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Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve

A Wetland of International Importance

The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve preserves, protects, and manages the natural and cultural resources of the Tijuana River Estuary by focusing on research and education with compatible recreation and resource use. The Reserve encompasses beach, dune, mudflat, salt marsh, riparian, coastal sage scrub, and upland habitats surrounded by the growing cities of Tijuana, Imperial Beach, and San Diego. Critical issues confronted by the Reserve include habitat conservation and restoration, endangered species management, management of the wastewater from Mexico, solid waste, sediment management, and the integration of recreation.

The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve is part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), a network of protected areas established for long-term research, education, and stewardship.

PDF map of the reserve
Mother and daughter explore a trail in the Tijuana River Estuary Reserve.
Mother and daughter explore a trail at the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center in Imperial Beach.

Learn more about the Tijuana Estuary

Tijuana River Watershed

The Tijuana River Watershed covers 1,750 square miles, and reaches from the Pacific coast to the Laguna Mountains.

What is an estuary?

An estuary is a coastal wetland where freshwater that flows from rivers and streams mixes with the saltwater from the ocean.

What We Do

We are committed to preserving our urban estuary. Learn about how we protect this resource and support the coastal communities that surround it.

Our Partners

The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve is a partnership between the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the State of California, established under the auspices of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.  The Reserve is operated by staff from California State Parks, the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the non-profit Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association (SWIA). California State Parks oversees the Visitor Center and manages Border Field State Park, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge. Together, these entities cooperate to ensure seamless management of the Reserve’s natural resources while furthering the Reserve's educational, interpretive, research, and training programs. In addition, several regional agencies and local municipalities share ownership and management responsibilities at the Reserve, and sit on the Reserve's Advisory Council.

Managing Agencies

NOAA logo

NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserve System

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 30 protected areas established for long-term research, education and stewardship. In addition to providing essential habitat for wildlife, the system offers educational opportunities and serves as living laboratories for scientists to protect and enhance coastal wetlands far beyond the boundaries of each individual reserve.

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California State Parks

The mission of California State Parks is to provide for the health, inspiration, and education of the people of California by helping preserve the state's extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation.

US Fish & Wildlife Service logo

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Refuge System

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Cooperating Associations


Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association

Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association (SWIA) is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization founded in 1979. SWIA is dedicated to the education in and acquisition, preservation and restoration of wetlands.

San Diego Friends of Wildlife Refuges

Friends of the San Diego Wildlife Refuges

The Friends of San Diego Wildlife Refuges is a non-profit citizen’s organization dedicated to supporting conservation and promoting awareness and appreciation of the National Wildlife Refuges of San Diego County. These include the Tijuana Slough, San Diego Bay and San Diego NWRs.

The Friends of San Diego Refuges runs the Clapper Rail Nest Gift Shop inside the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center. Bookstore sales go to helping education programs at the Reserve and to keeping the visitor center open. Donations gladly accepted.