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Published Works

MC History Vanished Waters Cover Cropped
History MCSF Cover cropped.jpg

Released in 1983, Mission Creek San Francisco is the Conservancy’s first written publication. Inspired by Ed Buryn’s photographs, Mission Creek San Francisco is a black and white collection of photographs and musings that paints a colorful picture of the beautiful intersection of the harbor with the natural world.  

In 1986, the Conservancy proudly published Vanished Waters, the most comprehensive history of Mission Bay.  The Conservancy commissioned Nancy Olmstead, a California native and accomplished historian, to write the book.  To incorporate the transformation of the 1990s-2000s, the Conservancy released a second edition in 2010.


If you are interested in ordering a copy of Vanished Waters please contact the conservancy here.  You can also check out a copy from the San Francisco Public Library.

A Brief History

Selected images from Vanished Waters and Mission Creek San Francisco.

Once a sizable bay fed by the waters of Mission Creek which descended from the Twin Peaks area, the shallow Mission Bay was teeming with waterfowl and other wildlife and was the home of Native Americans called the Ohlone.  The natives were subdued and consigned to manual labor by Spanish missionaries of Mission Dolores.


A brief period of Mexican cattle ranching was abruptly ended by the Gold Rush in 1848, bringing tens of thousands of eager adventurers to San Francisco.  Mission Bay was in the way of southward expansion of settlement from downtown and over the course of several decades was filled with debris from sand dunes, hills, the 1906 earthquake and other impediments to commerce and travel.  Only a narrow commercial tidal channel was left to carry the remaining Mission Creek waters to San Francisco Bay. The channel was busy with hay scows, lumber, brick, ship building and other enterprises.


Much of the area around Mission Creek channel became railroad yards and when trucking replaced trains as the preferred conveyance of cargo, this large area of 300 acres became available for lucrative development in the 1980’s. Several development plans were hatched and collapsed until the present configuration around a UCSF campus and residential housing won approval in 1997. The Mission Creek Harbor along with other neighboring citizen groups and the Conservancy stepped forward to cooperatively participate in the development planning, insisting on protection and enhancement of the local ecology, and compatible uses of the creek such as kayaking.

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