Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, Chula Vista Nature Center
Sweetwater Marsh, once the site of a factory that extracted chemicals from kelp to make explosives, may at first seem a still, drab environment, but it is actually a place of great abundance and constant change. It is a particularly good place to see birds, and if you follow the 1.5-mile trail through the marsh you may glimpse some of the nine rare and endangered species that live here, including Belding's savannah sparrows, burrowing owls, and California brown pelicans, gnatcatchers, and least terns. Binoculars can be rented at the nature center.
Visitor center: The Chula Vista Nature Center and surrounding Sweetwater Marsh offer many opportunities to learn about wetlands and the plants and animals native to San Diego Bay. Begin your visit at the nature center, where interactive exhibits include a lagoon where you can watch endangered green sea turtles through underwater windows and a shallow-water tank that allows you to touch sharks and rays. You will also see jellyfish, eels, amphibians and reptiles, raptors, shorebirds, and other coastal life. Native plant gardens surround the center, and artworks illustrating local animals and plants are displayed throughout the grounds.
The nature center offers free guided walks around the grounds and in Sweetwater Marsh. If you opt to hike the marsh on your own, take the Center Trail from the nature center straight to the bay, where a nice breeze invites you to linger while enjoying the views of downtown San Diego and the Coronado Bridge on the horizon. For a slightly longer hike, take the first left onto Coyote Trail, which loops back to Center Trail in less than .25 mile.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
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