Location: 12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West
El Cajon, CA (map)
Phone: (619) 660-0614, ext. 10
Spring, Fall, and Winter:
Open daily, 9am – 4pm, some holidays excepted.
Summer (June 1 – August 31):
Open daily, 9am – 4pm., Wed until 7pm
More info: Website
Dedicated equally to education and relaxation, the Water Conservation Garden in San Diego County’s El Cajon region teaches visitors techniques for saving water and creating their own beautiful green spaces at home while simultaneously offering a quiet, serene environment to enjoy its unique displays of plant life, artwork, and landscaping design.
A Garden with a Plan
Opened to the public in 1999, the idea for the Garden was conceptualized by local officials in the early 1990s to (spoiler alert!) promote awareness of the importance of water conservation in a region which will, as time goes on, become increasingly susceptible to the risks of rising temperatures and population demands.
Within the past decade, the site has grown to accommodate tens of thousands of visitors and students a year, continually adding new displays and attractions.
Spread out across over 4 acres of terrain, the Water Conservation Garden is divided up into a series of themed gardens and exhibits, including those with a focus on meadows, cacti, vegetables, and local native plant life. Elsewhere, the Bird and Butterfly Garden showcases local insect and avian wildlife, the Firewise Landscaping Exhibit demonstrates how to better guard a home from wildfires, and the White, Container, and Ground Cover Gardens cover an array of home gardening design alternatives. A 350-seat outdoor amphitheater, Children’s Discovery Trail, gift shop, and quaint gazebo, suitable for weddings and events, round out the park’s hotspots.
In its mission as a dedicated educational resource, the Garden delivers its catalog of information, ranging from botany to irrigation and mulching, to its guests through a number of programming choices. In addition to self-guided tours, visitors can be instructed through docent-led tours, tours tailored for adults or student field trips, and specialized classes tailored specifically for amateur home gardeners and professional landscapers. An on-site nursery is also available to further guide anyone looking to cultivate their green thumb.
Outside the grounds, a few dozen nearby eateries catering to the neighboring community college offer some low-cost dining options after strolling around. But beyond the Garden, it’s hard to find a reason to come out to this part of San Diego – thankfully, it’s not too far off the beaten path.
The Water Conservation Garden is located at 12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West, just outside the Cuyamaca College campus in Rancho San Diego, within the southernmost reaches of El Cajon. For travelers coming from the greater downtown San Diego area to the west, the Garden can be reached by taking CA-94 to CA-54, a roughly 15-minute drive. Free parking is available outside.
The Garden’s grounds are open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the spring, autumn, and winter. During the summer, the garden stays open an additional 3 hours on Wednesdays, closing at 7 p.m. for the months of June, July, and August. The gift shop is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday throughout the year. The park is closed on New Year’s Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas.
Admission to the space is free. For more information on the Water Conservation Garden, call (619) 660-0614 or visit www.thegarden.org.