The White Deer of Mission Hills/Inspiration Point

Tree Tunnel on the trail at Presidio Park

A couple months ago, I was out on a run through the Mission Hills area, and as I came into Presidio Park, it began to rain. As I ducked under the trees near the Father Junpiero Serra museum, I decided I’d explore that area of Presidio Park. I wandered around the short trails, hoping the rain would end soon, and ended up in a corner of the park where there was an overgrown jungle bar enclosure and a plaque stating that I was at Inspiration Point. Since I wanted to stay somewhat dry, I decided that I’d come back on a later date when the sun was shining. I recently returned, and while I found that the City of San Diego has since removed the rusty and strange jungle bars, another mystery remained.

As I headed up the hill past the former jungle bars, I stopped to read a plaque on a bench. The plaque stated that the bench was there in memory of a “white deer”. That caught my attention. After all, who places a bench in honor of a deer? And since when were there deer in Mission Hills? Not for a long while, I thought. Then, a short bit later, I found something even stranger, a concrete watering hole under a tree with hoof impressions, and another plaque, bearing this inscription: "Bliss in solitude beneath this tree, formless, silent, spirit free.” ( I stared at this for a while, because at that point, I was really curious. At that point I was almost believing that a deer was going to walk up at any minute, take a sip from that artificial watering hole, and sit down on its bench.

White Deer Park - can you find the "watering hole"? :)

Since I’m never without my trusty iPhone, I decided to get to the bottom of the mystery right then and there (as I sat on the deer’s bench). What I learned was this: there was a wild deer (a San Diego zoo escapee, no less) that lived in that section of Presidio Park from 1965-1975, before having an unfortunate run-in with the Presidio Park Rangers. ( After the deer’s death, the monument was created and placed in the park, and there it has stayed. As for how you get to the monument, either drive up the road to Inspiration Point, or walk .10 miles from the entrance of Presidio Park upwards, where you will find the monument in the far back corner under a tree. If you see a deer, don’t be skeptical like me – maybe it’s the relative of the original white deer, or the ghost of the white deer stopping by for a drink, and a quiet moment of reflection on its bench.

More Information: