We are the San Diego Regional Group of the Power In Nature Coalition

El Salto Waterfall

This project aims to restore, manage, and potentially change the designation of lands surrounding the sacred El Salto waterfall, located on the border of Oceanside and Carlsbad, California. The initiative also seeks to enhance public access to the area, providing a unique opportunity for the community to connect with nature and appreciate the region’s biodiversity.

El Salto Primary
El Salto trash
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El Salto 1

About This Project


Who is proposing this project?

Lead Organization: Preserve Calavera

Website: https://www.preservecalavera.org/?page_id=29490

Supporting organizations:

  • San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians
  • City of Oceanside
  • City of Carlsbad

What is proposed?

The El Salto waterfall area restoration project aims to protect and restore the lands around the El Salto waterfall, which has been listed as a sacred Native American site by the State of California Native American Heritage Commission.

The Problem: Land surrounding El Salto Falls has multiple owners across multiple jurisdictions, leading to piecemeal efforts to protect the biological and cultural resources in the area. Today, the area faces large amounts of trash, homeless encampments, and associated water quality issues. The current resources to protect the area are insufficient and uncoordinated, resulting in continued damage to the biological resources along the creek, no legal public access, and impacts to natural lands and waters that extend all the way to the coast.

The Solution: This project seeks to restore the area, improve management, and increase public access to surrounding land. Restoration will focus not only on existing hardline preserve land (land delineated as preservation land on maps) along Buena Vista Creek, but also on a downstream parcel owned by the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians (SLR Band). Restoration will also focus on land managed by the adjacent private property homeowners association. At a recent clean-up event, volunteers removed an estimated 5,500 pounds of trash, just from the south side of the creek.

In an effort to improve conservation and management, a portion of the land owned by the SLR Band will be evaluated for a change in conservation status to a hardline preserve. The complexity of working across jurisdictional boundaries and land ownership poses a challenge for effective management of the El Salto area. The project aims to improve the management of the area by implementing a coordinated plan to oversee and care for the lands surrounding the El Salto waterfall area more effectively. 

Finally, the project seeks to expand public access to the area via improved viewing areas, interpretive signage along existing downstream trails, and potentially the creation of a new downstream trail segment.

Project Location

The El Salto waterfall area restoration project extends along Buena Vista Creek from College Blvd in Oceanside to the El Salto Falls St. crossing in Carlsbad, California.

Why is this project on the 30×30 list?

The El Salto waterfall restoration project is closely linked to increased biodiversity, improved climate resilience, and enhanced public access to land.

By restoring and managing the lands surrounding the El Salto waterfall, the project will create a healthier and more diverse ecosystem. Preservation efforts will protect critical habitats, providing a safe haven for a wide variety of plant and animal species. The improved ecological conditions, such as improved water quality, will support biodiversity, ensuring a balanced and thriving natural environment for various wildlife and vegetation.

The project’s restoration activities, such as re-establishing natural vegetation and protecting waterways, contribute to improved climate resilience. Healthy ecosystems act as carbon sinks, helping to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigating the effects of climate change. Additionally, the preservation of natural areas helps maintain temperature regulation and promotes resilience against extreme weather events.

Through the project’s efforts to enhance public access, the community will enjoy better opportunities to connect with nature and the SLR Band will enjoy preservation of a sacred site. Improved viewing areas and potential new trails downstream will provide accessible spaces for people of all ages and physical abilities to appreciate the natural beauty of the El Salto waterfall area.

How will this project be completed?

This project marks the initial efforts to develop a coordinated restoration and management plan for the El Salto Waterfall Area. As soon as funding is secured, the proposed actions can be set in motion. A full California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review, as well as several permits, will be required as well.

The project is expected to be carried out through a coalition of sponsors that would include the cities of Oceanside and Carlsbad, the SLR Band, and adjacent landowners that include both private lands and DFW.

Obstacles include the complexity of working across jurisdictional boundaries, challenges throughout the region of dealing with homelessness, and existing land management agreements that do not provide for adequate coordination.