San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve


This is yet another place that I have driven by thousands of times and looked at but never stopped.

From the coast highway, you can see the lagoon but, I never noticed all of the trails, tiny bridges, or the pure beauty of the place.



This time, we typed the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve into the GPS and decided to take a real look!

It was easily found from Interstate 5 and we slipped into one of only a few parking slots. There was a sign saying there were more spots across the street, but the parking angel was good to us as it always is.

I was surprised actually on how many people were there judging by the number of cars.

From the parking lot there is a sizable visitor center, with information on the lagoon, what species of animals and birds that can be found there, plus a gift ship.

Upstairs is an awesome lookout where you can see the whole area and the coastline. There was a family that brought food and were having a picnic at one of the many tables. It was a perfect spot and a clear, warm day in San Diego County.


Posters and information from the employee at the visitor center told me what birds I could find to photograph. There were plenty and I saw six species that I have never photographed before.

As we started towards one of the paths where it hit me on what a stunning place this was. There were trails galore and you can take your leashed pooch along.

People were jogging, walking, or just enjoying the peaceful day, but it didn’t seem crowded because it was so wide open.


There were walk-ways, bridges, marshlands, canals, and amazing birds to be seen. A large Gray Heron and White Egret were hanging out against the honey brown reeds. Another white bird was perched on a post across the water, it was nature at its best.


A loud weird sound was coming from a bird far up on the wires above and I could barely make it out even with the telephoto lens of my camera. On further inspection later with the trusty bird posters, I saw that it was a Belter Kingfisher. Never heard of it, never saw one but now I have, thanks to this Reserve.



I have seen Herons and Egrets many times but against this natural habitat and wonderfully preserved wetlands, they looked both serene and at home.

Do you want to get into nature and enjoy the creations on our earth? I highly recommend the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve.

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell

Parting shot:

One of many birds to see here.

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