Cachuma Lake is a recreation area with camping and plenty of activities in the breath-taking setting of the Santa Ynez river valley. The campground is set in a vast oak savanna, with campsites shaded by towering Valley Oaks. Views of the water are visible from most campsites, and there are plenty of premier sites that look directly out to the lake. There are nearly 400 tent camping sites, all with picnic tables and fire pits. Separate areas for RVs offer both full hookup and partial hookup sites to choose from. Yurts and cabins are also available. Restroom and shower facilities are never far from any sites. Campers can make reservations online on the Parks website, www.sbparks.org. Visitors to Cachuma have all the amenities they may need at the General Store, including gasoline and butane.
“We want to let potential visitors know that anyone planning a camping vacation to Santa Barbara area should make on-line reservations to stay at Cachuma Lake. There is still availability and it’s only a 25 minute drive to Santa Barbara,” said Paddy Langlands, Deputy Director of Santa Barbara County Parks.
Naturalist Rosey Bishop shared the anecdote that many visitors are pleasantly surprised to see the lake once they head to the water to go fishing, take a guided lake tour or venture out on rented kayak or boat. “I’ve had families and couples on the tour boat tell me they had no idea there was still so much lake left.” While it is true the Cachuma Lake capacity is just 27% full as a result of California’s severe drought, over half of the lake surface area is still visible and navigable—over 1500 acres of water. “Wildlife sightings have been fantastic,” Bishop continued. “The low lake level has exposed ancient river terraces, and these expansive areas are covered with plant life — perfect for browsing deer, or bobcats hoping to capture a lakeside water bird.”
There is plenty to keep a family busy at the lake.
· Anglers are still bringing in some hefty trout as a result of trout plants in April and May, and reaching limits of trout and catfish. Cachuma still has a 30-day boat quarantine to protect from invasive quagga mussels, however both fishing and pleasure boats and kayaks are available to rent from the Cachuma Lake Marina and Boat Rentals, which also sells fishing licenses and has a full bait and tackle shop.
· Cachuma Lake has two swimming pools, as the lake is a non-body contact lake. The pools will be open weekends until June 14, and then they are open seven days per week from June 15 through August 30. They reopen Labor Day Weekend and September Saturdays only.
· Park naturalists offer guided lake cruises, reservations: www.sbparks.org, nature walks and junior ranger programs every weekend and there will be campfire programs on summer weekend evenings through Labor Day.
· The Neal Taylor Nature Center at Cachuma Lake has interactive and hands-on displays for adults and children about the area’s abundant animal and plant life. The center is open Tuesday through Sunday. Kids are welcome to take the Scavenger Hunt challenge offered in the center, stare down a mounted grizzly bear, or observe birds from just a few feet away.
· There are four miles of hiking trails for self-guided hikes within the Park, and within a 15 minute drive of Cachuma, is access to multiple hiking trailheads in Los Padres National Forest.
· Cachuma Lake is just 25 minutes from Santa Barbara.