Canyon Section

The Canyon Area encompasses the uncultivated riparian corridor along Mission Creek and the surrounding canyon slopes.

The Canyon Trail leads you along Mission Creek, where the sights and sounds of this year-round watercourse can be enjoyed while viewing the native streamside vegetation.

Large California bay-laurels (Umbellularia californica), western sycamores (Platanus racemosa), big-leaf maples (Acer macrophyllum), and coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia) form a leafy canopy above the trail, with white alders (Alnus rhombifolia) lining the streambed. 

image of pritchett trailThe Pritchett Trail ascends the steep canyon wall west of the creek, winding through stands of indigenous southern oak woodland.

The Easton-Aqueduct Trail follows the course of the Mission Aqueduct from the Island Display back down to Mission Creek.

Fire Recovery in the Canyon

On May 6th 2009, the Jesusita Fire roared down Mission Canyon burning large swaths of the Garden grounds. The fire probably burned hottest in the Canyon Section within the areas of natural vegetation along the slopes and riparian corridor of Mission Creek.  Fire is by no means a disaster for our indigenous vegetation, but a recurrent “fact of life” in our area. Many of our native shrubs and trees have special mechanisms that allow them to survive and recover from a wildfire.  Since the fire, the Canyon has become a living workshop in nature’s remarkable ability to heal itself.  

image of Pritchett Trail after Jesusita Fire

In many places, especially along the ashy moonscape that was the Pritchett Trail, not one green thing was in evidence post fire.  Within three weeks, however, plants such as toyon, lemonade berry, sycamore, California bay, and scrub oak, had begun to sprout from underground stumps and roots.  

image of stump sprouts on bay

The ability to stump-sprout is an adaptation that enables plants in fire-prone areas to recover rapidly and take advantage of the increased light and rich nutrients provided by the ash. This is an especially useful adaptation because it ensures that some amount of vegetative cover is present to help minimize erosion on steep slopes in the first winter rains.

image of Pritchett Trail

In the months after fire, crews cut and chipped the standing deadwood and pruned the dead branches out of the live oaks in the Canyon.  Otherwise, the natural process of regeneration was allowed to proceed. It has been fascinating to witness the resilience of our coast live oaks.  

Oaks in the burned areas suffered heavy losses of their small and medium branches and almost all of their leaves. Amazingly, only a few of the hundreds of trees that burned were lost and most are now covered with healthy green leaves. 

For information about the location of a display within the Garden please see the map below.

image of canyon section map