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Otay River Valley

The rains came down hard in February. The South Bay saw a kind of watery region not often seen, since we are accustomed to a drought environment. On March 4th I took a hike along the Otay River Watershed, enjoying the Upper and Lower Otay Dam.

Unusually, the new trail connecting Proctor Valley was flooded. The pictures below show the amount of water everywhere.

This past weekend, heavy rains again hit San Diego County once again. As the waters recede, it’s fascinating to return to the Otay River Valley and take a look at how saturated the land has become. It may seem like a muddy thing to do for out-of-towners and I agree. However, if you’re local, you’ll want to see this rare sight: water.

Additionally, I’d like to verbatim share the interpretive plaques along the way in order to peak your interest:

This is the Otay River Watershed

Watersheds are areas of land where water flows downhill to form waterways eventually leading to the ocean.

You are standing and maybe living in the Otay River watershed, an area of over 92 thousand acres.

A watershed acts like a funnel, collecting all the rainfall and urban runoff within its boundary and channeling it downstream to the ocean. Chemicals, pesticides, oil, industrial and animal wastes all end up washing down this tunnel. At the end of the funnel is the San Diego Bay, which is home to sea turtles and other marine animals.

This watershed is located between two other watersheds, one of the Sweetwater River to the north and one of the Tijuana River to the south. The Otay River watershed begins on the northeast slopes of Lyons Peak (elev. 3,740 ft.) and ends at sea level in the San Diego Bay.

Living in the Otay River Valley

People have lived in the Otay River Valley for nearly 9,000 years. Over 280 historical cultural sites including camps, artifacts, and historic trash deposits have been discovered and investigated.

The Kumeyaay Indians began using the area for hunting, gather, and agriculture around 850 C.E. (Common Era). They lived up and down the watershed in seasonal villages, spending summers in the higher elevations and winter closer to the bay and ocean. The Kumeyaay people continue to live in San Diego, as our neighbors and on many Kumeyaay reservations located throughout the County.

The word Otay comes from the Kumeyaay word Otai which means brush. Here are some other area names with Kumeyaay words as their origin: Pauwai=Poway, Temeku=Temecula, Hamul=Jamul, Hamacha=Jamacha

Go Native! Discover Your Roots

Landscaping your home with plants that naturally grow in San Diego and similar climates is a smart choice. Not only do the plants’ chances for survival improve, but they need less water than plants from areas with more rainfall.

Throughout the park, every effort has been made to improve the plant communities native to the river valley. Plants that are not from here are being removed and replaced with plants that do belong here. These efforts improve habitat for wildlife, and save water to help grow other native plants.

By planting native plants in your yard, you can create mini-habitats for wildlife and save water. California buckwheat is beautiful, white sage smells great, and monkey flower adds color. Many local nurseries can help with making native plant choices.


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