Community Focal Point: San Diego Archaeological Center

San Diego Archaeological Center

16666 San Pasqual Valley Road Ÿ Escondido, CA 92027-7001



Hours: Tuesday—Friday 9 AM to 4 PM

Saturday 10 AM to 2 PM

Admission: $2 or $5 for families Members are free!

In 2002, when the San Diego Archaeological Center moved into its new home, an old school building originally owned by the San Pasqual School District, four large portable trailers sat in the front yard, former temporary classrooms.  The abandoned trailers rested on heavily compacted fill dirt, surrounded by non-native grass and other debris.  When hauled away, a voracious crop of weeds took their place.  Many people assume that, except for buildings and roads, the landscape in San Diego County looks similar to what it did hundreds or thousands of years ago.  However, with few exceptions, today’s countryside bears little resemblance to what it was even a mere one hundred and fifty years ago.  Facing an ugly weed-infested lot, the Center decided to transform the area into a demonstration California native plant landscape. The choice was easy.  A native landscape translates to less maintenance and less water while displaying the inherent beauty of the original local environment.


The Center formed a Native Landscape Action Group (NLAG) to implement the restoration project.  After consultation with California native plant professionals and the drafting of a phased restoration plan, NLAG volunteers from the community and the Center took shovel and trowel in hand, and began work.  Weed elimination was the first priority, since without adequate weed control, any restoration program is destined to fail.

Large granite boulders and several fifteen-year-old coast live oaks were moved to the site forming the basic visual framework.  Oaks were selected because they represent an important resource for the area’s indigenous people.

Next, dozens of one-gallon containers of purple needlegrass (Nassella pulchra), the official designated California state grass, were planted.  Additionally, a large swath of basket grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) was installed.  The long straight stalks of this grass have been used by many Native Americans in functional and attractive basketry.  Native grasses like these can easily and inexpensively transform a large, intensive care lawn into an impressive and striking natural, low maintenance environment.  These grasses are extremely long-lived and are excellent for erosion control as well.

The project, now in its second year has seen a variety of other native plants incorporated into the design.   Pathways and resting areas now give visitors the opportunity to study and contemplate the landscape with its animal and avian residents.  Natural surroundings like these dictated many aspects of traditional life for indigenous Californians.  The restoration work continues with new features added monthly.

Nate Harrison 2011 026-1

The San Diego Archaeological Center’s mission is to preserve archaeological collections and promote their educational, scientific and cultural use to benefit a diverse public. We believe in the power of artifacts to affect people. In all of our programs we strive to expand knowledge about the individual, the community and the world.

CRM BBQ 2011 071-1

Our programs include:

– Project Archaeology – An educational program geared primarily for third through seventh graders in formal and informal learning environments.

–  Second Saturday – Free or low-cost public lectures, workshops or family fun programs presented monthly.

– Today’s Trash is Tomorrow’s Archaeology – A new program for K-12 students that explores how the archaeological record is created and demonstrates how our behavior today will affect the environment in the future. Kids will see that a plastic water bottle can last as long as a pottery olla fragment made 500 years ago!

– Exhibition – Our exhibits allow the public to see artifacts from 9,000 years ago, as well as objects their grandparents may have used.  In addition to the award winning Center Museum exhibits, we also create off-site displays which are set up throughout the county.

– Curatorial and Research – We promote understanding of the region’s rich cultural history and the science of archaeology through curation, research, and dissemination of information to the scholarly and general public.

Come and see us soon!

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