I can not tell you how excited I was to go and check out the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center! I have always been fond of this lagoon. When I worked as a Fisheries Technician, I would find many shore anglers fishing on the western edge of this lagoon.
In San Diego, several lagoons and complimentary Nature Centers are filled with valuable information on local flora and fauna.
I have a page that lists all of these Coastal Lagoons and Nature Centers in San Diego County on my site here.
It has been my goal to visit everyone! Today is the day to check out the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center!
Table of Contents
Agua Hedionda Lagoon
Located in North County San Diego, the Agua Hedionda Lagoon is a 400-acre saltwater lagoon forty minutes from Downtown San Diego in Carlsbad.
Agua Hedionda means “Stinky Water” in Spanish. Before dredging in 1954, the lagoon was initially cut off from the ocean by a massive amount of sand, so I can quickly see how it received this name.
The Agua Hedionda Lagoon is unique in that several businesses share this lagoon:
- The Encina Power Station, owned by NPG Energy, uses the lagoon water for the Power Plants cooling systems. Of special note-they are the stewards of this lagoon who are in charge of dredging it every two years.
- Carlsbad Aquafarm, which raises oysters and mussels
- Hubbs-Seaworld Institute runs a white sea bass hatchery
- YMCA Daycamp
- California Water Sports- Carlsbad Lagoon.com features a dock and launch ramp as well as rentals and picnic areas
- Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center, located on the eastern edge of the lagoon, is also where the Ecological Reserve section of the lagoon is. (refer to the map below)
Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center
Let’s now concentrate on the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center!
When I first pulled into the parking lot, I was already happy with what I saw. Much care has been given to maintaining a pristine environment in and around the Center.
The Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation owns and operates the 3800-square-foot Agua Hedionda Discovery Center, which was completed in 2004.
Here you will find some fantastic displays that showcase the historical and biological significance of the area.
Let’s have a look around, shall we?
When I first walked in, I encountered the guinea pig cages within the Rancho Room.
In the early history of California, the Spanish and later the Mexican governments would hand out large land grants and deeds to set up Ranchos to raise cattle and sheep.
Over in the far left corner, there is an insect display showcased.
Here we have the Birds of Agua Hedionda Lagoon Exhibit. Each tile has relevant and interesting facts on several bird species.
The Reptile Room display showcases several species and gives you the option of handling them if you wish. I have to say that I passed on that opportunity today, but I wouldn’t mind holding one of the snakes if I did have the chance.
Across the room, you will find the Discovery Centers Fish Aquariums. Here you can get a general idea of what is happening underneath the waters and see some of the native species that call this lagoon home.
In the Column of Life showcase, you get a first-hand look at each lagoon layer. In essence, here, you will learn the lagoon’s ecology, see how each layer works together, and know how important wetlands are to the coastal environment.
Here, see for yourself what lives in each layer!
Luiseno History and Cultural Exhibit at the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center
This display was a collaborative effort between the San Luis Rey Band of Luiseno Indians and California State University San Marcos.
One of the primary emphases of this display is showing how important the native plants played in general to the Native American lifestyle.
Kid’s Corner at the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center
In the Kid’s Corner, there are several activities for the children to experience. These include an Archaeological Dig, many books, and many things to color and draw on.
I know that if my kids were still small, they would find many things to do here!
Agua Hedionda Lagoon History Hallway
I always get a little excited when I see a designated History area, as I revel in learning as much as possible about the past of San Diego. There is something to be said about prior knowledge that adds to the experience of any location.
Let’s now take a stroll down History Hall!
It is so fascinating that the history of this area goes back to 5000BC!
A Spanish commander, Gasper de Portola, was the first to sight the lagoon and named it “Stinking Waters.” I find this interesting because where I live (20 miles inland) in Temecula, one of the major roads is De Portola Road!
Before the 1920s, the Agua Hedionda Lagoon was closed off to the Ocean, but that all changed after a series of powerful storms finally opened up the lagoon to saltwater circulation.
On March 3, 1990, the Aqua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation began.
Between 1992 and 1998, a system of trails was planned and eventually created around the lagoon. During these formative years is when I became familiar with the lagoon.
At the time, the only Trail I was aware of was the Hubbs Trail, located at the northwestern shore of the lagoon. This area has always been a favorite spot to fish from shore.
Between 2000 and 2003, an invasive seaweed species named Calerpa taxifolia was introduced into the lagoon after being released from a home aquarium.
As a rule, never dump your aquarium water into the wild, as you will introduce foreign, competing species!
This seaweed strain grows extremely fast, up to 12 inches a day. Because it is so fast-growing, the lagoon almost came to ruin, but the seaweed was eradicated through due diligence.
If you are interested in learning more, please click here.
I immensely appreciate how much time and effort the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation puts into educating the children in the area about the importance of the lagoon. All of the awards that they receive are proof of that!
Tour Around The Outside of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center
When I walked outside the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center for the first time, I was swarmed by a flock of swallows! I had no idea they were back in town, so it was a pleasant surprise!
Fun Fact- Each year the swallows return in large groups to Mission San Juan Capistrano on March 19, St Joseph’s Day. The birds travel over 6000 miles from Goya, Argentina. To read more, click on the link above, it is fascinating!
If you zoom in and look under the roof’s eave, you will find holes where the swallows can build their mud nests.
Can you imagine yourself sitting here with a cup of coffee, taking in the sights? I sure can!
Let’s now take a walk around where the Trail starts.
Here we are on the back patio.
Looking back at the back patio, we are on our way to take a short .25-mile hike!
Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center Trail
Walking down this slope, you can not help becoming overwhelmed with all the smells of the coastal sage scrub community of plants. Within the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center’s grounds are more than 800 native plants, highlighting over 60 different species!
Here you can sneak a peek of the Discovery Center from the bottom of the first hill.
Walking down a little farther, I spy a bit of orange, which can mean only one thing our State Flower, the California Poppy!
I get so excited when I find them!
Fun Fact- You may pick a California Poppy, but only if it is not on any state grounds. If it is outside a school or a courthouse, or even on a street median do not hurt it or pick it!
Here we are, on the final stretch of our hike. Did I mention that it smells delightful?
If you are ever in the area, guided bird walks are offered monthly here at the Discovery Center! What a fabulous opportunity to go bird-watching with an expert for free!
Here we come upon the Ecological Reserve portion of the lagoon. No one is to enter this area, as it is a critical habitat for many species.
It is essential to mention that this is not a closed-loop trail, so now it is time to make our way back.
Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center Native Garden
After our lovely walk, let’s head to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center’s Native Garden, which hosts over 50 native species of plants.
First off, here is a list of all the species found here for later reference.
Heading over to the Native Garden, we pass by these fun sandboxes for children to explore.
Over here, we find the Franciscan Manzanita, which is extinct in the wild. How fortunate to have this particular plant on display!
Since I visited the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, I have been obsessed with the Torrey Pine tree!
The Torrey Pine is the rarest pine tree in the United States. They are only found in North County San Diego, except in a grove on Santa Rosa island off the coast of Santa Barbara.
On a side note: The world’s most giant Torrey pine tree- The Wardholme Tree, found in Carpenteria, is a transplanted Santa Rosa Island. Click on the above link to see how incredibly huge it is!
I get delighted whenever I come across a Torrey Pine tree!
You can tell it is a Torrey Pines tree by looking at the needles, as they are in five groups. Look at the picture above and see if you can count out five.
The Prostrate Black Sage has such delicate purple flowers.
Deergrass is a valuable material used in basket weaving.
I might have to try this lemonade recipe sometime!
The San Diego Honeysuckle is found everywhere! I have a few of these vines growing in my backyard.
To call them hardy would be an understatement. You can find this plant everywhere, growing like a weed.
It sure does smell good, though!
Here is another of my favorite trees, the Coastal Live Oak. The oldest Coastal Live Oak tree is on the Pechanga Reservation, less than a mile from my house.
Nicknamed the ” The Great Oak,” it is over 1000 years old!
I love the flowers!
You can see a sprig of California sagebrush in the right upper corner.
End of the Tour
So thank you for making it this far! So what do you think of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center? Pretty fabulous, huh?
As I mentioned, I have been visiting all of the Lagoons and Nature Centers in San Diego.
This lagoon was number three on my list. So far, I think this might be my favorite. There is so much to see and do here, and I only stayed for an hour but could have stayed even longer.
I enjoyed the short Discovery Center Trail, the interactive displays, and the very extensive Native Garden.
My only wish is that I had more time to look around!
After my visit here, I continued my adventure and toured the Hubb Trail at the lagoon’s mouth. Please check back later as I will also write about my experiences there!
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section!
Until next time!
I have always had a deep-seated passion for the Ocean Environment which ultimately led me to receive a degree in Marine Biology. Living in the San Diego area for over 30 years, I have extensively explored the 70 miles of San Diego’s coastline, and I am here to share! Please use my website to your advantage and have a look around at all the wonders that the beaches of San Diego can offer you!