Otay River

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Otay River
Otay River - October 2017.jpg
The river as it flows at the northern extreme of Imperial Beach, California
CountryUnited States
RegionSan Diego County
Physical characteristics
SourceOutlet of Lower Otay Reservoir
 • locationOtay County Open Space Preserve
 • coordinates32°36′39″N 117°06′59″W / 32.61083°N 117.11639°W / 32.61083; -117.11639
 • elevation392 ft (119 m)
MouthSan Diego Bay
 • location
Imperial Beach
 • coordinates
32°36′23″N 116°55′29″W / 32.60639°N 116.92472°W / 32.60639; -116.92472Coordinates: 32°36′23″N 116°55′29″W / 32.60639°N 116.92472°W / 32.60639; -116.92472
 • elevation
0 ft (0 m)
Length25 mi (40 km)
Basin size160 sq mi (410 km2)
Basin features
 • leftJamul Creek

The Otay River (/ˈt/) is a river in southern San Diego County, California. The 25 mi (40 km) river begins at San Miguel Mountain, flows through the Upper and Lower Otay Reservoirs, and continues on between the southern part of the Chula Vista and the Otay Mesa West district of San Diego, to its river mouth on San Diego Bay.


The river has a 160-square-mile (410 km2) watershed.[1] To its north is the watershed of Sweetwater River, and to its south is the watershed of Tijuana River.[2] Between Interstate 5 and Interstate 805 is Otay Valley Regional Park.[3] As of 2016, there is a plan to restore part of its pre-Mexican era estuary on lands utilized by the South Bay Salt Works.[4]

Otay Reservoirs[edit]

Savage Dam, completed in 1921,[5] forms the 49,510 acre⋅ft (61,070,000 m3) Lower Otay Reservoir, which is used to supply drinking water to parts of southern San Diego County.[6] The reservoir is also the terminus for Pipeline 3 of the Second San Diego Aqueduct, which delivers water from the Colorado River via the Colorado River Aqueduct.[7] Its predecessor, the Lower Otay Dam was a "rockhill type", which was completed in 1897;[8] it failed in 1916 following heavy rains.[9]

The Upper Otay Reservoir is formed by Upper Otay Dam, built in 1901.[8] The reservoir was established as a hatchery for the introduction of Florida-strain largemouth bass in 1959.[10] The reservoir was chemically treated first, which killed all of the native fish.[11] In 1996, the reservoir was opened to fishing, but all fish caught must be released.[12]

Since the river is used as a municipal water supply, there is no human contact allowed at either of the Otay Reservoirs.

Early testing of manned gliders by noted aviator John J. Montgomery occurred in the region in the late 19th century.[13]


  1. ^ "The Otay Watershed (HU 910.00)". San Diego Bay Watersheds Common Ground Project. San Diego State University. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Real-time water-data collection sites in the San Diego County Drainage Basins study area" (PDF). California Water Science Center. United States Geological Survey. 29 June 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  3. ^ The Canyoneers (2 December 2015). "Hike along one of the three rivers that discharge into San Diego Bay". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  4. ^ "Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Otay River Estuary Restoration Project" (PDF). San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. United States Fish and Wildlife Service. October 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
    −Collins, Brian. "Otay River Estuary Restoration Project". San Diego Bay. United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  5. ^ "The new Lower Otay Dam, completed in 1921 to replace the rockfill structure washed out by the 1916 floods". Library of Congress. 1995. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  6. ^ "Water Treatment Plants". Water. City of San Diego. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  7. ^ "San Diego Project". United States Bureau of Reclamation. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  8. ^ a b Pacific Municipalities. 1910. p. 107.
  9. ^ McGlashan, H.D.; Ebert, F.C. (1918). Southern California Floods of January, 1916 (Technical report). United States Geological Survey. Water-Supply Paper 426.
    Krier, Robert (21 November 2016). "Rain promised, flood followed in 1916". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  10. ^ Rice, Bill (1 November 2012). "Florida-Strain Bass Changed the World of Bass Fishing". Bass Fishing Archive. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  11. ^ Monte Burke (28 February 2006). Sowbelly: The Obsessive Quest for the World-Record Largemouth Bass. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-101-66654-8.
  12. ^ Zieralski, Ed (7 January 2015). "Upper Otay project continues". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  13. ^ Gary B. Fogel; Craig S. Harwood (11 October 2012). Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-0-8061-8781-5.

Further reading[edit]