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Staying Connected While Social Distancing   

A note from our CEO, Rob Hutsel: 

We hope you and your friends are okay during these challenging times. The coming weeks are a critical time for all us!  We take the safety of our volunteers, staff  and River Family very seriously, and so we have cancelled all of our public events through at least the end of May.  Our office is closed and those of us who can are working remotely. 


However,  we hope to stay connected and continue to inspire and be inspired through connections with you and our community during this time!  We have put together these resources to entertain, educate and inspire you to feed your passion.  I know I speak for the whole staff when I say... we can't wait to see you back out on the River!  And in the meantime, stay strong and be well. 


Page last updated:  5/1/2020   


Social Media

Stay connected with us on social media!  We post regularly on Facebook and Instagram. 

Follow us using the links below! 

 @sdriverpark    @sandiegoriver


Explore On Your Own

For now, the current advice from health professionals encourages safe, cautious recreation outdoors for most people. We agree! Getting outside is good for the soul. Maintain social distance (listen to your doctor) and use the links below to check on access restrictions.

*We wil try to keep this updated, but if you notice something inaccurate, please email us!

Tips for safe recreation!

1. Always check most up-to-date status before you go.

2. Maintain 6 feet of social distancing on trails. Be mindful of crowded parking/staging areas, restrooms, viewpoints, and passing other groups. (Now is a great time to explore something less popular!)  Follow County guidance for public places and wear a cloth face covering.  Click here for DIY provided by the CDC.    

3. Plan ahead to avoid restrooms, if possible. Bring hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes.  Avoid water fountains, bring your own reusable water bottle.

4. Haul out your trash. This means leave no trace (as usual), but also try to avoid park trash receptacles to prevent contact and avoid straining limited maintenance staff.


Some City of San Diego neighborhood and community parks:   

including Mission Valley Preserve, Mission Trails (Father Junipero Serra Trail, Old Mission Dam, and East Fortuna Staging area), the River Trail in Mission Valley (FSDRIP), San Diego River Garden, Collier Park/Point Loma Native Plant Garden, but excluding any parking lots.  The San Diego River Trail in the estuary has also re-opened.   Facial coverings and 6-foot distancing are required.



updated  5/1/20

Learn more: City of San Diego website
Other City of San Diego beaches, parks and trails:

including Cowles Mountain Trail, the Kumeyaay Campground and Visitors Center at Mission Trails Regional Park, Sefton Field, Dog Beach in Ocean Beach and Robb Field athletic area , as well as most parking lots for open parks.

Search park list for status.


remain closed:

updated 5/1/20, until further notice

Learn more: City of San Diego website

Santee's River Park:

River Trail remains open, 6-foot distancing and face coverings required in public!

Mast Park has partially re-opened: restrooms open, parking lot at 50% capacity, dog darks open, and the following are open for individual use or members of a household/family only: basketball court, grass areas, picnic shelters. See link at right for more details.

Restrooms in Town Center Community Park East and West remain open, handwashing stations at Walker Preserve and Forester Creek Trail.

All other active recreation areas are closed (including fields & courts, playgrounds, dog parks, picnic shelters and pavilions, and parking lots)


trails open,

some parks partially open:

updated 5/1/20

Learn more: City of Santee public notice

Lakeside's River Park:

River Trail remains open



as of 5/1/20 


County of San Diego parks and trails:

Masks are required when within 6 feet of another person at County Parks. Cactus County Park (Lakeside), El Capitan Preserve, El Monte County Park, Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve remain open to foot, bike and horse traffic.  Most parking lots will open at 50% capacity beginning on May 1, though some may remain closed.

**Note:  some county parks will have non-COVID-related maintenance closures in May, including  El Monte County Park (5/7), Santa Ysabel Preserve East (5/11) and William Heise (5/18-19)



as of 5/1/20

Learn more:

County of San Diego updates

San Diego River Park Foundation Preserves:

Closed to first-time visitors, trained preserve volunteers permitted for maintenance in coordination with SDRPF staff.



Learn more:

email us


Cleveland National Forest / USFS trails:

Forest and trails remain open, with some exceptions including:

Three Sisters/Eagle Peak Trail, Cedar Creek Falls Trails (both), all campground and bathroom facilities (including Inaja) are closed.

All trails/picnic areas where an Adventure Pass is required are also closed.

partially closed:

closure extended through 5/15, Cedar Creek and Three Sisters closed through 6/26/20

Learn more:

CNF website and

closure press release


Have questions about other parks or recreation facilities?  Have information from a recent trip to share?  Contact us!



Education Resources For Kids

We're sure that sharing meaningful environmental science lessons for kids from the indoors is proving challenging for many parents. Let our educators help!


We are bulding a catalog of distance learning activities, which will include videos, guided science and ecology activities, art projects, worksheets and ideas for the whole family. 


Click here to go to our Cool River Program - Distance Learning Resources.     



Watchlist (and Read-List and Listen-List) from our Staff

You probably already know that our staff is a passionate team of enviros! We've been preparing for sharing this curated list of movies, docs, and podcasts our whole lives, but usually too busy outside to share... the time has come! #finally



Map Head by Ken Jennings: recommended by Morgan, our data junkie, who says this is not specifically nature-focused, but great for map nerds, and we know you're out there!


Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols: recommended by Jenn, who has been interested in a book club for this book, if any readers want to chat at our next volunteer event post social-distancing!


Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer:  recommended by Ally for Krakauer's great writing, and the themes of mountains, climbing, adventure and man vs. nature.    


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: recommended by Marina and Sarah. You'll wish this work of fiction was nonfiction so that the illustrated marsh ecology books were available in real life! Part ecology, part mystery and beautiful prose will help you spend some time outside in your imagination.


The Immortal Life of Heniretta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot:  recommended by Ally.  Fascinating study of the woman whose cells became one of the most important tools in medicine.  One of Ally's all-time favorites!         


On the Wing by Alan Tennant: recommended by Steffani, which tracks an extraordinary and never-before attempted effort to track the migration of the peregrine falcon.


Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold: recommended by Marina. A classic, the endlessly quotable Aldo Leopold will speak to your inner conservationist and explorer.


"Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.” -Aldo Leopold




Wild Ideas Worth Living: recommended by Sarah, who recommends subscribing to this whole podcast from REI Co-op full of inspirational interviews with outdoorspeople (and a host with local SD connections), but now's a great time for Episode 115. The Importance of Doing Nothing with Bonnie Tsui.


Dirtbag Diaries: recommended by Morgan, who suggests starting with Episode 137: Better Than I Found It.


Radiolab:  recommended by Ally, which has some great nature-themed episodes like Smarty Plants, Stranger in Paradise, Bigger than Bacon, Rippin' the Rainbow an Even Newer One, Goo and You, or From Tree to Shining Tree (Sarah loves this last one too!)



Streaming Now:

Dancing with the Birds: recommended by Steffani (streaming on Netflix), for when you need a little beauty... 51 minute documentary about the stunning displays of the birds of paradise.


Hidden Kingdoms: recommended by Steffani (available on AmazonPrime) features amazing footage of the earth's more miniature animals.


Blue Heart: recommended by Sarah (now streaming free on YouTube), released by our friends at Patagonia featuring a community's fight to save a river in the Balkans.


The Frenchy: recommended by Sarah (streaming free on YouTube), is a light-hearted documentary about an 82-year old athlete and his epic adventures and contagious laughs, a feature of last year's Banff Film Festival and now streaming for free.


Wall-E:  recommended by Ally (streaming on Disney+) heartwarming animated movie great for kids and adults alike with a great environmental protection undercurrent.


Whale Rider:  recommended by Ally (streaming on AmazonPrime) about a Maori girl becoming a leader of her village.      



Other Great Nature Resources

Here are some other resources, both from our team and other partners, to help keep you inspired and give you your daily dose of nature!


iNaturalist video tutorial: our preserve management team created this video to help you learn to use the iNaturalist app, a great tool for citizen science, as well as a digital field guide for species identification.


County of San Diego Parks Department's Virtual Recreation Center


National Environmental Education Foundation's Environmental Education at Home Activities have great backyard and home science and exploration activities for K-12, plus virtual "field trips" (which we recommend for adults too!)     


Outdoor Research put together this list of 50 outdoor adventure films (mostly streaming free) to get us through. Some are on our staff list above, but when you make it through that, move on to this list!   




We know, we miss you too. But we are all doing our part to flatten the curve, and that means that our volunteer gatherings have been temporarily cancelled.


In the meantime, we're keeping a list of some volunteer events you can do from home or on your own! Click here to see the list of Virtual Volunteer Opportunities. We hope you'll consider volunteering from home!


Have other amazing skills and ideas that may benefit the River from home?  We're interested!  Email us.       


We can't wait to be back out on the River with you!




Photo of the Day






Urgent Appeal:

Two of our programs are being adapted to meet vital essential services. Nature connections are more important that ever!


Can you help us

continue to advance this important mission?