Lake Mission Viejo

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Lake Mission Viejo
Lake Mission Viejo photo D Ramey Logan.JPG
aerial photograph (2010)
Location Mission Viejo, California
Coordinates 33°37′36″N 117°38′53″W / 33.62667°N 117.64806°W / 33.62667; -117.64806Coordinates: 33°37′36″N 117°38′53″W / 33.62667°N 117.64806°W / 33.62667; -117.64806
Type reservoir
Basin countries United States
Built 1975
Max. length 1 mi (1.6 km)
Max. width 14 mi (0.40 km)
Surface area 125 acres (51 ha)
Average depth 30 ft (9.1 m)
Max. depth 70 ft (21 m)
Water volume 1.2 billion US gallons (4.5 Gl)
Shore length1 3.02 miles (4.86 km) of shoreline
Surface elevation 701 ft (214 m)
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake Mission Viejo is a reservoir created for recreation in Mission Viejo, Orange County, California. The reservoir is formed by an earthfill dam across the canyon of Oso Creek,[1] which is part of the Trabuco Creek and San Juan Creek drainage basin.[2] The lake is not fed by urban runoff; it is maintained so as to be safe for contact. Two beaches are located on the north and east ends of the lake. The lake is annually stocked with fish.[3]

About 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Santiago Peak, a peak in the Santa Ana Mountains, the lake is surrounded by private residential (single-family and condominium) communities, and is a private membership for Mission Viejo residents. The primary marina is located in the northwestern arm of the lake. Upstream of Lake Mission Viejo is Upper Oso Reservoir,[4] which spills downstream and into Mission Viejo in wet years.


There are two main beaches, Playa del Norte and Playa del Este, with a few smaller, private beaches. The larger beaches are both protected by the Lake Mission Viejo Lifeguards. Both beaches contain playgrounds, horseshoe pits, barbecues and picnic areas, snack bars and fishing areas.

Playa del Norte (or North Beach)[edit]

More commonly referred to as North Beach, Playa del Norte is the largest beach at Lake Mission Viejo. It contains the largest sandy beach area, volleyball courts, a full basketball court, and a clubhouse available to rent. All of the administration buildings are located at Playa del Norte. Almost all rentals and boat launching is located at Playa del Norte. Playa del Norte is open all year round. Food services are provided by Tony's at Lake Mission Viejo during the summer season as well as the catering of all concerts and events at the lake.

Playa del Este (or East Beach)[edit]

More commonly referred to as East Beach, Playa del Este is the second largest beach at Lake Mission Viejo. It contains a basketball half court and has Kayaks and Pedal Boats available for rent. Playa del Este is open daily during summer and on weekends during the fall and spring. East Beach also has a snack bar operated by Tony's at Lake Mission Viejo that is open during the summer season.

Swimmer's Itch[edit]

During spring and parts of the summer, swimmer's itch, also called cercarial dermatitis appear. It is a microscopic pest that lives on hosts like birds and snails by biting into their skin. Once it bites a human, it dies but leaves an irritated area or bump like a mosquito bite. The itching will be gone as well as the bump in a few days. Swimmer's itch can be prevented by showering thoroughly after swimming.


Both Playa del Norte (North Beach) and Playa del Este (East Beach) are watched over by the Lake Mission Viejo Lifeguards. The lifeguard headquarters is located at Playa del Norte. There are three lifeguard towers on Playa Del Norte, with one floating tower outside the swim area. Playa Del Este has two lifeguard towers with one floating tower. There is a staff of approximately 50 lifeguards in the summer season, and approximately 25 in the off-season. There is a "Junior Lifeguard" program provided at the lake during summers. Lake Mission Viejo lifeguards have three 17' Boston Whaler's, each outfitted with scuba gear, first aid, oxygen therapy, and equipment for patient immobilization, with one 17’ Boston Whaler Dive boat for the SCUBA team, and a lifeguard pickup truck. The lifeguard department is commanded by three lifeguard lieutenants and three part-time supervisors.


Lake Mission Viejo has a wide range of boats available to rent at Playa del Norte. The boats available to rent include:

  • 10 passenger Party Boats
  • Standup Paddleboards
  • Single & Double Kayaks
  • 2 and 4 Seat Pedal Boats
  • 15’ Row Boats
  • 15’ Electric Boats
  • 14' Sailboat/Capri Sailboats


Lake Mission Viejo is home to many fish. Some of the fish inhabiting the lake are Bass, Catfish, Trout, and Sunfish, such as Bluegill and Black Crappie. 45,000 lbs. of Trout are stocked annually during the winter. Fishing is allowed from rental fishing boats, registered private boats, and in designated fishing areas. Fishing is not allowed inside swimming areas. Although catch and release fishing is encouraged, all trout caught, up to a daily bag limit of 4, must be kept and not released back into the lake.


On April 1, 2006 George Coniglio caught a 19 lbs 12 oz largemouth bass. As of 2006, it ranked 13th largest catch all-time nationwide. The fish measured 28 inches long with a 26-inch girth.[5] Mr. Coniglio also set a new IGFA “All-Tackle Length” Largemouth Bass was caught in Lake Mission Viejo on May 15, 2015. The Bass was 65 cm. long, (2 feet 1½inches), 4 cm. longer than the previous record.


Lake Mission Viejo construction cost was initially estimated around $10 million. Eyeing a possible 30 percent return on investment, the Philip Morris Co. bought the Mission Viejo Co. for $52 million in 1972. Under terms of the purchase agreement, the Mission Viejo Co. became a wholly owned subsidiary of Philip Morris but continued its role as Mission Viejo’s master builder.

An earthen dam nearly 130 feet high and almost a mile long was built along what would become the southern end of the lake. The hole for lake mission viejo was completed by 1976. In 1978, two years after efforts began to fill the lake, this finally was accomplished.[6]

See also[edit]


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