Living Coast Discovery Centerpreviously "Chula Vista Nature Center"
Living Coast Discovery Center (previously known as the Chula Vista Nature Center) is a cute little facility where children can learn about the marsh/wetland habitat of San Diego Bay. Why is this ecosystem so important? What wild life does it support? Launched in 1987, this nature center has had many additions and improvements making it a combination of museum, zoo, aquarium, and hands-on learning center. Definitely a fun family day-trip.
First of all, you cannot drive into the Living Coast Discovery Center. You park at the public parking lot outside of the facility and a free shuttle bus will bring you the rest of the way. During the ride, you will hear a 5 minute audio recording explaining the history of the Nature Center and its current attractions.
Once you disembark from the bus, the fun begins. To the left of the entrance, you will see Turtle Lagoon where two endangered Green Sea Turtles live. Believe it or not, these giant turtles can live up to 80 years old!
Inside the main complex you will find displays representing wildlife from the Bay, the Marsh, and the Uplands.
The Bay Zone has display tanks filled with fish, sea star, sea anemone, crabs & lobsters, and a whole slew of marine life who are all native to the Bay. Some of the displays are permanent while others are temporary depending on the season and availability.
In the Marsh Zone, you will find a 2,500-gallon marsh community tank; and several smaller tanks with individual marsh zone species such as mudsuckers, scallops, seahorse, piperfish, octopus, and eel grass.
The Upland Exhibits focus on reptiles, amphibians, insects, and bugs that live on the dry land around this Sweetwater Marsh.
After you have read all the information plaques and found every hidden creature, go outside and continue the fun.
One of the most stunning displays is the Shark and Sting Ray Experience. Here sharks and sting rays swim in a 21,000-gallon concrete basin.
What's even more amazing is that you can pet these sea creatures as they swim by (don't worry, their stingers have been removed). Remember to wash your hands before and after touching them. Dirty hands will cause the stingrays to get blisters and sores on their body.
In addition to sea life, the Chula Vista Nature Center also has many avian exhibits - this is to say: birds!
• there's the "Shorebird Aviary" where you can walk-through the enclosure.
• Eagle Mesa and Raptor Row houses various birds of prey which have been injured and cannot be released back into the wild.
• The "Burrowing Owl Aviary includes educational and interactive panels where children can press, listen, and learn.
It'll take a sharp eye to find everything, but this facility also has Bat Houses, Cliff Swallow Nests, a Green Iguana Exhibit (not native to the area), and local wildlife such as rabbits and squirrels.|
Although the main building of the Living Coast Discovery Center seems small, the entire Facility is quite big. In addition to the above attractions, you can also see a Hummingbird & Butterfly Garden, artwork, historical elements, and interpretive walking trails covering over 46 acres.
Walk up the ramp towards the Observation Deck (left of the main building) and you'll get a panoramic view of the San Diego Bay. There's also a large section about composting here.
The Living Coast Discovery Center also hosts:
• educational programs for school-aged children;
• events such as bird watching;
• nature discovery tours;
• Master composter program;
• private functions;
• and birthday parties too!
Gift Shop, Food, Bathrooms
The only thing left to do now is to check out the gift shop! Lots of fun things to see and feel: clothes, jewelry, toys, books, and knickknacks - perfect for kids. Food is not sold at this Center but benches are provided where you can rest and eat your home-brought food.
Bathrooms are to the left of the Entrance.
Give yourself at least an our to see the main complex and the surrounding displays. Give yourself even more time if you plan to wander the hiking trails.
Location, Price, Hours, and Parking
Living Coast Discovery Center
1000 Gunpowder Point Drive
Chula Vista, CA 91910-1201
see map of the grounds
$9 Seniors, Juniors, Students
$9 Children (4-11)
Free Children (under 4)
Open 10 am to 5 pm daily.
Parking is free in a lot outside of the complex. A free shuttle bus will take you in. Last shuttle is at 4 pm.
Brief History of Living Coast Discovery Center / Chula Vista Nature Center
The Living Coast Discovery Center (Chula Vista Nature Center) is located on Gunpoint Rd. This unusual name comes from the fact that during WWI, the Hercules Powder Company extracted acetone and potash from the kelp seaweed found in this region. Acetone and potash are used to make explosive used for bomb fuses. To this day, you can still see an outline of where one of the gunpowder warehouse was situated.
Later, the area was used to store cottonseed, then it became farm land. After that, the area became a dumping ground for garbage. But by the 1980's people began to understand the importance of marshlands and started to develop a Nature Center. Some of the walking trails in the Discovery Center are made along the old farm roads.