Kayaks and canoes are now welcome on and in the carefully protected waters of Lake Cachuma. Marking a shift in the rules that govern the usage of the glistening body of drinking water, the county — after a vote of approval from supervisors last month and a thumbs-up from the Bureau of Reclamation a short time before — officially opened up Cachuma to people-powered recreational watercraft on April 15. Though swimming is still illegal at the seven-mile-long, man-made reservoir, kayaks and canoes (you can either rent them on-site or bring your own, just as long as they pass a quagga-mussel inspection) join traditional motorboats and catamarans and the like as acceptable ways to explore the lake. Also new is a rule change that allows dogs on boats and, perhaps most importantly, a regulation tweak that makes “incidental body contact” with the water no longer a punishable offense.
According to Brian Roney, deputy director of Santa Barbara County Parks, the new stance on certain boats is just the latest in a series of upgrades and overhauls at the park to help make Lake Cachuma a more desirable “base camp” for visitors to the Santa Ynez Valley. Moreover, Roney explained that the change was not the result of some new treatment process that could scrub the impurities from the water should a kayak accidentally flip over — the treatment protocols for the lake have long since been able to handle an accidental dip or two — but rather that there has been a “perception change” on the part of the Bureau of Reclamation about what is and is not acceptable in a reservoir. “At the end of the day, it was viewed as a nonissue to allow canoes and kayaks out there,” summed up Roney.