Sure, the waterfront area holds many attractions for Santa Barbara visitors. But many of the city’s treasures lie farther away, requiring a short drive, or bus or bike ride, to get to. But it’s well worth making a journey to connect with the spirit of those who thrived in the hills many years ago — all thanks to a steady flow of water.
Water has always been a precious commodity in these parts, necessary to sustain life. Typically, seasonal rains bring creeks to life, and abundant water flows down the steep mountainsides toward the ocean. Some years, rains are scarce, and other times, as in recent winters, too much rain in a short period of time floods the town.
Head to the source of Mission Creek, where wildlife and humans have found a dependable water source since prehistoric times. The native Chumash established villages along this watershed — and you can view evidence along the banks. When the Spaniards came, they built a mission with aqueducts close to the creek. Start your journey in the hills at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in Mission Canyon. Then follow the flow down to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and Old Mission Santa Barbara, where you can learn more about creekside life. (See below for details on these sites.)