Originally home to the Luiseno tribe of Mission Indians, the area became part of the Mission San Luis Rey in 1798 before being consolidated into the 1845 Rancho Guajome land grant by the Mexican government. Soon after, the property was sold to Ysidora Bandini, wife of Lt. Cave Johnson Couts, who began a ranching operation. Their adobe house, a National Historic Landmark, is located 1.5 miles southeast of the park. In the 1940s the land was sold to Jerry Buteyn, who created the popular Buteyn Bird Farm, a zoo-like attraction. Buteyn established extensive terracing in the park, planted palm and olive trees, and constructed both a lake and a marsh. The County of San Diego purchased the land to establish a public park in 1973.
Located seven miles east of Oceanside in north San Diego County, the 394-acre regional park includes nearly five miles of trails that loop through woodland, chaparral, grassland, and riparian wetland habitats. An interpretive nature trail circles the 25-acre lake before crossing the marsh through a corridor of willow, palm, and eucalyptus trees. Park amenities include a campground, a rustic cabin, outdoor game and fitness spaces, a playground, picnic areas, and an amphitheater. The southern section of the park is primarily a marshy grassland populated with coastal sagebrush and Mexican fan palms. Relics of the irrigation system that created the marsh in the 1940s can still be seen. The park attracts more than 186 species of migratory birds, with a small pond in the eastern section serving as an important stopover.