Successful long-term wetland restoration efforts require consideration of hydrology and currounding land use during the site selection process. This article describes an approach to initial site selection in the San Luis Rey River watershed in southern California that uses watershed-level information on basin topography and land cover to rank the potential suitability of all sites within a watershed for either preservation of restoration. This approach requires the use of a geographic information system (GIS)to map relative wetness and land cover within a watershed. Relative potential wetness values were derived from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 30-m digital elevation models by calculating the flow that would potentially accumulate at all 30-m × 30-m pixels within the watershed. Land cover was derived from a Landsat scene covering the 1500 Km2 study area. We ranked sites (contiguous groups of pixels > 1 ha with similar land cover) in terms of their potential for restoration or preservation based on their wetness values (Iow, medium, and high), size, and proximity to existing riparian vegetation. Sites with medium or high wetness values and extant vegetation were identified as potential preservation sites. Agiricultural or barren sites with medium to high wetness were identified as potential restoration sites. Approximately 5500 ha (3.67% of the total watershed) were prioritized for preservation or resloration.