Photos from a short hike through Sweetwater Marsh.

A group begins a nature hike down a trail at San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
A group begins an easy nature hike down a trail at San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

On Saturday I visited Gunpowder Point, just south of where the Sweetwater River empties into San Diego Bay. The marshy area is a wildlife refuge. It’s part of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, to be exact, and home of the popular Living Coast Discovery Center.

After visiting the Living Coast Discovery Center, I enjoyed a guided nature hike down a short trail through the Sweetwater Marsh.

I was pleasantly surprised by the bare natural beauty. I didn’t see a whole lot of wildlife during this visit, but I know our region’s marshes and estuaries are often teeming with birds. San Diego is part of the Pacific Flyway, a major route of migratory birds that stretches from Alaska to South America.

A map inside the nearby Living Coast Discovery Center show the location of the Sweetwater River and the marsh where it enters San Diego Bay.
A map inside the nearby Living Coast Discovery Center shows the location of the Sweetwater River and the marsh where it enters San Diego Bay.
Hiking through Chula Vista's protected Sweetwater Marsh on a sunny day. It's mid-May and the once green and flowering plants have begun to dry out.
Hiking through Chula Vista’s protected Sweetwater Marsh on a sunny day. It’s mid-May and the once green and flowering plants have begun to dry out.  In this photo I see some prickly pear cactus.  During the hike I also recognized black sage and coastal sagebrush.
Our guide shows us saltbush. It is adapted to the type of salty soil in this marsh on San Diego Bay. Its leaves taste salty!
Our guide shows us saltbush. It is adapted to the type of salty soil in this coastal marsh. Its leaves taste salty!
Sign by the trail. This area is called Gunpowder Point. During World War I, Hercules Powder Co. extracted potash and acetone here from kelp harvested offshore in the Pacific Ocean. These were used to make cordite, or smokeless gunpowder for the British.
Sign by the trail. This area is called Gunpowder Point. During World War I, Hercules Powder Co. extracted potash and acetone here from kelp harvested offshore in the Pacific Ocean. These were used to make cordite, also called smokeless gunpowder, for the British.
A sail on the bay beyond a drying field of San Diego Sunflowers.
A sail on the bay beyond a drying field of San Diego Sunflowers.
The short, easy hike is ideal for families.
The short, easy hike is ideal for families.
Some sunflowers are still yellow.
Some sunflowers are still yellow.
The San Diego Sunflower, or Bahiopsis laciniata, is often found in a coastal sage scrub environment.
The San Diego Sunflower, or Bahiopsis laciniata, is often found in a coastal sage scrub environment.
The Silver Strand and Coronado Cays can be seen across San Diego Bay.
The Silver Strand and Coronado Cays can be seen across San Diego Bay.
We've arrived at the wildlife reserve's narrow sandy shore. Birds could be seen here and there in the distance.
We’ve arrived at the wildlife refuge’s narrow sandy shore. Birds could be seen here and there in the distance.
As the group continues on, I linger to take in the sunshine and wide views. I notice what appears to be remnants of the potash manufacturing operation from years ago.
As the group continues on, I linger to take in the sunshine and wide views. I notice what appears to be remnants of the potash manufacturing operation from years ago. Some benches allow rest and meditation.
Stones and debris on a beach in the wildlife refuge.
Stones and debris on a beach in the wildlife refuge.
Some mysterious (to me) concrete ruins on Gunpowder Point.
Some mysterious (to me) concrete ruins on Gunpowder Point.
I arrived at a bird observation lookout. All was very quiet. I saw a California least tern hunting small fish along the water's edge. Few people seem to come out here.
I arrived at a bird observation structure. All was very quiet. I saw a California least tern hunting small fish along the water’s edge. Few people seem to come out here.
Depending on the tide, the area near the shore can be open water or a mudflat that supports shorebirds searching for food.
Depending on the tide, the area near the shore can be open water or a mudflat that supports shorebirds searching for food.
Bird's beaks are specially designed for feeding. Some beaks filter plants from the water, some grab flies out of the air, and some probe the mud.
Bird’s beaks are specially designed for feeding. Some beaks filter plants from the water, some grab flies out of the air, and some probe the mud.
The tide must have been out, because this platform stood above a drying mudflat.
The tide must have been out, because this platform stood above a drying mudflat.  I believe that might be bright green eelgrass in the shallow pool of water.
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, or crystalline ice plant, is salt tolerant. My hike through the marsh produced some beautiful surprises.
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, or crystalline ice plant, is salt tolerant. My hike through the marsh produced some beautiful surprises.
Hiking through an expanse of green in San Diego's South Bay.
Hiking through an expanse of green in San Diego’s South Bay.

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Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

2 thoughts on “Photos from a short hike through Sweetwater Marsh.”

    1. Hopefully those species that are endangered survive! From what I read, after the potash operation wrapped up shortly after World War I, the area was used for farming, then became a dumping ground. Goodness knows what all was dumped here and remains in the ground.

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