Mission Bay (San Diego)
Mission Bay is a saltwater bay or lagoon located south of the Pacific Beach community of San Diego, California. The bay is part of the recreational Mission Bay Park, which is the largest man-made aquatic park in the country, consisting of 4,235 acres (17.14 km2), approximately 46% land and 54% water. The combined area makes Mission Bay Park the ninth largest municipally-owned park in the United States.
Wakeboarding, jet skiing, sailing, and camping are popular on the bay. With miles of light color sandy beaches and an equally long pedestrian path, it is equally suitable for cycling, jogging or sunbathing.
Mission Bay Yacht Club, on the west side of the bay, conducts sailing races year-round in the bay and the nearby Pacific Ocean and has produced national sailing champions in many classes.
Fiesta Island, a large peninsular park located within Mission Bay, is a popular location for charity walks and runs, bicycle races, time trials and other special events. It is also the home of the annual Over-the-line tournament.
Mission Bay is also host to the annual Bayfair Cup, which is a hydroplane boat race that takes place on the H1 Unlimited circuit.
The San Diego River had historically shifted its terminus back and forth between San Diego Bay to the south and “False Bay” to the north. During the 1820s the river began to empty primarily into San Diego Bay, causing worries that the harbor might silt up. In 1852 the United States Army Corps of Engineers constructed a dike along the south side of the river to prevent water from flowing into San Diego Bay. This made “False Bay” an estuary outlet for the San Diego River drainage. Unfortunately the dike failed within two years. Finally in 1877 the city erected a permanent dam and straightened the river channel to the sea, giving the river its present configuration. Today the San Diego River is constrained on both the north and the south by levees (San Diego River Flood Control Channel), and it no longer drains to the ocean through Mission Bay, other than through a weir located at the entrance to Mission Bay.
During the late 1800s some recreational development began in “False Bay” including the building of hunting and fishing facilities. These facilities were destroyed by flooding that took place years later.
In the late 1940s, dredging and filling operations began converting the marsh into what today is Mission Bay Park. Twenty-five millions cubic yards of sand and silt were dredged to create the varied land forms of the park, which now is almost entirely man-made.
Approximately one half of the park was once state tidelands. Mission Bay Park was transferred to the City of San Diego with several restrictions, some of which were adopted into San Diego City Charter by public vote, with others implemented as part of the California Coastal Commission’s oversight of local planning and land use decisions. One of the restrictions sets a limit on commercial development of leaseholds, so that no more than 25% of the land area and 6.5% of the water area can be used for private purposes. This assures that most of the acres making up Mission Bay Park are available for public recreational use.
In the water
Mission Bay has 27 miles (43 km) of shoreline, 19 of which are sandy beaches with eight locations designated as official swimming areas. Mission Bay is recognized for protection by the California Bays and Estuaries Policy.
Swimmers and sunbathers take advantage of the warm water, calm surf conditions and the sands of Mission Bay’s beaches. Mission Bay offers boat docks and launching facilities, sailboat and motor rentals, bike/walk paths and basketball courts. There are playgrounds for children. Public restrooms and showers are available, and lifeguard stations are located in designated areas.
On the east side of the bay is a network of channels and islands which are used by wind surfers and water skiers.
Several of the water areas are dedicated or restricted to particular forms of water recreation, with specific separate areas for sailing, water skiing and personal watercraft use.
Mission Bay is one of the premier locations in Southern California for the sport of rowing, or "crew." One of the largest rowing regattas in the country is held on Mission Bay each year: The San Diego Crew Classic is held in Mission Bay every spring, featuring two days of competition in eight-oared shells rowed by more than 100 college, club, and senior crews.
Rose Creek flows into Mission Bay from the north, creating a rich wetland area called the Kendall Frost Marsh.
Attractions at Mission Bay include SeaWorld, the Mission Bay Aquatic Center with classes in all kinds of water sports, and Belmont Park, which features the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster and other rides.
On shore there are activities such as picnicking, riding a bike along the paths, playing volleyball, or flying a kite.
There are nearly 14 miles (23 km) of bike paths along Mission Bay
Some areas in Mission Bay Park require dogs to be on leashes, other areas such as Fiesta Island are leash free, and still other areas do not allow dogs at all.
There is a youth campground located on Mission Bay’s Fiesta Island. Throughout the year youth groups with their leaders enjoy a full camping experience along with daytime water experiences and classes. A permit is required to use this site. It is unlawful for adults to camp, sleep overnight or lodge overnight anywhere in Mission Bay Park except as a leader of a permitted youth group.
Fishing is permitted in all areas of Mission Bay, except in areas designated for swimming, water skiing and personal water craft use (including take off and landing zones). Fishing is also not allowed from any bridge.
Mission Bay Park is home to many rare & endangered species, including the California Least Tern. Now in its thirteenth year, a program goes into effect every April through August to protect the endangered California least tern at four of its nesting sites in Mission Bay Park. The California least tern is on the endangered species list and the death of every Least Tern chick severely reduces chances for the bird’s survival. The roaming of predators on site prevents adult Least Terns from nesting.
In a multi-agency effort that includes the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game and the Wildlife Services Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, professionals from the wildlife program carry out the humane trapping of predators that are attracted to the Least Tern nesting sites. This includes skunks and opossums, as well as feral cats and dogs, believed to be former pets who were abandoned by their owners. Sites are located on North Fiesta Island, Mariner’s Point, Stoney Point, and a small island called “Government Island” used by the Federal Aviation Agency.
- Mission Bay Park - City of San Diego web site
- "Mission Bay Aquatic Park: The History of Planning and Land Acquisitions", The Journal of San Diego History 48:1 (Winter 2002) by Ed Gabrielson
- Mission Bay RV Resort - RV park owned by City of San Diego
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