It’s that time of year–summer–when outdoor activities abound! Except… that also means crowds. Fortunately, there are still places that can feel both serene and affordable. They are located, of course, in the South Bay.
Harry Orgovan is a docent at the Living Coast Discovery Center, a board member of the South Bay Historical Society, owner of Chula Vista Kayak and an all-around expert on the plants & animals that live in the waters near the Chula Vista harbor.
I went on a a kayaking tour with him and then received an entire ecological history of this region. Harry knows his past. He also can identify most of the fish, bird species (many endangered) and sea turtles here. He took us over to the mudflats and salt marches located smack in the middle of the Bay.
Shorebirds, and Raptors, and Turtles
The South Bay is home to many different species of shore birds and raptors (Osprey, Kites, Harriers) and THEN you might also see the Pacific Green Sea Turtles. There are around 60-80 of these sea turtles that forage on eelgrass year-round.
The South San Diego Bay is also an important part of the Pacific Flyway, which is used by birds during the changing seasons. At any time of the year, you’ll see upwards of 370 species of birds. Harry brings along binoculars and if you go during high tide, he’ll take you to the salt marshes, mud flats and shallow water channels. In the distance you’ll be able to see the Salt Works (salt mounds that have been produced in this area since the Kumeyaay resided here.)
The ocean water is 3.5% salt
The Salt Works brings ocean water into a ponds, which they then close off. The water begins to evaporate and get saltier and saltier. One of the intermediate phases of the pond is where brine shrimp grow in it. There’s about four different species of birds that will eat the brine shrimp by those salt works, which is part of what they call the National Wildlife Refuge. The NWR includes the Sweetwater Marsh, parts of the open bay, most of the area in the South part of the Bay, the Salt Works, the Tijuana Estuary, the Jamul Reserve, and the Seal Beach Refuge. That’s all part of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge.
So is the Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve where we were kayaking. That is overseen by the Port and the Airport Authority. About four years ago they enhanced the channels that run through here, made it four feet deep, and then they pumped mud slurry over to the back part of the Bay where they built those salt ponds for habitats. They also rehabilitated another salt pond as mitigation for the Poseidon Desalination Plant.
California Least Tern
We saw quite a few of the Least Terns, which are migratory seabirds that breed primarily along the California coast. Their swallow-like flight give them their earlier common name, Sea Sparrows. They have been listed as Federally Endangered since 1970, mainly due to habitat loss.
This was only one of the wonderful animals we saw during our two hour tour of the bay off Chula Vista. The waters were calm, the weather — as always — perfect, and we had an extremely knowledgable guide.
Mayor Mary Salas
Best of all, Mayor Mary Salas has taken Harry’s kayaking tours. Even she wanted to see and understand our San Diego National Wildlife Preserve:
Call 619-422-3600 for reservations or information about tours and group rentals.
Address: The ramp is located at 975 Marina Way, Chula Vista.