Lake Cachuma

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Cachuma Lake
Location Los Padres National Forest
Santa Barbara County, California
Coordinates 34°35′12″N 119°58′52″W / 34.5866555°N 119.9809753°W / 34.5866555; -119.9809753Coordinates: 34°35′12″N 119°58′52″W / 34.5866555°N 119.9809753°W / 34.5866555; -119.9809753
Type Reservoir
Primary inflows California Aqueduct
Santa Ynez River
Primary outflows Santa Ynez River
Basin countries United States
Surface area 3,100 acres (1,300 ha)
Water volume 205,000 acre⋅ft (253,000,000 m3)
Surface elevation 753 ft (230 m)

Cachuma Lake is a reservoir in the Santa Ynez Valley of central Santa Barbara County, California on the Santa Ynez River adjoining the north side of California State Route 154. The artificial lake was created by the construction of Bradbury Dam, a 201 ft (61 m) earth-fill structure built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 1953. Its surface area covers 3,100 acres (1,300 ha), with a maximum design capacity of 205,000 acre⋅ft (253,000,000 m3), but it is currently limited to 188,000 acre⋅ft (232,000,000 m3) due to sediment accumulation and as of April 5, 2017 it is at 50.5% capacity.[1]


Built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 1953, the name "Cachuma" comes from a Chumash village that the Spanish spelled "Aquitsumu", from the Barbareno Chumash word aqitsu'm, meaning "sign".[2] Body contact activities such as swimming, wading, or water skiing in Lake Cachuma have been restricted since the park opened in the 1950s, reasoning that the lake was a reservoir people depend upon for drinking water. In May 2011, the no body contact regulation was revised to allow human-powered recreational watercraft such as kayaks and canoes on the lake as well as allow dogs on boats and eliminate "incidental body contact" with the water as a punishable offense.[3]

In September, 2016, the lake approached low levels not seen since the construction of the Bradbury Dam. The actual water level sank to 647 ft (197 m), more than 100 ft (30 m) below spillway level. Actual water content fell to 14,468 acre⋅ft (17,846,000 m3), approximately 7.5% of capacity.[4]

In January and February 2017, because of the frequent rains, especially with the heavy rain throughout all of Friday, February 17th, the lake rose an astounding 25 feet during the storm alone, with experts saying with the runoff, the lake might rise another 15-20 feet. At the high end of those predictions, would put the lake at just over 50 percent full, very far from where it was at the beginning of the year, at about 8% full.[5] From midnight before Friday to the next Friday at 9:32 PM, the 24th of February, the lake rose from 671.52 feet to 708.20 feet, making a total rise of 36.68 feet. This puts the lake at 44.5% and at a total volume of 85979 acre feet.[6]


Santa Barbara County Parks has cabin and yurt rentals, as well as RV, tent, and group camping. Gasoline and groceries are available at the general store. There is a full boat and kayak rental facility with a bait and tackle shop where fishing licenses can be purchased. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout throughout the winter season, and fishing is open all year from shore or boat. There are five miles of hiking trails within the park, and Los Padres National Forest trails close by.

A large campsite on the south shore of Cachuma Lake is administered by the Santa Barbara County Park's division of the Community Services Department.

The University of California, Santa Barbara rowing team regularly practices and races at Lake Cachuma and erected a permanent boathouse there just prior to the 1982-1983 school year. The lake is also a popular destination for viewing bald eagles from seasonal tour boats.

Solvang, California is approximately 10.5 mi (16.9 km) to the west of Lake Cachuma. The town of Santa Ynez, California is approximately 7.25 mi (11.67 km) to the west of Bradbury Dam.

Natural History Activities and Programs[edit]

Santa Barbara County Parks offers a variety of natural programs including wildlife lake cruises, nature walks, junior ranger programs, campfire programs on summer weekends, and a family-oriented live animal event in the fall. School and community group environmental education field trips are available all year.

Neal Taylor Nature Center[edit]

Located in Santa Barbara, the Neal Taylor Nature Center, formerly the Cachuma Lake Nature Center, features exhibits and hands-on displays about the area's cultural and natural history, including local plants, animals, birds and geology. The nature center is open year-round and admission is free. The center offers youth and adult workshops and lectures as well as school and youth nature education programs in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Parks natural history programs.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "LAKE CACHUMA DAILY OPERATIONS" (PDF). 23 January 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Bright, William; Erwin Gustav Gudde (1998). 1500 California Place Names: Their Origin and Meaning. University of California Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-520-21271-8. 
  3. ^ Ethan Stewart (April 21, 2011). "Paddling the Forbidden Waters". Santa Barbara Independent. 25 (275). p. 8. Retrieved December 30, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Rainfall and Reservoir Summary" (PDF). Santa Barbara County - Flood Control District. Santa Barbara County. Retrieved September 15, 2016. 
  5. ^ Bolton, Tom. "Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County rising fast after potent winter storm". The Tribune. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  6. ^ "Cachuma Reservoir". County of Santa Barbara Public Works Online. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 

External links[edit]