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Otay River
Otay River - October 2017.jpg
The river as it flows at the northern extreme of Imperial Beach, California
Country United States
State California
Region San Diego County
Physical characteristics
Main source Outlet of Lower Otay Reservoir
Otay County Open Space Preserve
392 ft (119 m)
32°36′39″N 117°06′59″W / 32.61083°N 117.11639°W / 32.61083; -117.11639
River mouth San Diego Bay
Imperial Beach
0 ft (0 m)
32°36′23″N 116°55′29″W / 32.60639°N 116.92472°W / 32.60639; -116.92472
Length 25 mi (40 km)
Basin features
Basin size 160 sq mi (410 km2)
  • Left:
    Jamul Creek

The Otay River 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. To its north is the watershed of Sweetwater River, and to its south is the watershed of Tijuana River. Between Interstate 5 and Interstate 805 is Otay Valley Regional Park. 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.

Otay Reservoirs

Savage Dam, completed in 1921, 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. 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. Its predecessor, the Lower Otay Dam was a "rockhill type", which was completed in 1897; it failed in 1916 following heavy rains.

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

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.

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