These sports fields are suitable for recreation like soccer and rugby, lounging in the sun with a good book, picnicking with family and friends on a nice day or for those who want to engage in casual sports like Frisbee
or touch football.
Multiuse Grass Fields
for multiuse recreation
The hardtop courts support four basketball hoops, including two half-courts and a full court, as well as pickleball. There is also fitness equipment, plus concrete table games, which can support teqball, also known as soccer pong. In teqball, players hit a soccer ball across a table with any part of the body except arms and hands. It’s fun to play and watch!
The playground is designed for children 2 years old and up, the playground includes a rope climbing tree and play structures with slides and monkey bars. The playground is designed with two tiers — one for older children and one for younger — connected by a safe-play slope, offering different challenges for kids as they climb and explore.
Courts & Playground
kids ages 3+
welcome to play on the playground
This 2-mile loop, which includes a section of the Ben and Nikki Clay San Diego River Trail, winds through the park and encircles the SDSU Mission Valley site. Artful mileage markers are located every quarter mile along the loop, depicting plants vital to the native Kumeyaay people. Interpretive signs inform park visitors of the origins and rich history of the area.
Hike and Bike Loop
2 mile loop
with interpretive signage and Kumeyaay art
Park Rules & Regulations
The park is currently available for casual recreation and not for scheduled events, practices or games. More information will be posted here when scheduling is available, likely spring 2024.
Since time immemorial, the Kumeyaay thrived in the San Diego region relying largely on hunting, fishing, gathering and cultivating important plants such as mesquite, elderberry and other medicinal plants close to their villages. The Kumeyaay have a deep connection and relationship with their environment and move with the seasons to areas where there are ripe and abundant plants or animals to harvest and hunt. For example, in the fall they move to higher elevations where they harvest pine nuts, acorns and other seeds. These seasonal harvesting patterns allow the Kumeyaay to secure a supply of food throughout the year.
The Kumeyaay have extensive plant knowledge which allows them to identify plants for medicinal needs, tools, construction materials and a healthy diet
The Kumeyaay sustainably manage their lands through water management and cultural (controlled) burning, which has many benefits:Preventing future uncontrolled wildfires.
Protecting important plants (such as coast live oak trees) by eliminating parasites.
Clearing chaparral, allowing the Kumeyaay to hunt rabbits and other animals more easily.
Ash from the burning purifies and removes toxins from the soil allowing for new growth.
TRADITIONAL WATER MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
A traditional Kumeyaay method of water management is to create rock drops in intermittent creek and stream beds. These small structures slow the water flow down and allow for more soil percolation and absorption after rain events. This practice can elevate the water table which creates greater moisture for plant growth and habitat. Traditional rock drops can establish multiple benefits in enhancing localized ecosystems and opportunities for hunting and gathering.
Post contact, significant land areas were adversely affected by cattle grazing. Through these traditional water management practices, the Kumeyaay were able to restore many natural landscapes and encourage the replenishment of water tables.
HISTORY OF FAMILY FARMS AT THIS SITE
Before WWII and a subsequent boom in urban development, the Mission Valley landscape was predominantly occupied by farmland. Farmers represented many cultural backgrounds and this site has a rich history of family-run farming businesses.
The first dairy was built in Mission Valley in the 1880s. By the 1950s, dairy goods were the thirdlargest agricultural product in San Diego County. At one point, there were 20 dairy farms in the area. The Guglielmetti Dairy Farm, the last dairy farm in Mission Valley, was located on this site. Owned by the Swiss-Italian Guglielmetti family, the farm was successfully operated until around 1969.
Mission Valley’s agricultural heritage also includes several Japanese American families, many of whom operated vegetable farms. They seasonally harvested celery, corn, tomatoes, lettuce and other vegetables to sell at farm stands as well as local markets near the present-day Gaslamp District. The Segawa Family leased farmland here from the Old Mission Ranch in 1947 and were the last commercial vegetable farmers at this site before the land was sold to the City of San Diego in 1966.
The San Diego River is home to a wide variety of birds that use the river and surrounding habitats to hunt, breed and build their nests. Each of these birds thrives off of a unique diet and nesting habit. This panel provides a few examples of birds commonly found throughout the San Diego River and estuary.
Bird songs are one of the many song cycles the Kumeyaay people have, also known as Takuuk (small bird who narrates life lessons). Used in ceremonies and celebrations, the stories in the songs have meaning and purpose with multiple teachings and philosophies. Men sing the songs while women dance to mimic the graceful movement of birds.
Below are the names for the flora and fauna in English, Spanish and Kumeyaay, as well as its scientific name.
Para Ak Hepeshu
Great Blue Heron / Garza Morena
Wingspan: up to 79 inches Diet: fish, amphibians, small mammals, small birds Nest: typically 20-60’ high built by female from materials gathered by the male Annual offspring: 3-7
Red-Tailed Hawk / Aguililla Cola Roja
Buteo jamaicensis Wingspan: up to 52 inches Diet: reptiles, small mammals, other birds Nest: built by both parents in tall trees or cliff edges Annual offspring: 2-3
California Scrub-Jay / Chara Californiana
Aphelocoma californica Wingspan: up to 15 inches Diet: seasonal omnivore Nest: built by both parents in trees and shrubs Annual offspring: 3-5
California Quail / Codorniz Californiana
Callipepla californica Wingspan: up to 9 inches Diet: berries, insects Nest: built by female typically on a tree branch Annual offspring: 3-5
Anna's Hummingbird / Colibrí Cabeza Roja
Calypte anna Wingspan: up to 4.7 inches Diet: nectar, insects Nest: built by female on branches or vines Annual offspring: 2
Great Horned Owl / Búho Cornudo
Bubo virginianus Wingspan: up to 55 inches Diet: small mammals, birds, amphibians Nest: repurposes old nests from other large birds generally 20-60’ off the ground Annual offspring: 2-5
Ashaa Milshlap Who Nemeshap
American Coot / Gallareta Americana
Fulica americana Wingspan: up to 25 inches Diet: aquatic plants, small animals Nest: built by both parents as a floating platform or platforms Annual offspring: 6-11
For nearly 40 years, this 160-acre site was mostly parking and paved surfaces. During rain events, stormwater fell onto the pavement with no filtration or potential for groundwater recharge. When rain falls onto paved surfaces it picks up and transports bacteria, chemicals, microplastics, trash and synthetic fluids from vehicles, industry and the surrounding environment before eventually depositing them into the San Diego River. The new design of this site provides a better outcome for the river and its downstream coastal ecosystems.
REDUCING SAN DIEGO RIVER POLLUTION
Now, rain falls onto approximately 80 acres of open space, native landscape and park land. These landscapes act like a “Green Sponge” to naturally absorb and filter runoff. Additional water that falls onto impervious areas is captured and sent through a network of pipes that lead into bioretention basins and engineered wetlands. An engineered wetland is an in-ground concrete structure filled with sand and clay that naturally filters pollutants. These are utilized in few locations, while bioretention basins, the largest of which is in front of you, provide the bulk of the water quality improvements on the site. This basin, and others like it, will capture high volumes of stormwater runoff that will be filtered before slowly releasing into the San Diego River.
Color is an important part of the experience and rich history of Mission Valley. From the golden sycamore trees and red toyon berries harvested by the Kumeyaay (the native people of this region) to the beautiful pure white of the snowy egret. We celebrate color as an important part of the natural and human history of Mission Valley.
A KUMEYAAY TRADITION OF COLORS
Colors are meaningful for the Kumeyaay, who have and still inhabit this land since time immemorial. For example, Kumeyaay people identify the four directions (north, south, east and west) with colors. Nyemshaap (white) represents ‘enyaak (east) which is symbolic of the sunrise, a day’s new beginnings. Nyill(y) (black) represents ‘ewik (west) which is symbolic of the sunset. It is the men’s color, also that of the beginning of ceremonies and song cycles, which is a very spiritual and powerful time. ‘Ehwatt (red) represents ketull(y) (north) which is symbolic of the mountains. Red is the woman’s color and represents life, creation and the blood of the people. Hepshiiw (blue/green) represents kewaak (south) which is symbolic of the forest, the plant life and water, which sustains all life from the ocean to the Colorado River.
COLORS OF THE NATURAL & BUILT ENVIRONMENTS
Nature brings a year-round display of colors to Mission Valley, from the subtle to the bold. Most notably during the fall, California sycamore leaves turn a golden brown before falling to the ground. A small sample of other colors to look for in Mission Valley include the bright red berries of the native toyon shrub, the dark black feathers of the common raven and the magenta face of Anna’s hummingbird. Other interesting colors you may find are the fluorescent colors of the spectacular flame skimmer dragonfly or the yellow and black wings of the western tiger swallowtail butterfly. As you enjoy the River Park, remember to take your time to pause and enjoy the many natural colors around you.
From the early 1800s to the 1960s, Mission Valley was rich in the seasonal cycle of agricultural fields and green pastures. Those fields yielded crops such as alfalfa, corn, cabbage and beans, along with hog and dairy farms, which created a varied and often verdant experience for visitors. The addition of buildings, shopping centers, office buildings, roadways and more has been a consistent part of the Mission Valley character and history, especially since the early 1960s.
Human-initiated colors can also be appreciated. One clear example is the bright red cars of the San Diego trolley as it passes over SDSU Mission Valley every few minutes. The trolley provides an important transportation link to our community with 62 stations covering 65 miles.
Below are the names for the flora and fauna in English, Spanish and Kumeyaay, as well as its scientific name.
Kumeyaay existence extends back to the beginning of time, which is accounted for through their creation story and oral history.
The people of the Kumeyaay Nation are the original inhabitants of this region, extending from the San Luis Rey River to Baja Mexico and from the Pacific Ocean to the Colorado River. The Kumeyaay Nation consists of twelve federally recognized bands within the United States and four Kumiai Bands across the Mexican border. The Nation is comprised of a complex and diverse culture, spiritual leaders, spiritual practitioners, clans, family connections with oral stories, history and philosophies as well as different language dialects that have evolved and grown over many centuries. Historically and presently, the Kumeyaay have been referred to as Diegueño, Mission Indians, Kumeyaay, Kumiai and Iipaay or Tipaay. They are one and the same—Mat Tipaay-Iipaay, which means people of the land.
The Kumeyaay people live, work and play freely from the coast to the mountains into the desert. Guided by the teachings of their Creation Story and the oral traditions passed down from Kumeyaay ancestors who had a highly sophisticated and respectful relationship with the land, and advanced knowledge of the stars, solstices, equinoxes, seasons and waterways. The Kumeyaay intelligently managed and understood the importance of caring for the land, water, flora and fauna that are all a part of this intricate ecological system that relates and sustains all life in balance and harmony
The Kumeyaay philosophy of community-based living was and still is the heartbeat of the Nation. Although the Kumeyaay people have been forced off much of their ancestral lands and onto small reservations or separated by borders and colonial laws, the Kumeyaay Nation continues to thrive and live by the wisdom passed down from their ancestors and elders, which is to care for one another and all of life because we are all equals and infinitely connected spiritually beyond the measure of words.
Ethnobotany is the study of how people of a particular culture and region make use of native plants.
CLOTHING, TOOLS, MEDICINE AND FOOD
The Kumeyaay people maintain their deep understanding of highly specified uses for plants that are native to both southern California and the Baja California peninsula. When possible, the Kumeyaay make use of the whole plant by paying careful attention to any subtleties and nuances that develop from seasonal changes—changes that can determine the usefulness of a plant’s stalks, leaves, trunks, branches, flowers, fruits and roots.
Yucca has many uses. Its leaves are fibrous and can be woven into cord to make bowstrings, baskets and nets. The root contains natural chemicals that foam and lather when mixed with water, allowing it to be used as soap for washing. Many parts of the yucca are edible including the flower blossoms.
In addition to its edible heart, the leaves of the desert agave provide a dense fibrous material that can be used to make cordage, nets, belts, shoes and other items. Nets made from agave fibers were highly valuable and once traded among the tribes and with the Spanish.
Juncus typically grows close to naturally running water. Once the juncus strands are dried, the variable colors and strength of juncus makes it perfect for binding coil baskets with decorative patterns.
Deer grass is used to make the bundled foundation of coil baskets. It expands when wet, which makes the baskets watertight and capable of holding liquids. Woven baskets serve as important tools—each made into a unique size and pattern for a specific use. The Kumeyaay still practice traditional basket weaving today. The photograph and illustrated detail on the right show an example of a traditional Kumeyaay coil basket.
Coast live oak
A main staple of the Kumeyaay diet is acorns of the coast live oak. Acorns can be harvested beneath the tree in the fall. Traditionally, acorns were ground into a fine flour using grinding stones. The flour is still made today using a traditional pestle and mortar (Ehmuu Hemu’ky) and has a similar texture to cornmeal. Acorns can be roasted and boiled to make acorn coffee. Bark from the coast live oak can also be used to treat digestive problems and help with infections.
While elderberry leaves are poisonous, tea from elderberry flowers can treat coughs, colds, muscle pains, stiff necks and ease symptoms of the flu. Elderberry bark can be used to make skirts, while its hardwood can be made into musical instruments. Elderberry leaves can also be used to make a dark black dye for basketry and weaving patterns.
White sage is sacred to the Kumeyaay people and burned at ceremonies and important life events. Tea from white sage can treat coughs, colds, muscle pains and stiff necks. The young spring shoots are also edible.
White sage only grows in southern California and northern Baja. Wild white sage is threatened by illegal harvesting at alarming rates. Out of respect for our plant communities and indigenous neighbors, please do not collect or burn white sage bundles.
Mission Valley is home to the beautiful San Diego River. With its headwaters in the Cuyamaca Mountains, the San Diego River winds its way west where it flows into the Pacific Ocean. The river crosses through a variety of ecologically significant habitat types and serves as a vital water source for countless flora and fauna critical to our regions’ biodiversity. Several distinct habitats are found along the River and on this site.
NATIVE PLANT COMMUNITIES AT SDSU MISSION VALLEY
Diegan Coastal Sage Scrub
This community is the most widespread coastal sage scrub in southern California. The community consists predominantly of low drought-deciduous shrubs such as coastal sagebrush, California buckwheat, white sage, laurel sumac and black sage.
Southern Willow Scrub
This scrub community is typically a dense, broad-leafed, winter-deciduous riparian thicket dominated by several willow species and occasionally scattered with Fremont cottonwood and California sycamore. This community can be found on this site near storm drain outflows.
Southern Cottonwood-Willow Riparian Forest
This forest type generally consists of tall, open, broad-leaved forests that are winter-deciduous. This community is typically dominated by cottonwood, with several tree willows as well as shrubby willows that dominate the understory. Plants in this community require moist, bare mineral soils and are located close to rivers and streams.
Southern Riparian Forest
This forest type is typically dominated by California sycamore and cottonwoods. This community occurs along streams and rivers.
THE DAY THE SAN DIEGO RIVER WAS SAVED!
The San Diego River valley is a natural floodplain, which has created challenges for farmers and developers since people first established permanent settlements here. After World War II, Mission Valley transitioned from farmland to a hub for business, housing and hotel development, which increased negative impacts of frequent floods.
In the early 1960’s, the US Army Corps of Engineers drew up flood mitigation plans, which proposed transforming the San Diego River into a concrete channel similar to the Los Angeles River. During the first community meeting to discuss a flood management plan in 1961, the San Diego community resisted the idea of a concrete channel—expressing that it would fragment habitats, destroy riparian zones and prevent groundwater replenishment. Still, the Army Corps continued to refine plans for channelization for a number of years.
A momentous public hearing was held in 1971, during which most of the 1,000 attendees stood in opposition to the concrete channel. As a result, the project was finally re-examined and plans to build the concrete channel were brought to a halt—the San Diego River was saved!
In 1982 the City Council approved the First San Diego River Improvement Project (FSDRIP)—a collaboration between landscape architects, biologists, public agencies and engineers—pronounced: fizz-drip. FSDRIP created a natural-bottom channel with raised walls, elevated flood-prone roads and added new open spaces along the river. FSDRIP, along with other river restoration and protection projects, has reduced and controlled flooding around the river while restoring habitats and creating spaces for humans to enjoy the river.
The history of the San Diego River reveals over 200 years of challenges to its ecological and hydraulic integrity. By reducing impervious areas on this site and adding 80 acres of open space, SDSU Mission Valley continues the legacy of positive improvements along the San Diego River.
Many native species that rely on the San Diego River and its connected creeks have adapted to living in the urban environment. Keep an eye out, and you may catch sight of one. Please remember to always be respectful and keep your distance. Visit the nearby undercrossing to view engravings of these species and others—all important to the Kumeyaay people.
Below are the names for the flora and fauna in English, Spanish and Kumeyaay, as well as its scientific name.
Coyotes are important predators that are well-adapted to living within urban environments across North America. Coyotes are intelligent, social carnivores who feed opportunistically. Humans and coyotes living in close proximity can cause conflict, so never leave food out for them. To respect wildlife and to protect property, always secure pets and trash bins at night.
Southern Mule Deer / Venado Bura
These deer are distinguishable by their mule-like ears. Southern mule deer are a subspecies of black-tailed deer found throughout southern California and northern Baja. Mule deer are herbivores that thrive in a range of ecosystems including riparian zones (land areas adjacent to a water body), oak woodlands, coniferous forests, coastal sage scrub and chaparral.
Bobcat / Lince Rojo
Bobcats live in habitats located throughout North America, including San Diego County. They are recognizable by their short tails and black markings on the inside of their front and back legs. Bobcats are ambush predators, using the element of surprise to hunt and feed, mainly on small mammals. Bobcats lead solitary lives and breed during winter.
Desert Cottontail / Conejo del Desierto
These small mammals are herbivores—eating mainly grass and sometimes other varieties of plants. They do not often drink and instead stay hydrated through water in the plants they eat. Desert cottontails have impressive body temperature regulation and can thrive in harsh environments like the desert. They are an important food source for many other species on this panel.
American Badger / Tejón Americano
American badgers are more commonly found in upland areas of the San Diego River. However, they have been observed throughout San Diego County and their range is throughout North America. Badgers are carnivorous and typically prey on small mammals like squirrels. Badgers can move several miles a day in search of food. Therefore, they are an important indicator species for determining the success of habitat connectivity throughout the San Diego region.
Southern Pacific Rattlesnake / Cascabel del Pacífico
Common throughout California, these snakes have variable brown and gray patterning contrasted by lighter underbellies and banding. They have triangular shaped heads with large eyes and use their characteristic rattle sound to warn approaching predators. Rattlesnakes feed on small to medium sized mammals and are cold blooded, relying on their surroundings for warmth. Keep alert and if you hear or see a rattlesnake remember to remain calm and give it plenty of space.
WATERWAYS AS WILDLIFE CORRIDORS
Creeks and rivers can serve as “highways” for wildlife across the urban environment. Creeks and rivers, along with the vegetated buffers that surround them, support food supplies, breeding grounds and nesting sites. Where you stand is near the confluence of two of these corridors, Murphy Canyon Creek and the San Diego River.
MURPHY CANYON CREEK
Directly to the east is Murphy Canyon Creek, which supports wildlife movement from the northeast and southeast corners of this site. The creek connects to the San Diego River at the southeast corner of the park.
SAN DIEGO RIVER
Directly to the south is the San Diego River, the largest river in San Diego County with a watershed of 440 square miles. The river corridor provides mobility for wildlife traveling between the Pacific Ocean and Cuyamaca Mountains.
Kumeyaay children also played with dolls made of the materials they had readily available to them, such as clay for the body and head, willow bark for skirts, juncus for hats, as well as feathers, seeds and sea shells.
Counting sticks (ii) can have painted ends and are used to score the game.
The importance of song
Songs are central to Kumeyaay ceremonies and often incorporated into games. During games such as Peon, both the players and bystanders sing songs. Different songs are sung at different points during the game—some serving to tell a story and others to intimidate the opposing team.
San Diego is the most biologically rich county in the United States. The county’s diversity of plants and animals depends on the work of pollinators. Pollinating insects and animals help plants reproduce by sharing genetic material between flowers—often over large distances. Pollinators move genetic information in the form of pollen from the male anther to the female stigma, which fertilizes the flower’s ovules. The pollinators mutually benefit from this process by enjoying nectar and pollen as a source of nutrition.
Native plants support pollinators
In the San Diego region, hundreds of plants have evolved special traits to attract sometimes just one or only a few species of butterflies, bees, birds and even bats! The design of this park supports pollinator habitat by incorporating many San Diego native flowering plants.
CARING FOR POLLINATORS
You can plant your own pollinator garden, ideally using California natives like the two species pictured above. Aim for a variety of plants that bloom at different times of the year. Consult local nursery professionals or the link provided by the QR code below to find out which plants will grow best in your area while supporting a variety of pollinators. Make sure the plants you are buying are grown without the use of harmful pesticides. If you don’t have space for plants, you can leave a bowl of water full of marbles or pebbles so pollinators can simply stop for a drink. Another way to help pollinators is to buy produce and products grown without the use of pesticides.
The most efficient pollinators are bees and bumblebees. San Diego County has the most diverse bee population in the contiguous United States with over 650 native bee species, like the one pictured here. When bees forage for pollen and nectar, pollen gets trapped in the hair on their bodies. As bees move from flower to flower, they both collect and distribute pollen.
Butterflies and Moths
Like bees, they collect pollen on their legs. They also use their long tongue to reach the nectar inside tubular-shaped flowers. Like the monarch pictured here, many native pollinators are perfectly adapted to just one host plant. With its myriad of microclimates and diversity of native habitats—most of them under threat—San Diego is home to several of the rarest butterflies in California.
Hummingbirds also harvest nectar with their long tongues. Many birds eat the seeds of plants, helping to distribute them over large distances when they deposit the seeds in their droppings. The seeds will then germinate in a new location when exposed to water. This helps to reduce competition between neighboring plants.
Because bats are nocturnal, many plants have evolved pale-colored flowers with tall stalks and distinct scents that help attract bats during their evening hunting hours. Mexican long-tongued bats (pictured left) can reach nectar inside agave flowers up to a third of the length of their bodies! Bats also help to distribute plants’ genetic material when the hairs on their face and body pick up pollen.
The wind is responsible for pollination as well. As the wind blows through plants, pollen is picked up and carried across large distances. Small, lightweight seeds can also be carried by the wind.
The San Diego River’s hydrology has changed its path over history, most significantly during human existence. For centuries the river did not empty into the ocean as it does today, but rather into San Diego Bay and Mission Bay (historically called False Bay). As an essential element of survival, the Kumeyaay managed the river’s precious resources carefully. The river’s many benefits also caught the eyes of the Spanish colonists who settled in Mission Valley in the 18th century—displacing the Kumeyaay. Needing a stable water supply, the Spanish constructed the Old Mission Dam and flume with Kumeyaay forced labor to capture and transport water to the San Diego Mission de Alcala. As the City of San Diego grew, and development increased in the river’s floodplain, engineering interventions were imposed. For example, a channel was dredged to direct the San Diego River into the Pacific Ocean at Ocean Beach in 1953. Today we celebrate the San Diego River and its watershed for providing critical benefits to San Diego’s health and well-being. The River Park at SDSU Mission Valley where you now stand, is an important piece of the long term vision to deliver a park and river trail along the entire length of the San Diego River; providing social, economic and environmental benefits to all of San Diego.
WHAT IS A WATERSHED?
A watershed is the landscape area from which all precipitation drains to a single outflow. Watershed boundaries are determined by elevation and topography. The San Diego River originates in the headlands near Julian, flows through Mission Valley and releases into the ocean between Mission Beach and Ocean Beach. However, prior to modern development and flood control, the river flowed freely between Mission Bay and San Diego Bay. The San Diego River watershed is the second largest watershed management area in San Diego, encompassing about 440 square miles!
TIMELINE OF DEVELOPMENT IN THE SAN DIEGO RIVER
The Old Mission Dam is constructed by Kumeyaay forced labor under harsh conditions at the direction of Spanish missionaries. The dam’s purpose is to serve water to the San Diego Mission Basilica de Alcala.
The Derby Dike is constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers in an attempt to permanently divert the river water, sediment and debris away from San Diego Bay.
The Mission Beach and Ocean Beach jetties are constructed and later connected to existing levees to create the modern day river mouth hydrology.
El Capitan Dam is constructed, creating the El Capitan Reservoir, which displaced many Kumeyaay people. The dam reduces downstream flooding and deposits of sediment and the reservoir still provides City residents with drinking water today.
The First San Diego River Improvement Project (FSDRIP) is approved by the City Council. FSDRIP is a multi-million-dollar project that creates a 1.3-mile-long natural-bottom flood-control channel between Highway 163 and Qualcomm Way.
SDSU Mission Valley Snapdragon Stadium opened and groundbreaking began at the River Park.