Santa Margarita River & Ruins




Santa Margarita River

Parking lot coordinates: 33.401658, -117.251507
De Luz Rd. & Sandia Creek Dr.
Fallbrook CA. 92028

Beating the heat in San Diego usually means fighting for a parking spot at one of our overcrowded beaches unless you have the luxury of owning your own pool.  Otherwise we generally stay indoors and run up air conditioning bills.  Isolated bodies of water where you can cool off are far and few in between.  Enter the 221 acre Santa Margarita Preserve.  A river of the same name passes through the preserve which lies in the North County community of Fallbrook.

This preserve is home to many animal and bird species that rely on the river as a water source.   The Santa Margarita River cuts through the preserve on its way from its Temecula source to the Pacific Ocean and is home to a number of species of fish including rainbow trout and striped mullet.  Be advised that fishing is currently prohibited in the preserve.


The preserve has a rich history.  For centuries the river sustained Native Americans, and European discovery dates back to 1769 when the Spanish Portola expedition explored California.  This specific site was once part of a massive Mexican ranchero that stretched as far west as Camp Pendleton.  During our visit we encountered ruins that we speculated may have been part of the ranchero.


There are hiking trails that are shared with horses and mountain bikes and we took one involving fording the river on foot.  If you do as we did, you will get wet so water shoes are recommended to avoid the unpleasant experience of stepping in fresh horse manure in your bare feet.  If you explore in springtime you will pass a stunning variety of flowers and other vegetation.


The preserve is open seven days a week from 8:00 AM until a half hour before sunset.  If there is heavy rain, the park will close due to the dangers of swift water and washed-out trails.  That possibility seems to be remote these days, but rain was once so plentiful here that it doomed a railroad line that ran from National City to Barstow.  Access to the preserve is provided from Del Luz Road in Fallbrook. 

These two insisted on meeting each other.  It was adorable!

Santa Margarita River

You should definitely plan on meeting some horses along your way as this trail is a hotspot for horseback riding!

Santa Margarita River

Into the woods we go!

Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

First obstacle:
Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Will she do it?
Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Wild mint everywhere. Yum!
Santa Margarita River

Old ruins from the horse stable:
Santa Margarita River

Keep your eyes peeled for remnants of the past!
Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Obstacle #2!
Santa Margarita River

Like a champ.  She didn't even hesitate!
Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Beautiful periwinkle:
Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Then you get to a point where you have to cross the river by foot.  No problem!  Although I have to say, I really wish I had some kind of water shoes for this as it's a little painful on the soles of your feet AND there is horse poop scattered around!  Bleh!

Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

So smug:
Santa Margarita River

The coolness of the river is shocking for a second but then man does it feel nice! We went in winter too!  I imagine it would feel amazing in the summer!
Santa Margarita River

We found a teeny, tiny baby snail!!!
Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

We found the homestead ruins!
Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

There were agapanthas growing here which is unusual to see out in the wild.  I wonder if they were originally planted there when this home was still thriving!

Santa Margarita River

Neat fungus:

Santa Margarita River

Would love to know the story on this:
Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Come on Sage!  Time to cross the river and be a big girl!
Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Santa Margarita River

Locations Nearby:

  oddfellow cemetery Dinwiddie Preserve


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