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Plan Your Visit

Basic Refuge map with both sub-unitsThe San Diego Bay NWR has sections that are either open or closed to the public, for reason of preserving sensitive and rare wildlife in their native habitats. Here are some ways you can enjoy some of the last remaining wetland fragments in San Diego Bay on your own, or with your family.  The abundance of bird life on this refuge is spectacular to see, and is sure to capture your curiosity.


Sweetwater Marsh Unit 

This portion of the refuge is open from 10am - 4pm, due to the operating hours of the Nature Center shuttle bus.  There is no fee to walk the 1.5 miles of trails of the visitor center, however there is a fee to explore the Living Coast Discovery Center.  Both the Living Coast Discovery Center and the administrative headquarters for the US Fish & Wildlife Service are located next to each other, including another classroom facility. To get here from I-5 freeway, exit E street exit and turn west into the entrance of the free parking lot and shuttle stop, where E street intersects Bay Boulevard. The shuttle bus runs about every 15 minutes.

Special events such as the annual National Wildlife Refuge Week celebration will be posted here on the homepage, and on our Facebook page.


South San Diego Bay Unit 

This area of the Refuge is closed to the public. 

monthly guided “South Bay Salt Works Winter Birding Tours” by the San Diego Audubon Society are conducted once per month from October to February, during non-breeding season.  During the spring and summer, tours are not offered due to the thousands of protected migrating birds who breed there. 

The South San Diego Bay unit is surrounded by the Bayshore Bikeway, so accessing the view of the refuge is easy!  Many people walk/bike from the City of Coronado and the Silver Strand down to the City of Imperial Beach, hugging the curves of the South Bay Unit.  It continues to glide through Imperial Beach, passing by the salt ponds, where many species of birds can be viewed diving into the ponds for fish or swimming along the Otay River. The path then continues north, turning into Bay Boulevard, and passes through the City of Chula Vista and eventually to E street where you can ride the bus into Sweetwater!  

Last Updated: Nov 12, 2013
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