A short nature walk along a National City wetland.

Rusty old train tracks are overgrown with wild vegetation, including many California sunflowers.
Rusty old train tracks are overgrown with wild vegetation, including many California bush sunflowers.

I made a cool discovery the other day. A little-known hiking path in San Diego’s South Bay provides a view of a beautiful natural wetland.

According to signs that I saw, the small estuary between Bay Marina Drive, Marina Way, Interstate 5 and the Sweetwater River is a protected wildlife refuge. I believe, after looking at Google Maps, that the water flows from Paradise Creek. But I’m not certain. Perhaps someone reading this knows.

Long-unused train tracks that are partially concealed by vegetation run along the edge of the wetland, and so does a narrow footpath. I didn’t see any signs naming the trail, or any that prohibited a short hike. So I walked down it a bit, enjoying the fresh air and peaceful surroundings.

Information sign near edge of estuary identifies native plants. California Buckwheat, White Sage, Southwestern Spiny Rush, and Black Sage.
Information sign near edge of estuary identifies native plants. California Buckwheat, White Sage, Southwestern Spiny Rush, and Black Sage.
View of National City wetland from observation area south of the Best Western Marina Gateway hotel parking lot.
View of National City wetland from observation area south of the Best Western Marina Gateway hotel parking lot.
Beginning down the footpath on a sunny weekend day.
Beginning down the footpath on a sunny weekend day.
Some eroded sandstone adds beauty to the scene.
Some eroded sandstone adds beauty to the scene.
Prickly pear and chaparral yucca above a green estuary.
Prickly pear and chaparral yucca above a green estuary.
Beyond the sign lies a fragile wetland where native plants and animals are protected. I saw some birds out in the wildlife refuge.
Beyond the sign lies a fragile wetland where native plants and animals are protected. I saw some birds out in the wildlife refuge.
I turned about after a short hike and headed on back to the hotel parking lot.
I turned about after a short hike and headed on back to the hotel parking lot.

UPDATE!

On a later visit I discovered additional signs beside the hotel parking lot. They contain more interesting information.

I learned this wetland is called Paradise Marsh. It’s an environmentally important tidal salt marsh that’s part of the much larger San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Water reflects bright sunlight in National City's Paradise Marsh.
Water reflects bright sunlight in National City’s Paradise Marsh.
Paradise Marsh is a small part of the 2600 acre San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Paradise Marsh is a small part of the 2600 acre San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge
The birds of Paradise Marsh include the Willet, Mallard, American Avocet and the Great Blue Heron.
The birds of Paradise Marsh include the Willet, Mallard, American Avocet and the Great Blue Heron.
For hundreds of years, Native American tribes such as the Kumeyaay, Iapi or Tipai made their homes around the estuaries of San Diego Bay.
For hundreds of years, Native American tribes such as the Kumeyaay, Iapi or Tipai made their homes around the estuaries of San Diego Bay.
A beautiful tidal salt marsh wetland can be viewed in National City.
A beautiful tidal salt marsh wetland can be viewed in National City.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Do you enjoy beautiful things? Visit my photography blog which I call A Small World Full of Beauty.

Photos of a nature walk in Tijuana River Estuary.

Sign near the entrance to Visitor Center of Tijuana Estuary, home of a National Wildlife Refuge and National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Sign near the entrance to Visitor Center of Tijuana Estuary, home of a National Wildlife Refuge and National Estuarine Research Reserve.

What place in North America officially contains the most plant and animal species? You don’t know? San Diego and the Northern Baja California region!

Yesterday I took a nature walk around and through the northern section of the Tijuana River Estuary. The large estuary, which is located at the extreme southwest corner of the continental United States, where the Tijuana River empties into the Pacific Ocean, contains abundant life which reflects San Diego’s amazing biodiversity and range of habitats.

The Tijuana Estuary is not only a place of tranquil beauty, but it’s a scientific laboratory, protective refuge, and outdoor classroom where the public can learn about our natural environment. It’s managed by several agencies, including the NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve System, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and the National Wildlife Refuge System under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

I absorbed so much information while walking about, reading signs, and listening to a volunteer guide during a short nature walk near the Visitor Center, that I couldn’t possibly convey it all on my blog. So I’ve selected some photos and have captioned them so you’ll get the gist of what I saw and learned. And hopefully you’ll want to visit, too!

Relatively few people partake of the scheduled weekend nature walks at the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center. Joan, the plant expert, said that some days nobody shows up. What a shame. Because there’s so much beauty, so much to see.

I strongly encourage anyone who lives in the San Diego area to head down to Imperial Beach and take a long, leisurely walk where life thrives!

Ecoroute Bikeway and sidewalk along Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach offers views of the north section of 2,500 acre Tijuana River Estuary.
Ecoroute Bikeway and sidewalk along Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach offers views of the north section of 2,500 acre Tijuana River Estuary.
A white egret and other small birds enjoy the fertile, nutrient-rich environment created by this important coastal wetland.
A white egret and other small birds enjoy the fertile, nutrient-rich environment created by this important coastal wetland.
A shorebird equipped with a long bill, used to poke into sand and mudflats for food. Over 370 species of birds have been sighted in the wildlife reserve.
A shorebird equipped with a long bill, used to poke into sand and mudflats for food. Over 370 species of birds have been sighted in the wildlife reserve.
Once a dump, and destined to be a boat marina, local citizens fought to have the Tijuana Estuary protected as a National Wildlife Refuge and National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Once a dump, and destined to be a boat marina, local citizens fought to have the Tijuana Estuary protected as a National Wildlife Refuge and National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Steps lead down from Imperial Beach Boulevard to one of many trails in the fascinating, life-filled estuary.
Steps lead down from Imperial Beach Boulevard to one of many trails in the fascinating, life-filled estuary.
There are many habitats in the estuary including dune, salt panne, salt marsh, mudflat, brackish pond, riparian, coastal sage scrub, and vernal pool.
There are many habitats in the estuary including dune, salt panne, salt marsh, mudflat, brackish pond, riparian, coastal sage scrub, and vernal pool.
Sign welcomes visitors to Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge. Five endangered and two threatened species of birds are protected here in their natural habitat.
Sign welcomes visitors to Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge. Five endangered and two threatened species of birds are protected here in their natural habitat.
I was told these old wooden pilings used to support a storm drain which ran out to the ocean.
I was told these old wooden pilings used to support a storm drain which ran out to the ocean.
A Snowy Egret perches atop a post, perhaps watching the water for prey. Small fish, frogs, reptiles and insects are part of the food chain in a shallow river estuary.
A Snowy Egret perches atop a post, perhaps watching the water for prey. Small fish, frogs, reptiles and insects are part of the food chain in a shallow river estuary.
The path to the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center passes through a garden of native plants often found along the coast of Southern California.
The path to the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center passes through a garden of native plants often found along the coast of Southern California.
This colorful abstract map at the Visitor Center entrance represents the 1,735 square mile watershed of the Tijuana River, reaching deep into Mexico.
This colorful abstract map at the Visitor Center entrance represents the 1,735 square mile watershed of the Tijuana River, reaching deep into Mexico.
The edge of the map, inside the Visitor Center's door, shows a part of San Diego and Tijuana. As it nears the Pacific Ocean, the Tijuana River crosses into the United States.
The edge of the map, inside the Visitor Center’s door, shows a part of San Diego and Tijuana. As it nears the Pacific Ocean, the Tijuana River crosses into the United States.
One of many educational exhibits within the cool Visitor Center. Wildlife abounds...at Tijuana Estuary!
One of many educational exhibits inside the cool Visitor Center. Wildlife abounds . . . at Tijuana Estuary!
Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive.
Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive.
Habitats in a changing landscape. All eight habitats in the estuary endure constant change. Water levels rise and fall with the tides. Salinity of the water fluctuates.
Habitats in a changing landscape. All eight habitats in the estuary endure constant change. Water levels rise and fall with the tides. Salinity of the water fluctuates.
Visitors can jot notable sighting of birds on a board inside the Visitor Center. Buds and blooms are also listed.
Visitors can jot notable sighting of birds on a board inside the Visitor Center. Buds and blooms are also listed.
A few people out on a nature walk on a pleasant Saturday in November. The estuary is full of blooms, birds, and animal activity, even as winter approaches.
A few people out on a nature walk on a pleasant Saturday in November. The estuary is full of blooms, birds, and animal activity, even as winter approaches.
Joan, a super nice park volunteer who is a plant expert (and author of a fun native plant book), shows us the yellow bloom of California bush sunflower.
Joan, a super nice park volunteer who is a plant expert (and author of a fun native plant book), shows us the yellow bloom of California bush sunflower.
Even though the blue blooms of this pleasantly aromatic Cleveland Sage have dried, the seeds pods have a bluish tint.
Even though the blue blooms of this pleasantly aromatic Cleveland Sage have dried, the seeds pods have a bluish tint.
A tiny hummingbird is perched on the branch of a shrub.
A tiny hummingbird is perched on the branch of a shrub.
The Galvezia, or bush snapdragon, is from Baja California. It has green stems, bright red tube flowers, and attracts hummingbirds.
The Galvezia, or bush snapdragon, is common in Baja California. It has green stems, bright red tube flowers, and attracts hummingbirds.
Hiking south down the North McCoy Trail in the Tijuana Estuary. Rising on the left horizon is Mexico. On the right horizon are the Coronado Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Hiking south down the North McCoy Trail in the Tijuana Estuary. Rising on the left horizon is Mexico. On the right horizon are the Coronado Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Ranger Debbie Good is super friendly. She answered a bunch of questions with a big smile. Here's she's putting away a table used to welcome volunteer workers.
Ranger Debbie Good is super friendly. She answered a bunch of questions with a big smile. Here’s she’s putting away a table used to welcome volunteer workers.
These volunteer students from SDSU are helping to plant native vegetation. Efforts to return the estuary to a natural state are ongoing. This area several decades ago was a dump.
These volunteer students from SDSU are helping to plant native vegetation. Efforts to return the estuary to a natural state are ongoing. This area several decades ago was a dump.
Looking across cordgrass and a beautiful wetland at the extreme southwest corner of the continental United States.
Looking across cordgrass and a beautiful wetland at the extreme southwest corner of the continental United States.
A quiet bench on the North McCoy Trail invites walkers to relax and take in the sunshine and surrounding tranquility.
A quiet bench on the North McCoy Trail invites walkers to relax and take in the sunshine and surrounding tranquility.
Plaque on another bench at the south end of the trail. In memory of Glendon I. Layton. Rest a moment and watch the birds.
Plaque on another bench at the south end of the trail. In memory of Glendon I. Layton. Rest a moment and watch the birds.
The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve and Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge is a place where amazing biodiversity and nature's beauty thrive.
The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve and Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge is a place where amazing biodiversity and nature’s beauty thrive.

Follow this blog for more photos of cool stuff! Join me on Facebook or Twitter.

Creative kids paint San Diego River Estuary mural.

Kids were painting a public mural along the San Diego River Estuary this morning!
Youth helps paint a public mural along the San Diego River Estuary.

This morning, after I checked out the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, I headed out to the San Diego River Estuary and enjoyed a long, leisurely walk. I’d read that kids would be painting a cool mural next to the river, directly south of SeaWorld and east of the Sports Arena Boulevard/West Mission Bay Drive bridge.

When I arrived, the mural was nearly completed. The project was hosted by The San Diego River Park Foundation. Young artists also had an opportunity to do a little birdwatching!

Bicyclists heading down Old Sea World Drive spy a line of colorful artwork.
Bicyclists heading down Old Sea World Drive spy a line of colorful artwork.
The San Diego River Park Foundation is working to save our beautiful river.
The San Diego River Park Foundation is working to preserve the life-filled estuary.
Lots of paint cans contain the colors of wildlife and river scenery.
Lots of paint cans contain the colors of wildlife and river scenery.
San Diego River Park Foundation banner is positioned by murals painted by kids.
San Diego River Park Foundation banner is positioned near mural painted by kids.
Most of the painting was done when I walked by in the late morning.
Most of the painting was completed when I walked by in the late morning.
Adults were putting some finishing touches on cool public art.
Adults were putting some finishing touches on the cool public art.
A project of River Kids Discovery Days on March 14, 2015.
A project of River Kids Discovery Days on March 14, 2015.
Two great egrets in San Diego River Estuary not far from the mural project!
Two great egrets in San Diego River Estuary not far from the mural project!
San Diego Park Rangers were also painting a mural. This panel depicts a snowy egret.
San Diego Park Rangers were also painting. This panel depicts a snowy egret.
Mural artists sign their names on sign beside the San Diego River Trail.
Mural artists put their names on sign beside the San Diego River Trail.
Lots of kids turned out to add life and color to a fence bordering nature's beauty.
Lots of kids turned out to add life and color to a fence bordering nature’s beauty.

To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Birds take flight above San Diego River Estuary!

Birdwatching on north side of San Diego River, not far from Pacific Ocean.
Birdwatching on north side of San Diego River, not far from Pacific Ocean.

Today I enjoyed a glorious walk. I hiked along the always life-filled San Diego River Estuary.

Beginning along the north side of the San Diego River from Friars Road, I headed west down the bicycle and jogging trail which parallels Sea World Drive. I then crossed the river over the Sports Arena Boulevard bridge and returned along the San Diego River Trail back east to Morena Boulevard.

I didn’t expect to get any decent shots of birds with my dinky little camera, but as it turned out I got lucky. While the estuary is always teeming with both migrating and native birds, most tend to gather on the small islands and mud flats a fair distance from the path.

The San Diego River estuary is one of the best birding spots in Southern California.
The San Diego River Estuary is one of the best birding spots in Southern California.
Snowy egret takes flight from river's edge, very close to pedestrian and bike path.
Great egret takes flight from river’s edge, very close to pedestrian and bike path.
Hummingbird takes a rest on a twig on a sunny winter afternoon.
Hummingbird takes a rest on a twig on a sunny winter afternoon.
Plenty of ducks and shore birds dot the living river throughout the year.
Plenty of ducks and shore birds dot the living river throughout the year.
Black-necked stilt walks through the water, perhaps watching for a meal.
Black-necked stilt walks through the water, perhaps watching for a meal.
Looking north across blue water. Mission Bay and SeaWorld lie beyond the trees.
Looking north across blue water. Mission Bay and SeaWorld lie beyond the trees.
Huge flock of seagulls takes flight from mud flat near mouth of San Diego River.
Huge flock of seagulls takes flight from mud flat near mouth of San Diego River.
A fish-hunting osprey flies above the San Diego River estuary.
A fish-hunting osprey flies above the San Diego River Estuary.

To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.