River Park

Exploring the River Park

Aerial image a grassy sitting area and a recreation field.
Image of one of the slides at the river park playground.
Aerial image of part of the hike and bike loop.

The development of SDSU Mission Valley will provide San Diego with access to approximately 80 acres of community parks and open space, including an expansive 34-acre River Park.

Environmental Benefits

  • Areas in the Murphy Canyon Creek and San Diego River floodplain will be exclusively park and open space, designed to serve as a buffer, and occasionally filter flood and stormwater draining to the San Diego River.
  • SDSU Mission Valley's grading plan and storm drain system will collect and treat runoff and direct drainage to retention basins before traveling to the San Diego River. This is a significant improvement over existing conditions which allows runoff to travel across the concrete parking lot and directly enter the San Diego River without treatment.

Biodiversity & Native Plants

  • In addition to protecting the native vegetation already on-site, SDSU has integrated drought-tolerant and native plants prominently into the park design. Below are just a few that will be planted across SDSU Mission Valley and Snapdragon Stadium:
    • California Poppy, California Sycamore, California Wild Rose, Coastal Agave, Coast Live Oak, Mohave Yucca, San Diego Sunflower, and White Sage. 

Active Recreation

  • The site will include six multi-use fields, including two adjacent to the new stadium, suitable for soccer, rugby, flag football, and a variety of youth and intramural sports.
  • Along the property’s south side beneath the shade of the elevated trolley line, there will be picnic areas, fitness equipment, basketball courts, a skate area, and other hard court activities.
  • The park will include play structures for kids and a designated area for an off-leash dog park.

Passive Recreation

  • An approximately 2-mile pedestrian and bike trail will be located throughout the River Park connecting to the regional San Diego River Trail system.
  • A section of the bike and hike trail includes the Ben and Nikki Clay River Trail.

A River Park Design Workshop was held in Dec. 2019. Take a look at the Mission Valley River Park presentation from that workshop to see how community input helped shape the design for our parks and open space.

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.

student sitting on the grass

Interpretive Signage



logo of the san diego river conservancy
Interpretive signage made possible by the San Diego River Conservancy.

panel of kumeyaay farming and agriculture
Farming & Agriculture Panel

Farming & Agriculture


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.


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. 

farmers in mission valley
On the left, a depiction of Kumeyaay engaging in a controlled burn. On the right, historic (early 1900s) post cards of Mission Valley. Courtesy of the San Diego Public Library.


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.

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Birds of the San Diego RiverOpen the image full screen.
Birds of the San Diego River Panel



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.  
Photos By Devon Boutte and Dario Taraborelli
Para Ak Hepeshu

Great Blue Heron / Garza Morena

Ardea herodias

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

Photos By Devon Boutte and Dario Taraborelli

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
Photos By Devon Boutte and Dario Taraborelli

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
Photos By Devon Boutte and Dario Taraborelli

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
Photos By Devon Boutte and Dario Taraborelli

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
Photos By Devon Boutte and Dario Taraborelli

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 
Photos By Devon Boutte and Dario Taraborelli
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
Stormwater Management PanelOpen the image full screen.
Stormwater Management Panel



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.


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.

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The Many Colors of the San Diego River PanelOpen the image full screen.
The Many Colors of the San Diego River Panel



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.


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.


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.  
image of california sycamore

California Sycamore

Platanus racemosa
Image by Diego Blanco


Heteromeles arbutifolia
Image by Dario Taraborelli

Common Raven

Corvus corax
Image by Devon Boutte

Anna's Hummingbird

Calypte anna
Image by Jesse Rorabaugh
Meskaallyap heyull

Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Papilio rutulus
Kumeyaay History PanelOpen the image full screen.
Kumeyaay History Panel


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.

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Ethnobotany is the study of how people of a particular culture and region make use of native plants.


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.
Photo by Bill Brothers

Mojave yucca

Yucca schidigera

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.

Photo by Bill Brothers

Desert agave

Agave deserti

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.

Basket rush

Basket rush

Juncus textilis

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

Deer grass

Muhlenbergia rigens

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.

Photo by Bill Brothers

Coast live oak

Quercus agrifolia

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.

Photo by Bill Brothers


Sambucus nigra

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

White sage

Salvia apiana

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.

Photo by Bill Brothers

Wild rose

Rosa californica

Photo by Bill Brothers

Eastwood manzanita

Arctostaphylos glandulosa

San Diego River PanelOpen the image full screen.
San Diego River Panel



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.

The First San Diego River Improvement Project (FSDRIP) is a 1.3-mile-long, natural-bottom flood mitigation development between Highway 163 and Qualcomm Way.
The First San Diego River Improvement Project (FSDRIP) is a 1.3-mile-long, natural-bottom flood mitigation development between Highway 163 and Qualcomm Way.


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 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.

Damaging flooding in Mission Valley, circa 1980. Photo courtesy of the San Diego History Center.
Damaging flooding in Mission Valley, circa 1980. Photo courtesy of the San Diego History Center.
Animals of the San Diego River PanelOpen the image full screen.
Animals of the San Diego River Panel


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.  
Image by Devin Boutte


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.
Image by Shelley C. Koener

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.
Image by Shelley C. Koener

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.
Image by Jesse Rorabaugh

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.
Image by Daniel Dewey

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.
Image by NPS

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.


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.


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.


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.

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Kumeyaay Games PanelOpen the image full screen.
Kumeyaay Games Panel


Games are an integral part of Kumeyaay culture.

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.

Synaaw Kwetum (acorn stick game) is a popular hand-eye coordination game. The game is made from a stick, cord and acorn caps carved into rings. The rings are tossed into the air with the goal of looping the most number of acorn rings onto the stick.
Synaaw Kwetum (acorn stick game) is a popular hand-eye coordination game. The game is made from a stick, cord and acorn caps carved into rings. The rings are tossed into the air with the goal of looping the most number of acorn rings onto the stick.
apal uumarr, a hoop and pole game played by the kumeyaay
Requiring precise aim, Apal Uumarr (hoop and pole game) can improve a player’s physical abilities and hunting skills. Players roll a hoop and run alongside it, while aiming to throw a long pole through the moving hoop.
The oldest and most popular game the Kumeyaay play is Peon (homarp in the Kumeyaay language). Peon is a guessing game in which two teams face each other and take turns hiding behind a blanket. The hiding team conceals their black and white game pieces, often made of coyote or rabbit bones, then the other team must guess how the pieces are hidden. Counting sticks are used to keep track of the score. The game carries pride and rivalry when played between villages. This game is often played at large gatherings and accompanied by song. It is not unique to the Kumeyaay – in fact, Peon is played by many tribes throughout the Southwest.
The oldest and most popular game the Kumeyaay play is Peon (homarp in the Kumeyaay language). Peon is a guessing game in which two teams face each other and take turns hiding behind a blanket. The hiding team conceals their black and white game pieces, often made of coyote or rabbit bones, then the other team must guess how the pieces are hidden. Counting sticks are used to keep track of the score. The game carries pride and rivalry when played between villages. This game is often played at large gatherings and accompanied by song. It is not unique to the Kumeyaay – in fact, Peon is played by many tribes throughout the Southwest.

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.

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Pollinators of the San Diego River PanelOpen the image full screen.
Pollinators of the San Diego River Panel



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.


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.

Image by Anthony D'Angelo


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.
Image by iNaturalist user

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.
Image by Dario Taraborelli


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.
Alamy Images


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.
image of wind


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.
San Diego River Watershed PanelOpen the image full screen.
San Diego River Watershed Panel



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. 


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!


  • 1813

    image of the old mission damThe 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.
  • 1853

    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.
  • 1948

    view of the Quivira jettyThe Mission Beach and Ocean Beach jetties are constructed and later connected to existing levees to create the modern day river mouth hydrology.
  • 1935

    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.
  • 1982

    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.
  • 2022

    SDSU Mission Valley Snapdragon Stadium opened and groundbreaking began at the River Park.