Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center

© Alejandro Santos

(619) 575-3613

Wednesday through Sunday
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Monday, Tuesday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Days.


Daily from Dawn to Dusk

The Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center is located at 3rd Street and Caspian Way in Imperial Beach, the most southwestern city in the United States. There is no entrance fee. The Visitor Center has information and displays that pique the interest of adults and children alike. Find out how plants in the estuary get rid of the salt they take in and which plant is endangered. Discover the birds that are threatened and endangered. Click to view short film to find out why the Tijuana Estuary is so special.

Visitor Center Entrance

As you walk toward the entrance of the Visitor Center, nature surrounds you; sounds of birds, lizards scurrying before your feet, and brush rabbits running in and out of their hiding places. Cacti and other native plants line the walkway. Before entering the building, on the sidewalk and continuing into the building is a painted floor map of the Tijuana River Watershed that is done to scale. Upon measuring your foot, you can gauge the actual distance between places, and follow one of the waterways that flows from Mexico, across the border, and then finally to the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (Tijuana Estuary) and, out to the Pacific Ocean.


On racks just inside the door, you will find trail maps, Reserve event information, bird identification pamphlets, and many tracts of useful information. The diorama inside is a three-tiered look at the estuary – under water, on the land, and in the air. The diorama contains many of our bird inhabitants (including the endangered Light-footed Clapper Rail), invertebrates, and fish. A migration map illustrates how birds utilize the Pacific Flyway as they journey back and forth from Alaska to South America. Children will love to climb into the Clapper Rail nest, assemble a food chain, probe for food like a shorebird, or search through the discovery drawers.

The Clapper Rail Nest Gift Shop

In the Clapper Rail Nest Gift Shop you can find tee shirts, hats, books, cards, children’s nature toys, and a variety of fun things, including free posters. Browse the local artist corner, where picture note cards of plants and birds are for sale, as well as beautiful handmade jewelry. The Gift Shop is a great place to find unique gifts for birthday and holiday shopping. All proceeds go to the Friends of San Diego Refuges. Join and get a 10% discount on items in the gift shop while supporting the Reserve and our local National Wildlife Refuges.


If you are on your way to walk the trails to do some birding, binoculars are available to borrow free of charge unless they are being used for an education program. Just leave an identification card or car keys at the desk until your return.