Connecting Communities. Protecting Nature.

LAGOON by Kamala Venkatesh

San Elijo Lagoon is a Special Place. Let's Take Care of It Together.

San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, founded in 1987, is a Southern California nonprofit land trust for San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. Our members, and corporate and foundation members, help to support the protection of our cherished natural places. The nearly 1,000-acre wetland is home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals, and has seven miles of trails for running, hiking, dog walking, nature photography, and natural solace. The reserve is bordered by the cities of Encinitas, Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe.

For over 30 years, San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, with our members, has inspired conservation across North County San Diego. Together, we provide pathways so that everyone can connect with nature, become watershed and wetland literate and take action on behalf of our lands, waters and wildlife.

As a nature enthusiast, you know that providing opportunities for youth to connect and protect our natural world will have healthy lifelong benefits for them and their communities. Together, we are leading the way for inspiring a movement with real action in the lives of youth. We encourage youth to explore beyond their immediate surroundings, meet new people, be introduced to new ideas and to gain an appreciation of our natural resources. We plant the seed that inspire students to take actions that will ensure safe, clean and beautiful places for all.

San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy is a professional organization you can trust. We have that hands-on impact of a local nonprofit. We deliver tangible results rooted in science and big enough to make a lasting difference. We have a 30-year record of successful environmental stewardship and the resources and leadership to achieve even bigger milestones in conservation.

Thank you for caring about San Elijo Lagoon. Would you like to become a member today? Visit



The Conservancy owns several parcels within the 979-acre reserve. These lands are acquired for the protection of threatened and endangered species. We work with private property owners and local jurisdictions to minimize development impacts on lands and waters adjacent to the Escondido watershed.




We inspire stewardship of the natural environment. Naturalists lead tours for school children, the public, and community groups. Visit our complete calendar of all-ages events. Educators can view resources for science-based field trips and engaging kids in nature here at the lagoon.




A biological management plan for continued restoration of the reserve includes annual breaching of the lagoon’s inlet to create natural tidal flushing. We cultivate native plants and tackle invasive plant control. Lagoon Platoon is our volunteer community habitat restoration program that meets weekly and in monthly events for reserve enhancement.



Conservancy scientists are in the field monitoring the conditions of six plant communities, water quality, and wildlife. These data contribute to the Southern California Coastal Wetlands Recovery Project (collaboration of 19 agencies and 5 coastal counties of Southern CA) and to strategic planning for restoring San Elijo Lagoon.



To further our mission, we:

  • engage and educate the community about the value of the reserve to promote ecological literacy and environmental responsibility
  • conduct scientific research to advance restoration planning and conservation science
  • design and implement ecological management plans
  • manage and acquire land and easements; and
  • collaborate with the community, organizations, and government agencies.


San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy demonstrates an ongoing commitment to:

  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Scientific Integrity
  • Education
  • Innovation
  • Collaboration
  • Ethical Leadership & Practices

OUR VISION is a world where biodiversity is preserved and people act to conserve nature and embrace it as central to a healthy community.

OUR MISSION is to protect and restore the resources of San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, its watershed, and related ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations.


  • 2017 | County of San Diego Parks & Recreation Honors Barbara Wallach, Conservancy Naturalist, with 2017 Parks and Recreation Champion Award
  • 2017 | County of San Diego Parks & Recreation Honors Elayna Flanders, Education Manager, with 2017 Community Team Member Award
  • 2016 | Exec. Dir. Doug Gibson is honored by the County Supervisor, and mayors of Encinitas and Solana Beach: Doug Gibson Conservation Leadership Day for his 20 years in service
  • 2016 | Exec. Dir. Doug Gibson is awarded honor by Outdoor Outreach Lead the Way Award
  • 2016 | Our education program receives national recognition with a 2-year award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • 2014 | Our Citizens for Restoring Coastal Habitat program wins a Stewardship Award for Community Conservation by Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project
  • 2013 | San Diego Coastkeeper awards the Citizens for Restoring Coastal Habitat program a Water Wise Award
  • 2012 | June 19, 2012 is proclaimed "Denise Stillinger Day" by then-County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price
  • 2011 | Board President Denise Stillinger is named Cox Conserves Leader in San Diego