Wednesday, February 22, 2012

LOCATION: Lake Cachuma
DATE: February 18, 2012 2 PM
Aerial View of Lake Cachuma
Photo by John Wiley
Lake Cachuma is located in the Santa Ynez Valley in central Santa Barbara County, California. Artificially created by construction of the Bradbury Dam in 1953, the lake is fed by the Santa Ynez River and lies amidst sections of Los Padres National Forest. The lake covers over 3,000 acres and is used primarily for municipal drinking water for Santa Barbara, as well as recreational purposes managed by the County of Santa Barbara Parks Department. Damming of the lake was a controversial project, as many locals opposed changing the landscape so dramatically. However, after episodes of drought it became evident that a permanent source of water was needed in order to satiate the growing thirsts of the Santa Barbara community. Since then the lake has become home to many species of migratory birds and land animals, as well as a place for recreational activity including camping, hiking, and fishing. Aside from a free nature center, the Santa Barbara County Parks Division offers 2 hour lake cruises for only $15 per person! (highly recommended). From November to February the showcase of the cruise is the Bald Eagle, which migrates from the North to nest here. From March until the late summer months, many different types of waterfowl can be seen displaying colorful and vibrant mating colors. Overall, the lake serves as a place for diverse uses and serves as both a location for species management and recreation.

View from docks
Trip Description:
We headed for the lake around 1 pm in time for our boat cruise scheduled at 2 pm. It was balmy and cool on the southern side of the Santa Ynez Mountains, but it looked as if it may be clear and sunny on the lakeside. Unfortunately, gloomy clouds rolled in and it became a windy, chilly day on the lake. It was about 60 degrees but it felt much colder with the winds, which were about 5-10 mph NNW and gustier when not in the sheltered coves of the lake. Aboard the pontoon boat, we set for the northern shore. There was remarkably less wildlife visible from the dock and the middle of the lake than I remember on my first trip, perhaps due to the weather. Luckily, there were numerous species visible once we crept along the shoreline and throughout the rest of the boat ride. It lasted approximately 2 hours, and by the end it was significantly cooler, windier, and cloudier. I have detailed our encounters with several species in the following posts, which include the California Mule Deer, the Mud Hen (American Coot), and the Osprey. 

*Basic information about the lake provided by Liz Gaspar, Park Naturalist, and from the County of Santa Barbara Parks website:

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