By Nora Bodrian
My favorite place in Mission Trails is Kumeyaay Lake. The trail around Kumeyaay Lake is shady and sunny, riparian and chaparral, has noisy birds and running water, crickets and bullfrogs, with mostly native plants and a few invasives which have floated downstream. It is a prime example of what can be done to completely rehabilitate disturbed land and transform it into a lush botanical and wildlife habitat for us to enjoy.
This section of the San Diego River was a sand and gravel mining operation until the 1970s. After it was mined out, it was developed into the Hollins Lake fishing and camping facility for seniors in the 1980s. Then the area was rehabilitated with riparian vegetation like arroyo willow, sycamore, cottonwood, mulefat and other indigenous plants.
The willows attracted the federally endangered least Bell’s vireo, and eventually the area to the north of the lake became a mitigation site for State Route 52 which cuts through the north end of Mission Trails. There are locked gates at one end of the trail to protect the nesting sites of the least Bell’s vireo.
Kumeyaay Lake Campground, which succeeded the Hollins Lake facility, opened in 2000. It now allows one to meet scout troops and fishermen along the trail. Several birders and photographers can be spotted early in the morning.
I love finding the argiope spiders on the prickly pear, with the mysterious zig-zag patterns on their webs. Herons, egrets and mallards are usually present in the water, along with a Cooper’s hawk nest up in the sycamores.
Soon, in spring, we will see yerba mansa, Hooker’s evening primrose and daturas along the trails. This is a magical place, hidden from the crowds on Cowles, and easy enough for one to take children and grandparents around for a quick nature fix.
— Nora Bodrian is a trail guide at Mission Trails Regional Park.