While San Diego is a young city in terms of history, it has a number of hidden historic gems. Many of these locations are clustered near the current city center (such as the Whaley House), but one of the spots, the Old Mission Dam, is located in the middle of San Diego's largest municipal park, Mission Trails. The Old Mission Dam is a historic structure for a number of reasons, but first and foremost, it is the oldest colonial engineering project on the Pacific Coast. The Old Mission, or Padre Dam, was designed by priests from the San Diego de Alcala mission in San Diego after the region suffered a number of droughts in 1800 and 1802. From 1803-1817, the dam was constructed by laborers from the Kumeyaay Nation out of bricks, cobblestones, and cement. When the dam was completed in 1817, it was two hundred and twenty (220) feet long, thirteen (13) feet high, and twelve (12) feet wide!
While the dam isn't quite that large today, a substantial amount of it remains that people can observe and explore. As the dam is located on the San Diego River it is also a great spot to visit year round as it is located in one of the few riparian zones in San Diego county. During the hot summer months, the water collected by the dam provides a zone that is several degrees cooler than the surrounding area; and during the spring months, the dam area is a great spot to see wildlife and wildflowers. If the historic background of the dam, and the natural beauty of the area weren't enough to entice one to visit the area, the dam is also located near two great trailheads in Mission Trails, Oak Canyon and Kwaay Paay Peak. In my opinion, all of these factors and more make this a great spot for a short - or long visit in Mission Trails for any type of visitor.
Directions: The Old Mission Dam is located directly off of Father Junipero Serra Trail, which is the main road that runs through Mission Trails Regional Park. Mission Trails Regional Park also provides some great directions here. Do note that the parking area for the dam itself is quite small, and regularly fills up at all times during the week.