San Dieguito River Valley ConservancySan Dieguito
River Valley Conservancy


Watershed Explorers is an outdoor education program that provides youth an opportunity to travel and experience the length of the San Dieguito Watershed. The explorers journey includes the headwaters of the San Dieguito River on Volcan Mountain, Lake Hodges, the San Diego Archaeological Center, Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead, and the award-winning Birdwing Open Air Classroom at the San Dieguito Lagoon.

Each visit focuses on a different theme providing a unique opportunity for participants to experience and learn about the many facets of the watershed from the natural world to its history and cultural significance. As they experience the outdoors, explorers develop a “sense of place” and appreciation for the environment – recognizing they play a role in preserving and protecting the natural and cultural resources of the watershed.

Officially launched in 2015, this program was developed in partnership with the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, San Dieguito River Park, San Diego Archaeological Center and Volcan Mountain Foundation as a way for each organization to expand our individual nature education programs.

Field Trip Information

Watershed Explorers is a “passport” style program that takes youth on a journey of the San Dieguito Watershed through a series of 5 separate field trips to the following sites:

  • Volcan Mountain
  • Lake Hodges
  • San Diego Archaeological Center
  • Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead
  • San Dieguito Lagoon

Field trips are offered throughout the week starting at 9:00 am. Site activities vary and typically run between 2 to 4 hours (location dependent).

Upon completion of the 5 field trips, participants earn the title of “Watershed Explorer” and receive the following to inspire them to continue to get outdoors and explore:

  • Watershed Explorers string backpack
  • Watershed Explorers hat
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Travel-size sunscreen

Target Grade Levels: 3rd — 5th
Maximum Class Size: 26 students
Chaperone Ratio: 1 chaperone per 8 students
Transportation: Two 15-passenger vans are available to transport students
Suggested Donation: $5 per participant per field trip
Donations are accepted to support the cost of educational materials, transportation and program administration. If needed, the program may be offered free of charge to any school or organization that inquires.

Request a Field Trip

Click HERE to make a donation.


Diane & Stan Coombs
Michael & Paula Rantz Foundation



Activities at Volcan Mountain

Led by the Volcan Mountain Foundation (VMF), activities at the Volcan Mountain Nature Center include an interactive, hands-on, 3D-map where students create a “rainstorm” to reveal how water flows into rivers and how pollutants effect all life along the watershed. Students then test the water quality outdoors at our year-round steam to determine its ability to support life. The day culminates with a hike to the top of our Sky Island Trail where they explore the Oak-Pine Woodland and can view the watershed from a mile high.

Teacher resources:

Download site curriculum here.

Volcan Mountain site visit video available here.

Activities at Lake Hodges

Activities at Lake Hodges are led by the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy . Students will learn about the importance of this area to overall watershed vitality and health. They will be introduced to monitoring and management efforts being conducted within the San Dieguito watershed and become citizen scientists for the day collecting valuable data for the SDRP. Specifically, they will get hands on experience with water quality testing and bird surveys.

Teacher resources:

Download site curriculum

Lake Hodges site visit video available here.

Activities at the San Diego Archaeological Center

At the San Diego Archaeological Center, students are introduced to the cultural history of the region, including the use of natural resources in the valley. An important scientific tool (observation and inference) will be taught and practiced. The importance of preserving and protecting archaeological sites will be emphasized.

Teacher resources:

Download site curriculum here.

San Diego Archaeological Center site video available here.

Activities at the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead

Guided by the San Dieguito River Park, students will learn what it was like to be a pioneering family, how the community functioned through crop production, trading and animals that provided food and milk, and the importance of the natural environment in daily living.

Teacher resources:

Download site curriculum here.

Sikes Adobe Historical Farmstead site visit video available here.

Activities at San Dieguito Lagoon

Led by the San Dieguito River Park, participants will go on an interactive, ranger-led hike along the San Dieguito Lagoon Trail learning about the importance and diversity of the lagoon. There will be serval stops along the hike, including bird watching and conducting water quality testing at the storm water treatment ponds.

Teacher resources:

Download site curriculum here.

San Dieguito Lagoon site visit video available here.



Volunteer in San Dieguito River Valley, CA

Join us as we spread our enthusiasm and knowledge to the next generation of citizens and stewards of the outdoors with our volunteer research in San Dieguito River Valley.

The Watershed Explorers Program is seeking volunteers to be Watershed Educators interested in the distinctive nature, history, and culture of the San Dieguito River Watershed stretching 55 miles from Volcan Mountain west to Del Mar.

Watershed Educators will inspire youth in grades 3-5 to value and protect the natural and cultural resources in this and other watersheds through educational activities and hikes. Training and access to exclusive events will be provided to Watershed Educators, ensuring their ability to create a welcoming and safe environment for visitors and prepare and deliver planned and impromptu lessons.

See duties for Watershed Educator.

Sign Up to Volunteer!