Santa Margarita River & Ruins
Hours: 8 a.m. – one half hour before sunset, daily
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:
Expect to come across a few horses on your hike as these is a very popular equestrian trail:First obstacle of many:Wild mint:Old ruins from the horse stable:She was such a champ on this trip!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! 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!We found the smallest snail in the world!We found the homestead ruins! 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!