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Visitor Activities

Winter nature tours with San Diego Audubon Society

Activities permitted on the San Diego Bay NWR include wildlife observation and photography and environmental education and interpretation.  During some special events, volunteers can participate in habitat restoration events.  During the winter, locals are invited to take monthly guided walking tours of the salt ponds.

  • Wildlife Observation & Photography

    Salt marsh birds beak - closeup

    Sweetwater Marsh Unit
    An elevated observation platform at the Living Coast Discovery Center provides impressive views of the surrounding salt marsh habitat. Wildlife activity within Paradise Marsh and the F&G Street Marsh can be observed via the Bayshore Bikeway or nearby National City Marina.
    South San Diego Bay Unit
    The Bayshore Bikeway provides the best wildlife viewing opportunities. An observation deck is also located along the Silver Strand on HWY 75. This is also a great spot to view the new breach completed in August 2011 during the Western Salt Pond Restoration Project. In November 2012, a beautiful outdoor educational sitting area was constructed at the site of "Habitat Heroes" at the north end of 13th Street in Imperial Beach, complete with a viewing scope. However, it's always a good idea to bring binoculars!

    During the winter months, you may join the San Diego Audubon Society out to the interior of the salt ponds and view the migratory birds visiting the refuge. The South Bay Salt Works Winter Birding Tours only happen once per month in the winter due to the sensitivity of the birds who seek refuge in these ponds.

  • Environmental Education & Interpretation

    Playing Bird Bingo with Jill Terp, Refuge Manager

    Sweetwater Marsh Unit 

    Programs are conducted in partnerships with the Living Coast Discovery Center, National City, several school districts, and various nonprofit organizations. The Refuge provides the outdoor classroom for this program where students study topics such as the tides, water quality, native vegetation, and birds. The Discovery Center also conducts weekly docent-lead nature hikes along the trail system on Gunpowder Point.  

    South San Diego Bay Unit 
    The South San Diego Bay Unit provides the site for the Habitat Heroes environmental education program, located at the north end of 13th Street in Imperial Beach. This program provides students from nearby elementary schools to participate in a program that focuses on coastal wetland habitat restoration and adaptations. 

  • Biking

    Bayshore Bikeway sign

    The primary bicycle facility in the South Bay is the Bayshore Bikeway, a 26-mile bicycle facility constructed around San Diego Bay. This bikeway consists of combination of bicycle paths, lanes and routes providing convenient and scenic bicycle transportation around the bay. In the vicinity of the Sweetwater Marsh Unit, a segment of the Bayshore Bikeway was recently completed that provides off-road bicycle access from National City, near Pepper Park, to E Street in Chula Vista, skirting around the eastern edge of the Refuge.

  • Future trails

    Trailhead at Sweetwater Marsh

    Sweetwater Marsh Unit 

    Currently, a design is being implemented to connect the existing trail system on Gunpowder Point to the interpretive elements installed at the new FWS headquarters building, and will be called the "Discovery Interpretive Trail."

    South San Diego Bay Unit
    Currently, a wonderful boardwalk complete with artistic and interpretive elements, called the "Bayside Birding and Walking Trail" is being designed.  This 0.4 mile trail will extend along the Southern end of the Bayshore Bikeway, from 7th Street to 10th Street in Imperial Beach. It will be wheelchair accessible, and is expected to be completed by 2014.  Stay tuned!

  • Hunting

    No hunting sign on Refuges

    Hunting is not currently permitted on the San Diego Bay NWR. Within the San Diego County region, waterfowl hunting is currently offered seasonally at Barrett Lake and Lake Sutherland, both operated by the City of San Diego. Opportunities for upland game hunting are available within the California Department of Fish and Game’s San Felipe Valley Wildlife Area and Boden Canyon Ecological Reserve, as well as within portions of the Cleveland National Forest.

  • Fishing

    No Fishing sign

    Sweetwater Marsh Unit 

    Fishing is not permitted within the Sweetwater Marsh Unit, although significant fishing opportunities are available immediately adjacent to the Refuge in San Diego South San Diego Bay Unit.

    South San Diego Bay Unit 

    The closest fishing piers to the Refuge are located at Pepper Park in National City and Bayside Park in Chula Vista.  

  • Boating

    FWS Law Enforcement bay patrol

    Sweetwater Marsh Unit  

    Within the Sweetwater Marsh Unit, open water is limited to the channels that meander 
    through the marsh habitat. These waters are currently closed to boating or kayaking. 
    South San Diego Bay Unit 
    No boat ramps are provided on the Refuge. However, public boat ramps are available in Chula Vista at Bayfront Park, near the Chula Vista Marina, and in National City at Pepper Park. Marinas located in proximity to the Refuge include the Chula Vista Marina, the Loew’s Crown Isle Marina, and two marinas in the Coronado Cays.

Page Photo Credits — Credit: USFWS
Last Updated: Nov 12, 2013
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