Are you looking for a relatively easy trail to hike on in San Diego? Well, look no further as I have found the perfect spot! The Batiquitos Lagoon is between Carlsbad and Encinitas, and it is one of the last saltwater marshes in Southern California. Today I will be taking you on a tour of the 3.14-mile Batiquitos Lagoon Trail.
Nature Center-9am-3pm daily
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Batiquitos Lagoon Trail-A Photo Tour
I was so happy to come here for the first time. I have always been curious about this lagoon, as you can see from the Interstate 5 freeway. Here are a couple of references for you. The first is a map of the lagoon and a list of all possible birds seen here. Finally, I added the Self-Guided Batiquitos Trail Map, highlighting several sites.
Fun Fact- Batiquitos translates to ‘little watering hole” in Spanish.
Why don’t we have a little fun following the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail Map above?
Batiquitos Lagoon Marsh View-Cattails
Today we will start our walk at the beginning of the nature center’s lagoon (see above address).
Can you see the dead cattails in the distance? You can assume a freshwater source (urban-runoff) whenever you see cattails, as cattails cannot survive in saltwater alone.
Here we have the bridges for the freeway, the highway, and the railroad. Each structure restricts the flow of water to the lagoon from the ocean.
Underneath the trestles of each bridge and underpass, the swallows build their mud nest. So, swooping swallows eating insects in the sky is a familiar sight in the spring and summer. These birds help keep the number of flying insects down to a minimum.
Batiquitos Lagoon-Nesting Site
Do you see the sand in the far distance? We have man-made sand nesting sites for the endangered California Least Tern and the Western Snowy Plover.
There are small stones and shells on the sand that the birds use to camouflage their nests within the sand.
Bird’s Observed at the Batiquitos Lagoon
There are typically over 60 species of birds that are viewable at any one time. Here are a few examples to consider.
Ducks: Canvasback, Bufflehead, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy, Lesser Scaup
American Pelican, Elegant Tern, Least Tern, Belted Kingfisher, American Avocet, Western Sandpiper, Snowy Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Least Sandpiper
Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Yellow legs, American Coot, Mallard Duck, Killdeer, Great Egret, Gulls (several types), Ridgeway’s Rail, Willet, Caspian Tern, Savannah Sparrow
Osprey, Coopers Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon
Anna’s Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, House Finch, California Towhee, Red-winged Blackbird, Cassin’s Kingbird, Bushtit, Cliff Swallow, California Gnatcatcher, Say Phoebe, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black Phoebe, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Spotted Towhee, Song Sparrow
Fascinating Geology Seen at the Batiquitos Lagoon
Do you see the rugged hill to your left of the path? This tan sandstone area is called the Scripps Formation. It is believed to be over 45 million years old!
If you were to look closely, you would see many shellfish fossils. There are over 200 prehistoric sites recorded within one mile of this lagoon, some dating back as far as 9000-3500 years ago, left behind by California Paleo-Indians and more recently from the Kumeyaay (2300 to about 1800 A.D.).
Looking over at the hills, they were cut by waves over 100,000 years ago when the sea level was 400 feet higher.
Please click on the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation link above if you want to learn some exciting information like this.
Here is a short video that I made that highlights the nesting site across the lagoon and gives you an idea about the surrounding hills to imagine how the hills became flat.
Riparian Habitat at the Batiquitos Lagoon
A Riparian Habitat is the cooperation between plant species and a water source characterized by hydrophilic plants. The plant has adapted to allow its roots to be submerged in water.
Plants commonly found here include the coyote brush, California sagebrush, bush sunflower, arroyo willow, and non-native species, such as sweet fennel, castor bean, and wild radish.
The Eucalyptus is a prominent non-native species and is a favorite nesting site for the great blue heron and snowy and great egrets.
The problem with the Eucalyptus tree is that it excretes a powerful oil that prevents native species from growing under and around them.
Batiquitos Lagoon Coastal Salt Marsh
Here between the water’s edge and the trail, we have an example of a coastal salt marsh community. Pickleweed (Salicornia virginica) is the most dominant salt-tolerant plant found here.
It is a soft fleshy plant that looks like and tastes like pickles. Early settlers would eat this plant and use it to make glass and soap due to its high alkaline salt content.
Because pickleweed is dense and close to the ground, it also provides excellent nesting habitat for the endangered Belding’s savannah sparrow.
Canary Island Date Palm Tree
If you do not mind, I would like to add something about this glorious tree I came upon on the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail. The Canary Island palm tree is a non-native species, but it has a presence!
Look how giant this creature is! I fell in love with this tree and plan to go back sometime soon to look at it again.
End of the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail
Here we are at the end of the trail. At this point, you turn around and head back.
Let’s first have a closer look.
This part of the lagoon trail is closed and is designated as a Natural Preserve for the Western snowy plover.
While making my way back, I took the opportunity to better look at all of the bird-watching stations found immediately on the trail.
What a fabulous place to go bird watching! Remember that you may see over 60 species here at any one time.
For more in depth look, here is the most recent list from ebird.org.
Click on the link below.
Batiquitos Lagoon Nature Center
Before leaving, let’s go inside the Nature Center and have a quick look. The front porch has a beautiful view of the lagoon and is also a great place to sit and relax after walking.
Inside the Nature Center, there are copious amounts of information for you to look over and a few pamphlets you may take while walking the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail.
Volunteers are happy to answer any questions you may have, so please do not hesitate to ask! I asked about the native plants at the lagoon and was given a specially made book to study before beginning my walk.
I had a spectacular time walking the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail, and I highly recommend others to do the same as it is a relatively easy trek.
I hope you enjoyed our little adventure, and please leave any comments or questions you may have below.
Until next time!
As an added bonus, I came across a very talented drone photographer (Jaxon Travis Photography) and would love to share a ‘birds-eye-view’ of Batiquitos Lagoon.
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!