old Dam. I see the river as one of the oldest historical objects that we have access to. Even though we do not rely on the river as we once did, animals and other ecosystems do so we must do our part to conserve the river. I say go out and explore. Go explore the landscape, see something new. Maybe you’ll find new inspiration and a new passion.
  • 17. Do Your Part Go out and enjoy, but remember we need to do our part to keep the river going. Join a conservation organization. Inform your family and friends about the importance of the river Remember that the river was once the source of water for all of San Diego so appreciate it. And appreciate how far we have come since then. “People have come and gone for a thousand years and will continue to for a thousand more. And still, the river will run.” (Chet Barfield) The Kumeyaay understand the river, lets learn from their stories and their traditions.
  • 18. Works Cited Alter, Ruth. "The Kumeyaay Period in Mission Trails Regional Park." Mission Trails Regional Park Online. Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. http:/ Barfield, Chet. "A River Ins Through It." Kumeyaay. Web. 2 Apr. 2012. Cruz, Manny. "Daily Business Report - Sept. 29, 2011." San Diego Metro Magazine. Web. 5 Apr. 2012. Freischlag, Linda, ed. ”The Role of the San Diego River in the Development of Mission Valley." The Journal of San Diego History 17.2 (1971). San Diego History Center. University of San Diego. Web. 1 Apr. 2012.
  • 19. Works Cited Continued "History of the San Diego River Park Foundation." History of the San Diego River Park Foundation. Web. 30 Mar. 2012 Kuhn, Gerald G., and Francis P. Shepard Sea Cliffs, Beaches, and Coastal Valleys of San Diego County: Some Amazing Histories and Some Horrifying Implications. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1984. Web 31 March 2012. "Natural History." Welcome to Grossmont College. Grossmont College. Web. 2 Apr. "San Diego River." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Mar.-Apr. 2012. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.