San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve


The 721-acre San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve provides critical migrating waterfowl habitat and nesting sites for sensitive bird species, contributes to coastal fisheries replenishment by providing nursery habitat for young fish, and generally protects a tremendous diversity of plant and animal species. Habitats includes southern California coastal sage scrub, riparian and coastal wetland communities.

For more information, call the South Coast Region San Diego office at (858) 467-4201.

Recreational Opportunities

Wildlife Viewing Hiking Trails

This ecological reserve is adjacent to or shares marine habitat with a Marine Protected Area (MPA). For the public use regulations for MPAs, see Section 632, Title 14, CCR.

Activities: wildlife viewing, hiking

NOTE: Visitors are responsible for knowing and complying with all regulations pertaining to the use of Department lands.

Refer to the Public Uses on State and Federal Lands section of the Waterfowl, Upland Game, and Public Use Regulations (PDF) booklet for both statewide and property-specific regulations.

no drones icon
You may not operate a drone on CDFW Lands without a Special Use Permit.

Area History

San Elijo Lagoon was once a fully tidal system. When the lower Escondido Creek area was settled in the 1880s, the area began to undergo vegetational modifications, mainly due to farming and grazing influences. Between 1934 and 1973, sewage from various sources was discharged into the lagoon. And between 1937 and 1971, numerous dikes and levees were installed to construct duck ponds for hunting. Many of these can still be found within the lagoon. The property was acquired to preserve, protect and maintain the coastal wetland habitat and those species associated with this habitat type. It was designated as an ecological reserve by the Fish and Game Commission in 1983. More recent modifications of landforms and drainage patterns have also drastically altered the ecosystem.

Map of San Elijo Lagoon ER location - click to enlarge in new window
Click to enlarge


South Coast Region (Region 5)

San Diego County

Directions: Hwy 5 north of Solana Beach. Exit Manchester Avenue to reserve.

CDFW Lands Viewer