Visit Us

This refuge has two distinct areas you can enjoy some of the most beautiful and unique wildlife in San Diego Bay. Each area is connected by the Bayshore Bikeway. Whether you're riding your bike, the bus, or driving, accessing the refuge is easy. You just have to know where to go!

Activities

This refuge is a natural gem with the most preserved wetlands in South Bay. You can ride your bike around the refuge, observe and photograph wildlife, and view tens of thousands of migratory terns who nest in the interior of the refuge. 

You can get involved in our education and interpretation programs with our partners, attend special events, and volunteer during our habitat restoration events. 

Whatever you choose, the San Diego Bay NWR is a beautiful place to relax and recreate. 

Trails

Bayside Birding and Walking Trail

This 0.4 mile trail runs parallel along the Bayshore Bikeway, from 7th Street east to 10th Street in Imperial Beach. Stroller and wheelchair-friendly, this easy trail has interpretive signage and the most beautiful views of the refuge. You may park your car at 495 10th Street, next to the City of Imperial Beach Public Works department, and cross the bike path to the refuge's trail.

Related Documents

Sweetwater Marsh Unit
Plug into your GPS: 1080 Gunpowder Point Dr. Chula Vista, CA 91910. 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 Living Coast Discovery Center runs a shuttle bus from the parking lot every 15 minutes. See their webpage for most current schedule. There is no fee to walk the 1.5 miles of trails, however there is a fee to explore the Living Coast Discovery Center. Both the Discovery Center and our administrative headquarters are located next to each other.

South San Diego Bay Unit
This area of the refuge is surrounded by the Bayshore Bikeway, so access 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. You may park anywhere along this area, however it is in a residential area, so please be considerate of our neighbors! 

The best place to park would be at 495 10th Street, Imperial Beach, in the gravel parking lot. This is a parking lot the City of Imperial Beach has graciously installed for extra visitor parking. From here, you can cross the bike path and access our Bayside Birding and Walking Trail, which runs from the northern terminus of 10th Street west to 7th Street in Imperial Beach.

During the winter time, monthly guided birding tours by the San Diego Audubon Society are conducted from October to February (except December) within an area of the refuge that is normally closed to the public. During the spring and summer, tours are not offered due to the thousands of protected migrating terns and black skimmers who breed there. You can still see the incredible wildlife spectacle of the migrating terns from the Bayside Birding & Walking Trail.

Other Facilities in the Complex

San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex. 

A National Wildlife Refuge Complex is an administrative grouping of two or more refuges, wildlife management areas or other refuge conservation areas that are primarily managed from a central office location.  Refuges are grouped into a complex structure structure
Something temporarily or permanently constructed, built, or placed; and constructed of natural or manufactured parts including, but not limited to, a building, shed, cabin, porch, bridge, walkway, stair steps, sign, landing, platform, dock, rack, fence, telecommunication device, antennae, fish cleaning table, satellite dish/mount, or well head.

Learn more about structure
because they occur in a similar ecological region, such as a watershed or specific habitat type, and have a related purpose and management needs.  Typically, a project leader or complex manager oversees the general management of all refuges within the complex and refuge managers are responsible for operations at specific refuges. Supporting staff, composed of administrative, law enforcement, refuge manager, biological, fire, visitor services, and maintenance professionals, are centrally located and support all refuges within the complex.

The Refuge Complex headquarters is located at: 1080 Gunpowder Point Drive, Chula Vista, California 91910.

It is also in the same location as the Living Coast Discovery Center.

Rules and Policies

There are a few simple rules you can follow to protect habitat and keep San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge a safe place for wildlife and people.

Locations

Sweetwater Marsh Unit
Sweetwater Marsh Unit 1080 Gunpowder Point Drive Chula Vista, CA 91910-8222
Driving Directions

Plug into your GPS: 1080 Gunpowder Point Dr. Chula Vista, CA 91910. 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. 

Open from 10am - 5pm, a shuttle bus run by the Living Coast Discovery Center will bring your inside the refuge gates about every 15 minutes. There is no fee to walk the 1.5 miles of trails, however there is a fee to explore the Living Coast Discovery Center. Both the Discovery Center and our administrative headquarters are located next to each other.

South San Diego Bay Unit

This area of the refuge is surrounded by the Bayshore Bikeway, so access 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. You may park anywhere along this area, however it is in a residential area, so please be considerate of our neighbors! 

Driving Directions

The best place to park would be at 495 10th Street, Imperial Beach, in the gravel parking lot. This is a parking lot the City of Imperial Beach has graciously installed for extra visitor parking. From here, you can cross the bike path and access our Bayside Birding and Walking Trail, which runs from the northern terminus of 10th Street west to 7th Street in Imperial Beach.

Hours
South San Diego Bay Unit Refuge Hours
Year round
Sunrise - Sunset