Archives for January 2011

Festivals & Celebrations

Throughout the year the Reserve offers specials events for families to enjoy.  Check the calendar for event schedules and flyers. Don’t miss these annual events:

SD Festival of Science & Engineering Expo Day – March 3, 2018
Join us on Saturday, March 3rd at Petco Park for the Science Expo for over 135 hands-on science activities and 12 stage performances for kids of all ages. The event will take place from 10am until 5pm.  The Reserve’s booth will feature Wonderful Wetlands! Meet wetland critters, play with a mudflat, be a Tijuana Estuary biologist, and discover why wetlands are important for YOU and for wildlife.


International Migratory Bird Day – Saturday, May 12, 2018
An annual celebration of the incredible journeys of migratory birds held on the second Saturday in May. Come increase your knowledge of these fascinating animals through nature walks, crafts, special presentations and anything else we have planned for this year. Visit the International Migratory Bird Day website and gift shop to find out more.


Coastal Cleanup Day – Saturday, September 15, 2018
Celebrated the third Saturday in September, typically from 9am-noon, it is the largest beach and waterway cleanup program with data collection in the world. Volunteers from around the world participate each year – clearing tons of trash from coastlines, rivers and lakes. Come make a difference and volunteer locally, visit the official International Coastal Cleanup Day website for more information.

2018 – in schools only
Discovery Labs
Join us for our Discovery Labs, a series of open houses to excite and engage the minds of our community in their own backyard. In 2018, we will be taking the program to schools and local libraries, more details and dates to come.


For more information
, event schedules and ways to get involved with any of the above listed special events please call the Visitor Center at 619-575-3613.

Fiesta del Río

 Join us on Sunday, September 8, 2013, the theme for the 10th annual event will be “Celebrating the Tijuana Estuary – our local living laboratory.”   We chose this theme to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the event and the critical wetland research at the Reserve. Imperial Beach Pier Plaza will host a variety of entertainment such as Ms. Smarty Plants with Earth Heroes, Gadgets and Tools-Past and Present, and Mariachi Estrellas de Chula Vista; tours of the Reserve provided by Tijuana Estuary’s biologists; research and technology activities for families and children; and booths featuring Reserve scientists, Think Blue San Diego, Living Coast Discovery Center, and native Kumeyaay arts and crafts. FREE!


Click below to read more about the Fiesta del Rio:

Event Summary (2.6 MB)
Event Keepsake Poster (3.6 MB)
Event Program (2 MB)
Press Release
Directions to IB Pier Plaza:
 located at 910 Seacoast Drive, click on link to view a map and get directions.

Yesteryears Dancers interact with the audience at the Fiesta del Rio.

Fiesta del Rio Schedule of Events

Stage Entertainment *

Master of Ceremonies: Anne Marie Tipton

1:00pm Welcome from Reserve Manager Chris Peregrin
California State Parks, TRNERR;
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Project Leader Andy Yuen;
County Supervisor Greg Cox;
and Imperial Beach Councilmember
 1:15pm Traditional Singers from CA – Honor Place/Environment Home Theme
 1:20pm Los Californios and Yesteryears Dancers
 2:05pm Estuary H20 Lab from the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
 2:35pm Traditional Singers from California – Animal Theme
 2:40pm Ms. Smarty-Plants™ Earth Heroes from the Water Conservation Garden
 3:10pm Gadgets and Tools – Past and Present
 3:55pm Traditional Singers from California – Water Theme
 4:00pm Mariachi Estrellas de Chula Vista
Mariachi Chula Vista


Ongoing Children’s Activities

Discovery Zone

For the Whole Family

Booths of Event Partners and Sponsors Bus Tours of the Tijuana Estuary (1.5 hours) 1:45pm and 3:30 pm * Stage entertainment schedule subject to change

Kids visit interactive booths to complete their event passports.

For more Information

Please call the Visitor Center at 619-575-3613 ext. 304.

Booth Partners

County of San Diego, Watershed Protection Program & Office of Education
Cabrillo National Monument, SD Military History Association
Friends of San Diego Wildlife Refuges
Kumeyaay Artisans
The Living Coast Discovery Center
Surfrider, San Diego Chapter
Think Blue San Diego
Tijuana River NERR, California State Parks
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Water Conservation Garden


College and university groups are encouraged to learn about estuarine ecology by discovering the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve.  Professors who wish to bring their classes should contact education staff to schedule a visit even if planning a self-guided tour.  Guided trips are also available.

Common Topics for Guided Tours:

  • Bird Identification
  • Endangered Species
  • Native vs. Non-native Plants
  • Salt Marsh Plant Identification and Adaptations
  • TRNERR Management Issues
  • Wetland Functions

Service Learning Projects and Research Projects can also be arranged.

Interested groups should call at least 4 weeks in advance to make a reservation and discuss with the education staff the objectives of the visit. Programs are generally 2 hours in length, but depend upon your group’s objectives. Binoculars are provided for the group to use.  Programs are provided FREE of charge.

To schedule a visit contact:
Marya Ahmad
, marya.ahmad(at)
619-575-3613 ext.306
Lorena Warner-Lara, lorena.warner-lara(at)
619-575-3613 ext.305

Coast Alive!

Grades: 6-8

California State Parks partnered with the California Institute for Biodiversity to produce the Coast Alive! coastal and marine middle school teachers guide and field trip activities. The Coast Alive! Teacher Guide can help your students explore the magnificent California coast. It contains over 200 pages of activities, lesson plans, and background information that fall into seven categories: Land, Sea, Marine Food Webs, Biodiversity, Watershed, Marine Ecosystems and Humans, and Stewardship. The guide meets California Science and Language Arts content standards.

The curriculum isn’t specific to estuaries, but Reserve education staff use the field trip lessons in our programming.  Similar to the high school program, the field trip activities focus on biological monitoring.  Teachers who wish to participate in this program must attend either the High School Teacher Training or schedule an orientation. 

Field trips should be booked at least 2 weeks in advance.  No fee for this program.

To schedule an orientation, training, or field trip:
Marya Ahmad,
619-575-3613 ext.306
Lorena Warner-Lara, lwarner(at)
619-575-3613 ext.305

Transportation Grants
Limited transportation reimbursements are currently available for schools who currently cannot attend the Reserve’s free, high quality environmental education programs due to lack of transportation funds and teachers who have attended an orientation and/or training at the Reserve. Please complete the request form and contact Anne Marie Tipton for details if you are interested, amtipton(at) or (619) 575-3613, ext. 304.

Habitat Alteration

Southern California represents one of the most dense urban settings in the nation, and estuarine habitats and adjacent lands have been heavily modified by human activities.  The situation for habitats associated with the Tijuana River Reserve are particularly acute, as the Reserve occupies a portion of land on the International Border with Mexico.

Hydrological and biological inventories and assessments were conducted and a Geographic Information System database was developed as a foundation for restoration planning. A long-range plan for restoring the estuary’s tidal prism and intertidal wetlands was developed, and the plan was reviewed in a programmatic EIR/EIS approved and adopted by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Coastal Conservancy.

The original Tijuana Estuary Tidal Restoration Program (TETRP) called for approximately 500 acres of intertidal wetland restoration to be undertaken in increments using an adaptive management design process with monitoring and evaluation of projects to influence design decisions for subsequent phases. The first project of the program, a 1,200-foot channel connecting the northern end of Oneonta Slough and the tidal ponds southeast of the visitor center, was constructed in winter 1997.  Subsequently, final engineering plans for a 20-acre intertidal wetland restoration were prepared as a first module of the 500-acre south arm component of the TETRP.  This 20-acre Friendship Marsh (Model Marsh), which emphasizes tidal creeks and the marsh plain, was constructed in 2000-2001.  Excavated materials were used on-site to restore a degraded piece of upland habitat that was once a sand-mining operation.  Monitoring for regulatory compliance and research purposes is ongoing.

Since completing the Model Marsh, project leaders and hired consultants have adjusted the acreage of land to be included in the restoration program to approximately 200-250, largely due to sedimentation risks and/or degradation in the most southerly areas of the original 500 acres.  Through a project facilitated by the Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association and funded by the State Coastal Conservancy, a feasibility report was completed for a 250-acre restoration project in the south end of the Reserve. The Stewardship Program plays a role in large projects such as these by engaging in the planning and implementation process and through assistance with regulatory agency communications and environmental review.

This area also faces disturbance pressures associated with border infrastructure and security and undocumented immigration activity. A new Border Infrastructure Project has been a major focus of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Elements of this project for the local region have been under construction for years. In the summer of 2008, following the transfer of nearly 50 acres of land from the Reserve to U.S. Department of Homeland Security, major construction for the Border Infrastructure Project was initiated in this region.

A significant focus of this project is to develop a fortified barrier and patrol road system that stops illegal crossings and allows for rapid Border Patrol Agent response along the length of the International Border. Adjacent to the Reserve and in closely associated regions, project construction has resulted in the movement of major volumes of earth, cutting mesa tops and filling canyons in an effort to level the topography of the area and facilitate a linear road and fence corridor. The Stewardship Program works to conserve natural resources threatened by this condition. Some of the regular activities include: work with Border Patrol agents to communicate our resource objectives and develop an understanding of U.S. Homeland Security needs; attempt to minimize disturbance and effects from patrol infrastructure impacts; and monitor conditions.

Changes in Biological Communities

Plants and animals in the region have been dramatically impacted by habitat loss and degradation, species invasion, and overharvesting,. Species remaining in these systems are often of high conservation concern. Historically the Tijuana River Valley has been subject to disturbances from military activity, ranching and agriculture. Much of the disturbed land has been colonized by invasive exotic plant species. Additionally sediment-laden flow events from Goat Canyon have resulted in high levels of ecological disturbance, creating large alluvial deposits that have been colonized and dominated by non-native plant species. Non-native species of primary focus include: tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima), arundo (Arundo donax), castor bean (Ricinus communis), perennial pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium), black mustard (Brassica nigra), Sahara mustard (Brassica tournefortii), and chrysanthemum (Glebionus coronarium). The habitats affected by this include salt marsh, freshwater riparian scrub and alluvial scrub, all habitats that are relatively rare throughout the region and support sensitive species. The Stewardship Program works to control exotic vegetation in these disturbed areas through chemical application, manual removal, and planting efforts. The Stewardship Program also promotes enhancement of native plant diversity through native plant propagation and planting efforts.

The coastal dune system within the Tijuana River Reserve supports populations of Western snowy plover (Charedrius alexandrinus) and California least tern (Sterna antillarum), two species of regional importance that have lost much of their nesting habitat to coastal development. The Stewardship Program works to protect these populations through habitat delineation with fencing and signage; control of invasive iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis), a species that can occupy quality nesting areas; involvement in community outreach efforts such as volunteer-based beach monitoring and education; and through contracting and working with specialists for predator control and population monitoring activities.

Water Quality

Saltmarsh habitat throughout Southern California is jeopardized by stormwater flows and sedimentation. In the Tijuana River Estuary, tidal channels and salt marsh habitat have been lost to sedimentation. The Goat Canyon Sediment Basins were constructed (2003-2005) to stop excess sediment flowing from a highly disturbed canyon in Mexico. These basins capture up to 60,000 cubic yards of material each winter and must be excavated every fall. These basins serve as a model for the region. The Stewardship Program plays an active role in managing this facility with tasks including: soliciting contractors and over-seeing basin work, promoting beneficial re-use of the material, promoting basin improvements such as trash capture and consolidating devices; monitoring basin conditions throughout the year and during excavation, and maintaining environmental permits necessary for facility operation.

Group Visits

Groups interested in discovering the Tijuana Estuary can arrange a guided or self-guided tour or a combination of the two.

Interested groups should call at least 4 weeks in advance to make a reservation and discuss with the education staff the objectives of the visit. Programs are generally 1- 1 1/2 hours in length, but depend upon your group’s objectives. Binoculars are provided for the group to use.  Programs are provided FREE of charge.

To schedule a visit contact:
Marya Ahmad
, marya.ahmad(at)
619-575-3613 ext.306
Lorena Warner-Lara, lorena.warner-lara(at)
619-575-3613 ext.305