Visit San Diego County - San Gregorio to Coyote Creek

The expedition followed the San Felipe Creek (and Wash) from the marsh at San Sebastián to the Borrego Sink. Their horses and mules exhausted, some people continued on foot, and often there were two or three children on a horse. They opened wells at the Borrego Sink and continued onward under intense cold. Following the Coyote Creek, they passed into today's Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and encountered people of the Cahuilla tribes.

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Driving Directions for Auto Route

Continuing on the route from Imperial County, CA 78 parallels the San Felipe Wash, the historic trail's route. Follow it west to the Yaqui Pass/County Road S3 intersection and turn north. Turn left on Borrego Springs Road. Turn left on Palm Canyon Dr. to the visitor center for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The auto route skirts around the park to rejoin the historic route at Bautista Canyon. From the visitor center, turn left on Montezuma Grande/County Road S22. Where county Roads S22 and S2 intersect, continue west on S2, and at the intersection of S2 with CA 79, turn north on CA 79 to Riverside County.

Hiking/Biking Ideas

At Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, a short segment of hiking trail exists in the southeast section of the park and passes near the San Gregorio marker. In the northwest section, a trail parallels Anza's route through Coyote Canyon and contains markers for several Anza campsites. Due to the intense heat, the trails are best enjoyed in Spring and Fall and with ample drinking water.

Points of Interest

Expedition Campsites
  • Presidio of San Diego and Mission San Diego de Alcalá - Camp #67
    Although not an official part of the National Historic Trail, Anza, Font and a group of soldiers diverted here to offer their assistance after the expedition reached Mission San Gabriel (near Los Angeles). Members of the Kumeyaay (KumeYAAY) tribe had revolted, killing a priest and had burned the Mission San Diego. While there (January 11-February 8), Font used his quadrant to measure the altitude of the Sun and thus determine the latitude of the San Diego Presidio (32°44.5´N). Such readings, taken throughout the journey, were amazingly accurate and can be verified today using modern electronic Global Positioning Systems.
  • Ocotillo Wells - Expedition Camps #50 and #51
    After camping along a portion of the San Felipe Wash, they passed through a gap in the clay hills on December 19, 1775. Anza called the previous night's camp (at the Wash) Los Puertecitos, or the Little Passes. It is commemorated with California Historic Landmark No. 635, located on state highway 78, 1.6 miles east of the town of Ocotillo Wells. Nearby, the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area has a marked trail that allows hikers to explore the area. Continuing northwest, Camp #51 was at San Gregorio, and is probably today's Borrego Sink located on another portion of the Wash about four miles southeast of the Borrego Valley airport. To the northwest of the airport, a peak named Font's Point can be seen that affords panoramic vistas of the expedition's path (access off of S-22).
  • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park - Expedition Camps #52 and #53
    From December 20 to 22, 1775, Camp #52 was made along the Coyote Creek at El Vado (The Ford). With plentiful water from the creek and a little pasturage nearby, the animals recovered and the colonists could rest. The site is within Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (33° 20.6´N, 116° 23.6´W), six miles northwest of Borrego Springs at the entrance to the Horse Camp. A short distance to the east is the Desert Gardens portion of the park created by the Anza-Borrego Foundation and Institute. Traveling up the creek and canyon, the expedition's next camp (#53) was at Santa Catarina, situated at Lower Willows (33° 22.28´N, 116° 26.38´W). The campsites are both marked with California Historic Landmark plaques. The park itself is the largest California State Park, and contains two stretches of Anza's route. These trails provide a rare opportunity to precisely follow in the footsteps of the expedition surrounded by terrain that has changed little since Anza's passage. Portions of the park's trails are open to 4-wheel drive vehicles from the south and north, but closed at Middle Willows, so there is no through-driving. The park's Visitor Center (200 Palm Canyon Dr., Borrego Springs) features interpretive exhibits on the desert environment and the local Native tribe.

Additional Resources

  • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park - tel.: 760-767-5311
    200 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, CA 92004
  • Anza-Borrego Foundation - tel.: 760-767-0446
    P.O. Box 2001, 595 Palm Canyon Drive, Suite A, Borrego Springs, CA 92004
  • Celestial Observation Handbook and Ephemeris - tel.: 573-364-6362
    310 E. 6th Street, Rolla, MO, 65401
  • Mission San Diego de Alcala - tel.: 619-281-8449
    10818 San Diego Mission Rd., San Diego, CA 92108
  • Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area - tel.: 760-767-5391
    172 Highway 78, P.O. Box 360, Borrego Springs, CA 92004
  • San Diego Presidio Site and Junipero Serra Museum - tel.: 619-297-3258
    2727 Presidio Drive, Presidio Park San Diego, CA 92138
  • The Nautical Almanac, Astronomical Applications Department, U.S. Naval Observatory - tel.: 202-762-1617
    3450 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20392

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