Watershed Journey Series

Explore Your Escondido Watershed in a 4-Part Series from the Mountains to the Sea

With so little fresh water to go around, it’s important to understand where your water comes from, how it flows downstream, and what you can do to protect your watershed.


Explore your Escondido Creek watershed! We are embarking this winter and spring in a four-part series where you begin your journey near the Escondido Creek headwaters and conclude at the Pacific Ocean.

Visit Dixon Lake. Take in panoramic views from Double Peak Park. Stroll along a freshwater creek at Elfin Forest before hiking up through oak woodland and chaparral. The series will conclude at San Elijo Lagoon where you can learn the many important functions this unique and rare habitat provides. 

  • Sunday, January 28 |  DIXON LAKE
    In Collaboration with City of Escondido 

Did you know you live in a watershed? Everyone lives in a watershed. Explore the headwaters of the Escondido Creek watershed. The first part of the program will be led by Park Ranger Joe Gutierrez*. Learn the history of this reservoir, the aqueducts that feed into it, and its significance in providing precious water and recreation to the community. Ranger Gregg Anderson* will meet the group at Washington Park to review the history and purpose of the flood control channel and discuss its future. You’ll take a short hike to the dam and learn more about the park's historical and natural history and how we are protecting this valuable resource. Join in our optional lunch at nearby Torterilla. 
Dixon Lake, image courtesy City of Escondido

*Park Ranger Joe Gutierrez has been in his position for three years. Joe's passion is to generate appreciation and understanding of the unique chaparral environment, and to see his enthusiasm transferred to his audience. He has over seven years with the City of Escondido, starting as a Ranger Specialist providing patrol, information and security services in Escondido's local parks, including Kit Carson and Grape Day Parks.

*Park Ranger Gregg Anderson has been a Ranger with City of Escondido for more than 10 years. His passion is sharing our local history, and he has worked in every aspect of park operations, including environmental education, maintenance and repair of facilities, and local park patrol and security.

  • Sunday, February 25 | DOUBLE PEAK PARK
    Led by Richard W. Halsey, California Chapparal Institute*

The views are astounding! The best place to observe the entire Escondido Creek watershed is from the top of Double Peak Park . The remains of an ancient volcano, Double Peak was also partially burned in the 2014 Cocos Fire. The good news is that the chaparral that decorates the mountainside is recovering remarkably with new buds bursting forth everywhere. Explore the sights, take a short hike, and see how nature provides a wonderful lesson in resilience.




    Led by Richard W. Halsey, California Chapparal Institute*

One of the few places in San Diego County to see old-growth chaparral along a beautiful streambed is in Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve in Olivenhain. Walking along a one-mile trail gives us the peaceful inspiration of the Escondido Creek free-flowing like few other places in Southern California. You can also be among some of the oldest mountain mahogany shrubs in the area, hop over boulders to cross the creek, listen to the sweet song of the Bewick's Wren and learn to identify some of the most interesting species that inhabit the chaparral.
Image courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District



*Richard W. Halsey is a writer, photographer, and the director of California Chaparral Institute, a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to the preservation of California's native chaparral ecosystem, helping communities understand the dynamics of wildland fire, and supporting the creative spirit as inspired by the natural environment. Richard also works with San Diego Natural History Museum, teaches natural history throughout the state, and leads the Chaparral Naturalist Program at Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. While teaching high school biology, Halsey was selected as the Teacher of the Year for San Diego City Schools and awarded the Christa McAuliffe Fellowship. He has given more than 500 public lectures and has published numerous publications concerning the ecology of California’s chaparral ecosystem.

Explore where freshwater and ocean water mingle to create a unique type of wetland called an estuary. Conservancy Education Director Tara Fuad* is guiding this tour and will share how this transitional zone provides habitat for a broad range of plants and animals. How it filters water before reaching the ocean and helps prevent coastal flooding. Observe up-close some of the unique wetland plant adaptations, and look and listen for the many animals that call this place home, including endangered species like the Ridgway’s Rail and Belding’s Savannah Sparrow. Come away with a greater understanding and appreciation of why it’s so important to protect wetland ecosystems.



*Tara Fuad, Conservancy Education Director develops scientific curriculum-based conservation education programs that meet California Academic Content standards for schools. She is also responsible for public programs, and for recruiting and training naturalists.Tara began her career in the environmental field as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1980s, where she spent three years working on reforestation projects in Niger, West Africa. Tara settled in Washington, D.C. where she was involved in environmental research and education while working for Ecological Society of America, National Park Service, and Audubon Naturalist Society. After moving to San Diego in 2003, Tara served as a docent for the Conservancy, and also worked for Solana Center for Environmental Innovation as Program Manager for school recycling. Tara has a B.S. in Biology and Environmental Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and an MS in Biology from George Mason University, with an emphasis on nutrient cycling in Virginia wetland soils.


  • Conservancy Members $20 | Public $40
  • Please note: If we cancel a trip within this series due to inclement weather, we will notify you and provide a pro-rated credit immediately.