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On this round-trip excursion of Mission Bay you will visit calm, sandy lagoons, the San Diego Aquatic Center, two wildlife reserves, the Mission Bay Visitor Center and Sea World.
How to get there
To reach the launch site, exit Interstate 5 at Sea World Drive and proceed west about one mile to West Mission Bay Drive. Go right on West Mission Bay Drive/Ingraham Street, turn left off Ingraham Street onto to Dana Landing Road, and follow the signs to Dana Landing. Parking, restrooms, and telephones are available. No fee.
Camping is available at the Campland on the Bay. For reservations call (800) 422-9386.
This tour is entirely within Mission Bay. Boat traffic can be congested; follow the rules of the road at all times. Be particularly cautious of high-speed crafts such as jet skis and water-ski boats. Avoid posted swimming areas and be alert when passing water-ski launch sites. Avoid fishing lines when paddling near docks or jetties. Gusty winds and choppy conditions are likely to be encountered during the afternoon. Fog can occur at any time of the year. If possible plan your trip route to have a following tidal current.
Public access to the water is available throughout most of Mission Bay.
Launch from the paved boat ramp at Dana Landing.
From Dana Basin head northwest across Mission Bay Channel toward Ventura Point. Watch for boating traffic when crossing the channel. The West Mission Bay Drive bridge is on the left and the Ingraham Street bridge is on the right. Stay to the west side of the channel as you pass Ventura Point. North of the point is Ventura Cove, a sheltered inlet with a sand beach and good swimming. Boat speed is limited to five knots, keeping wakes at a minimum. From Ventura Cove, continue to paddle north. Condominiums and a hotel are clustered along the narrow sand beach at Bahia Point, creating a resort atmosphere. Located on the narrow sliver of land separating Santa Barbara and San Juan coves is the Mission Bay Yacht Club. To the east, across Sail Bay is Fisherman's Channel, which leads to Fiesta Bay.
From the Mission Bay Yacht Club continue north across the entrance to San Juan Cove to the Mission Bay Aquatic Center. The Aquatic Center is the world's largest instructional and recreational waterfront aquatic facility. The center was established in 1971 as a cooperative collegiate facility for the use of students, faculty, staff, and alumni of all San Diego County colleges, universities, and youth organizations. The facility offers instructional and recreational opportunities in water skiing, sailing, surfing, rowing, kayaking, scuba diving and wind surfing.
From Santa Clara Point head east across Sail Bay. Conditions can become choppy during the afternoon, but fortunately the wind should be coming from astern. Pass beneath the Ingraham Street bridge into Fiesta Bay and head north along Crown Point. The beach on the east side of Crown Point is sheltered from the westerly wind and there are picnic facilities, fire rings, and restrooms. Fiesta Bay is an open-speed area, so be alert for jet skis and water skiers. Observe the posted rules when crossing water-ski landing and take-off zones.
Two wildlife reserves, the Northern Wildlife Reserve (an 88-acre salt marsh/mud flat complex) and the 21-acre Kendall-Frost Marsh are located at the north end of Fiesta Bay. The Northern Wildlife Reserve is owned by the City of San Diego and the Kendall-Frost Marsh is part of the University of California Natural Reserve System. These two preserves are the only remaining natural wildlife habitats within Mission Bay City Park. Boating is prohibited within the reserves.
Mission Bay was known by early explorers as Bahia Falsa (False Bay) because it was often mistaken as the entrance to San Diego Bay. Formed by the San Diego River delta, the bay was a maze of mud flats, shallow marshes, and channels which provided a primary feeding and nesting habitat for a large variety of migratory and resident birds. In the early 1960s the river was channelized and the bay was dredged and modified to its current configuration. Despite the changes, several species of birds including the endangered California least tern continue to nest and breed in the reserves. Other birds commonly seen include grebes, snowy egrets, blue herons, loons, teals, and gulls. Campland, a private campground facility, and the De Anza Harbor Resort are east of the marshland.
From the De Anza Resort head south, following the Pacific Passage, a narrow waterway separating Fiesta Island from the mainland. On the left bank is the Mission Bay Visitor Center. The grounds are nicely landscaped and facilities include picnic areas, paved walking and bike paths, restrooms, a snack bar, a physical fitness course, and a basketball court. Fiesta Island is mostly undeveloped and is used as a launch site for jet skis and water skiers. A one-way road circles the island providing access to the beach. The mud flats of the island provide a habitat for several species of shorebirds including the ruddy turnstone, willet, and black-bellied plover.
South of the visitor center are several scenic lagoons and the Hilton Hotel. The beach in front of the hotel is a popular site for wind surfing. About one mile south of the Hilton is the causeway to Fiesta Island. Land on the Fiesta Island side of the causeway and portage the short distance across the road, watching carefully for cars. South of the causeway continue to follow the Pacific Passage, which turns west. This is a designated jet ski area, so be sure to follow the posted warnings. During the afternoon a headwind may be encountered on this leg of the voyage.
To the west of the jet ski area is Sea World, a 130-acre marine park with educational exhibits, marine shows, and aquariums. Follow closely along the shoreline to capture the sights and sounds of this world-famous marine park. Free entertainment is provided by local pelicans, gulls, occasional sea lions, and a group of Sea World penguins housed in a pen along the bank of the bay. At the west end of Sea World is an aerial tram and a huge open-air arena for the marine shows. Keep your distance from the facility to avoid disturbing the animals. After passing beneath the Ingraham Street bridge head south into Dana Basin.
Land at the launch ramp at Dana Basin where you launched.
What to do afterward
Sea World is located across the street from Dana Landing. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, a re-creation of early California lifestyle, is off Interstate 5 about two miles southeast of Mission Bay. Mission San Diego de Alcala is about five miles east of Mission Bay.
For more information
San Diego Parks and Recreation, Coastal Parks Division (619) 221-8901
San Diego Lifeguards (619) 221-8899
San Diego Weather (619) 221-8884
Excerpted from Adventure Kayaking- Trips from Big Sur to San Diego: Includes the Channel Islands by Robert Mohle with permission from Wilderness Press.
This book is available in the Paddling.net Store.
Shirts / Tops
The Kayak Wing