Explorers – Tijuana River Watershed Activity

Dear Education Partner:
We would like to share with you the artwork completed as part of a Girl Scout Gold Award project by Courtney Payton, a senior at Scripps Ranch High School.  It includes graphics for the Watershed classroom activity for our Tijuana Estuary Explorers elementary level program.  We hope it will be useful to your educational activities.  The new artwork and our lesson plans (English & Spanish) are available by clicking on links below.

Please feel free to contact me, amtipton(at)parks.ca.gov, if you would like a copy of the Teacher’s Guide for this curriculum.

Anne Marie Tipton, Education Coordinator 


Tijuana Estuary Explorers – Watershed Activity Lesson Plan & Discussion Questions

Interactive Tijuana River Watershed Mural
medium resolution (2 MB)
high resolution (19.5 MB)

Interactive Mural Pieces

Letter from Courtney




The Tijuana Estuary would like to thank Courtney Payton for making the artistic updates to our lesson possible.  Congratulations to Courtney on achieving the highest award in Girl Scouts – the Gold Award.


Also available are Courtney’s Kid-Friendly “How-to Draw” Bird Art Lessons.
– Great Blue Heron
– Northern Harrier
– Anna’s Hummingbird
– California Least Tern
– Long-billed Curlew

October is Kids FREE Month!

www.sandiegomuseumcouncil.org for more information and to print your free coupon.

Kids are invited to explore San Diego’s diverse museums – for FREE! From October 1 – 31, children ages 12 and under receive FREE admission with a paid adult (limit 2) at 40 arts, cultural, and science museums. Explore the hidden treasures of the ocean or the far reaches of outer space. Delve into local history, visual arts, botanical gardens, architectural treasures – and more!

To participate, download the Kids Free in October voucher at sandiegomuseumcouncil.org. Simply present the voucher at the participating museum’s admissions desk. A full directory of participating venues can be found on the San Diego Museum Council’s website.

Note: This offer does not include special events/exhibits or field trips.

TIP: You need one coupon per museum visit, so print out several to have on hand. One coupon is good for 2 children.



Museum Mash-Up!

EVENT DATE: Sunday, October 1, 2017
TIME: 10 am to 1 pm
The New Children’s Museum Park, 200 W. Island Ave.,
in downtown San Diego.
COST: Free to attend

Kids Free in October kicks off with Museum Mash Up!

Museum Mash Up will be held at The New Children’s Museum Park, 200 W. Island Ave., in downtown San Diego. Families are invited to check out fun, hands-on activities presented by ten museums, including the Fleet Science Center, San Diego Natural History Museum, Barona Museum, San Diego Model Railroad Museum, Tijuana Estuary, and more!

Plus, kids will love the live animal encounter with Living Coast Discovery Center, and interactive performances by Ms. Smarty-Plants™️ with The Water Conservation Garden and a Drum Circle with the Museum of Making Music. But wait, there’s more! The grand finale will be a performance by musicians from the San Diego Symphony!

Check out the Facebook event page HERE.

The park and museum area easily accessible by bus or trolley. Children 12 and under ride free with a paid adult on the MTS trolley and bus routes on Saturdays and Sundays!

Free to attend! Come out and have some family fun.

Protecting Endangered & Threatened Birds

Resident and migratory birds use the Tijuana Estuary and the coastal bays to rest, feed, and raise their young.  In the spring, San Diego birds start to build their nests.  Did you know that many of the birds that nest within the Reserve nest on the ground?

Way You Can Help Protect San Diego’s Birds

  • Keep dogs on a leash and under control in designated areas.  In Border Field SP, dogs are only allowed at the top of Monument Mesa (on a leash).
  • Pick up after your pet.
  • Keep cats indoors.
  • Do not release any pets or wildlife on the Refuges or Reserve.
  • Become a Shorebird Steward!

With your continued help we can protect all native species.

Why Are Wetlands Important?

Wetlands are valuable for a variety of reasons.  Here are some analogies to help explain things better. 


They absorb water and provide flood control.


They are a resting place for migratory birds.


They mix oxygen and nutrients into the water.


They provide nutrient-rich food for people and wildlife.


They grab nitrogen from the air, the stuff life is made of!


They help clean the environment.


They are home to a diversity of wildlife.


They filter toxins and debris from water making it cleaner.


They are a nursery for fish and young wildlife (they provide shelter, protection, and food).

Besides all these important reasons, wetlands also provide recreational, educational, and research opportunities!


Find out more about estuaries and other wetlands.
Short film about Why TRNERR is so Important.


Ancient Life in San Diego

Artifacts found at Border Field State Park and the border region.

Abalone Pry


Fishing Weight


Abalone Tools


Abalone Shell


If you find an artifact, please leave it where you found it.  Think of it as a crime scene; if you remove an artifact you are taking away a piece of the puzzle.  More about this.

Learn more about local archaeology

California State Parks Archaeological Resources

San Diego Coast District Cultural Resources (CSP)

San Diego Archaeological Center



Marking the Border

After the  U.S. – Mexican War, how did the countries decide where to put the border?  Find out by reading the Marking the Border Article.

TRNERR featured in SD Museum Murals

TRNERR’s Visualizing the Future Mural Paintings Featured at Barrio Logan Gallery Exhibition  

June 17 – 30th
at La Bodega Gallery
2196 Logan Ave, SD

Tijuana Estuary’s Visualizing the Future art exhibit is headed out into the community once again. This time the 4 murals will be featured as the prominent piece in the San Diego Museum Council curated show, MUSE, at La Bodega Gallery in Barrio Logan. MUSE pairs local artists with local museums to create an exhibition of mural concepts that represent each museum’s mission and vision. Visualizing Change is one of 9 pieces on display.
The grand opening will take place on Saturday, June 17 from 5-11pm, however, the exhibit runs through June 30th.

Download the flyer here.


February is Museum Month



EVENT DATE: February 1-28-2017
LOCATION: Participating museums
COST: 50% off admission with pass

Arts, entertainment and culture collide for Macy’s Museum Month in San Diego. This February the San Diego Museum Council and Macy’s have teamed up again for Museum Month, giving patrons a chance to discover what’s new at more than 40 area museums with savings only seen once a year. From Oceanside Museum of Art down to the Tijuana Estuary, there are ample opportunities for edutainment, creating memories and fun for the whole family.

Participants can pick up a Museum Month Pass at any area Macy’s store to enjoy half-off admission to all of the participating museums through the entire month of February.

Passes will be available beginning February 1 at all San Diego, Temecula and Imperial Valley Macy’s.

Find out more information at the San Diego Museum Council.

Is fishing allowed south of Seacoast Drive now that the nearshore ocean is a Marine Protected Area (MPA)?

Yes, but only certain species and by using specific methods (see below).  The MPA west of the Reserve and south of Seacoast Drive is called the Tijuana River Mouth State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA).

Tijuana River Mouth SMCA

Effective: January 1, 2012

The SMCA is approximately 1.5 miles wide (west-east, starting at the mean high tide line) and 3miles long (north-south, starting at the south end of Seacoast Drive). View Map.

What am I allowed to fish?
Northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax)
Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax)
Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)
Jack mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus)

How am I allowed to fish?
Recreational Fishing: by hand-held dip net only.
Commercial Fishing: by round haul net only.

Get a detailed description of the Tijuana River Mouth SMCA boundary and regulations.

CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Marine Protected Areas Webpage.

Map of all MPAs in effect on the Southern California Coast.

Plant Communities

As much as 70% of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve is made up of wetland area. This Reserve contains a variety of unique habitats, including dune, salt panne, salt marsh, mudflat, brackish pond, riparian, coastal sage scrub, and vernal pool. Unique characteristics distinguish one habitat from another. Changes in elevation of a few inches, the presence or absence of salt water, or soil type are variables that determine which plants or animals can live in each distinct habitat. Each habitat maintains its own world of inter-dependent life forms.
In an attempt to protect native vegetation and disappearing habitat, Reserve and Refuge staff along with volunteers constantly battle non-native plants while continuing to plant native ones. These native plants provide vital habitat, nesting area and food for native animals, which is desperately needed in Southern California where over 90% of its coastal wetland habitat has been lost to development.

Many people are unaware that plants can be on the endangered species list too. The Tijuana Estuary is home for one endangered plant called the Salt Marsh Bird’s Beak (Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. maritimus). It is an annual that grows in the upper marsh of the Tijuana Estuary, one of only 10 locations where the Salt Marsh Bird’s Beak is found. Salt Marsh Bird’s Beak (below) is a hemiparasite, it uses Shoregrass (Distichlis littoralis) and Salt Grass (Distichlis spicata) as a host plant.

Plants of the Reserve can be divided into sections according to habitat:

  • Salt Marsh
  • Coastal Sage Scrub (upland)
  • Martime Succulent Scrub
  • Dunes
  • Riparian

The plants are listed by their common name, in English and Spanish, and their scientific name.

More Information

Endangered Species Listing Program or to view the Federal Register of endangered species visit: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/

Non-Native Plants

Learn More:

Budget Woes

Clay Phillips, Reserve Manager

I’m in my 16th month serving in a dual capacity as both “Reserve Manager” and “Acting District Superintendent, San Diego Coast District” for California State Parks.  I truly apologize for my reduced involvement at TRNERR and any delays or problems my absenteeism has caused.  It is simply a reflection of the short-term fiscal condition and related uncertainties that currently envelope California State Parks (see next paragraph).  You may be wondering why I haven’t selected an “Acting” Reserve Manager.  In consultation with all the TRNERR Program Managers, I decided that the best approach would be to allow the Program Managers to continue to fully attend to their business, without any one of them distracted by having to also serve as Reserve Manager. At the last quarterly Advisory Council meeting it was apparent that each program is moving along very well, with many accomplishments and many key issues being addressed.

California State Parks is closing 70 parks throughout the state; the majority are located north of Los Angeles.  However, the remaining parks are not unscathed by the state’s budget woes.  In order to remain within reduced allocations this past year, districts throughout the state have had to keep positions vacant and reduce services to an unprecedented degree.  (The vacancy rate in San Diego Coast District is 27%.)  The coming fiscal year (starting July 1) will be even worse, with a further reduction in our allocation estimated between 3% to 5%.

As you know, there have been serious problems in finalizing the federal budget.  As a result, we have still not received the green light to submit the annual grant application for the Reserve’s Operation funding (approximately $560,000).  That submission usually occurs in April, so we’re especially late this year.  In addition, we expect to receive level funding this coming year.  While it could be worse, level funding is like a decrease because our costs have continued to rise.

As a result of funding shortfalls on both the state and federal side, we need to consider various cost-saving measures.  Please be patient as we explore the range of options; I hope to have more information to share soon.

– Clay Phillips, TRNERR Reserve Manager,
Acting District Superintendent San Diego Coast District, California State Parks