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Thousands of people drive over the 400-acre Agua Hedionda Lagoon every day on I-5, but it’s impossible to…

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Thousands of people drive over the 400-acre Agua Hedionda Lagoon every day on I-5, but it’s impossible to fully appreciate it at 70 mph. A stand-up paddleboard is a much better way to explore this vast wetland. “Hedionda” is Spanish for “foul smelling,” but Carlsbad’s Agua Hedionda Lagoon hasn’t smelled of anything but a sea breeze since the construction of two stone jetties in 1954 and subsequent dredging assured permanent drainage to the ocean. Rent a board from California Watersports or launch your own from their docks and head southeast toward the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Ecological Reserve. The farther you get from the freeway, the more serene things become. The din of cars gives way to the sounds of jumping mullet fish or your paddle gliding through the brackish water. Keep an eye out for snowy egrets or any of the other nearly 200 species of birds that make this wetland their home. On the south side of the lagoon sit small sandy beaches accessed only by watercraft. Beach your board and check out the coastal scrub plants that cover the shoreline. The center of the lagoon is used for water skiing and wakeboarding, but the edges are reserved for swimmers, kayaks, and paddleboards, so you can explore at ease. For a less-crowded lagoon experience, make your paddle an evening one. Smells fun, right?

Board rentals at California Watersports are $30 for one hour or $50 for two hours. You can also launch your own SUP at their docks for a $5 launch fee. Or you can park at the end of Bayshore Dr. and launch your own SUP at the small beach area, but a permit from the City of Carlsbad is required ($13 at California Watersports). To get to Agua Hedionda, exit I-5 at Tamarack Ave. in Carlsbad. Turn right on Adams St., right on Chinquapin Ave., and left on Harrison St. California Watersports is at the bottom of the hill at 4215 Harrison St. To get to the dead-end of Bayshore Dr., continue on Adams St., turn right on Park Dr. and right on Bayshore. The path to the beach is at the end of the street.

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