Tijuana River Estuary National Wildlife Refuge


Location: Imperial Beach (15 Miles / 20 Minutes South of Downtown San Diego)

Visitor Center Hours: 10AM – 5PM Wednesdays through Sundays

Cost: Free

Features: Wetland of International Importance, 370 Species of Birds, Exhibit Center, Hiking, Guided Nature Walks

tijuana-estuary-centerTijuana Estuary Visitor Center Highlights: The southwestern corner of the United States is home to one of the most internationally significant wetlands in the world. This area is comprised of four National Wildlife Refuges. The Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center is one of two nature centers, the other being the Chula Vista Nature Center, that provide visitors insight into the Wildlife Refuges.

What to Expect

  • The Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center provides visitors insight on the surrounding habitat. Be sure not to miss the cabinet of drawers that includes items found in the Estuary, including feathers, bird nests, and insects. Plan on spending a half hour or more reading and browsing through the displays and watching a 7-minute video.
  • There is a Gift Shop in the Visitors Center selling books, videos, clothing, and other wildlife novelty items.
  • A garden outside of the Visitors Center highlights different varieties of endangered coastal sage-scrub.
  • Nature trails up to 3 miles long lead out from the Visitors Center. These trails are open for visitors to enjoy daily from dawn until dusk. Each day, thousands of birds fly through the area and serve as the main draw for visitors. Be sure to wear shoes you don’t mind getting dusty or possibly even a little muddy.
  • Guided Bird Walks are provided the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sundays of the month at 3PM and Nature Walks are generally provided the 2nd and 4th Saturdays at 11AM. Check the Visitor Center’s events page for upcoming dates and times
  • A Park Ranger is available in the Nature Center to answer questions and provide advice on which trails may offer the best wildlife viewing opportunities. The Nature Center also provides a map of the local trails and brochures describing the birds you will see in the area.tijuana-estuary-display
  • Insider Tip #1: If you are already a birding expert, you may prefer the brochure called ‘Tijuana Slough – Bird List’. If you are not a birding expert, look for the ‘Birds of Southern California’s Coastal Bays and Estuaries’ for more detailed bird descriptions and pictures.
  • Insider Tip #2: If you do not have binoculars, you can borrow them for free from the park ranger.
  • Insider Tip #3: Go during low tide when more birds arrive to feed on the sea life that is exposed as the water recedes.
  • Insider Tip #4: If Ranger is not available to direct you to the best trails for wildlife, your best option is to walk south along the Navy Air Field. Near the end of the Air Field (1 mile walk), look for burrowing owls. At the end of the Air Field, turn west towards the Pacific Ocean and continue to the end (1/4 mile) where you should see abundant wildlife.
  • 40% of our nation’s Navy Helicopter Pilots get their training at the adjacent Imperial Beach Naval Outlying Field. Weekends usually the quietest day of the week to visit. Otherwise, try to appreciate the sounds of freedom.
  • Expansive view of nearby Tijuana, Mexico
  • Additional trails through the Wildlife Refuge are available 6 miles south of the Visitors Center at the Border Field State Park.

Food – If you head west on Imperial Avenue and then turn right on Seacoast Avenue, you will find a number of restaurants and fast-food establishments a few blocks north. If you continue on Seacoast Avenue and make a right on Palm Avenue there will be a few more options.

Information on Visiting the Tijuana River Estuary Visitors Center

Fees / State Park Web Site:

  • Parking is Free (Note – It is a gravel & dirt parking lot)
  • Entrance is Free

Directions from Google Maps to 301 Caspian Way in Imperial Beach, CA 91932. (3rd Street turns into Caspian Way.)

Traffic – Travel to the Tijuana Estuary is relatively easy during the standard Visitor Center hours.

Transit – The Blue Trolley Line takes you to the Palm Avenue Station. From here, you can take a bus the final 3 miles to the Tijuana River Estuary Visitors Center. (See San Diego Transit Information for access to the Trolley Maps, Bus Schedules, and the online Transit Planner.)

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: Hiking, South Bay, Walking / Jogging, Wildlife - Places to See |

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