|Location||Los Padres National Forest,|
Ventura County, California
|Primary inflows||Piru Creek|
Agua Blanca Creek
|Primary outflows||Piru Creek|
|Catchment area||421.4 sq mi (1,091 km2)|
|Basin countries||United States|
|Surface area||1,240 acres (500 ha)|
|Max. depth||130 ft (40 m)|
|Water volume||83,244 acre⋅ft (102,680,000 m3)|
|Surface elevation||1,043 ft (318 m)|
|References||U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Lake Piru|
Lake Piru (// (listen)) is a reservoir located in Los Padres National Forest and Topatopa Mountains of Ventura County, California, created by the construction in 1955 of the Santa Felicia Dam on Piru Creek, which is a tributary of the Santa Clara River.
The reservoir is more widely known for celebrity incidents: in 1999, actor Harrison Ford crashed his helicopter by the lake, and in 2020 actress Naya Rivera died by drowning. Several other people have drowned in the lake as well. Due to these incidents, swimming at the lake is permanently banned.
United Water Conservation District
The elevation of the reservoir is 1,043 ft (318 m), and the elevation of the dam spillway is 1,055 ft (322 m). The dam is owned and operated by the United Water Conservation District based in nearby Santa Paula, California. The district is a multi-service district providing flood control, recreation services, surface and groundwater conservation, groundwater replenishment, and wholesale water for agriculture and urban uses to the Santa Clara River Valley and Oxnard Plain. Formed on December 5, 1950, under the Water Conservation Act of 1931, it owns approximately 2,200-acre around and including the lake and dam (890 ha).
Lake Piru Recreation Area
The Lake Piru Recreation Area, along the western shore, has about 60 acres (24 ha) with various recreational facilities for camping, boating, fishing, and picnicking. The 238 campsites have water and electric hookup along with a snack bar. There are 66 boat slips with a full-service marina. While swimming had been a popular recreational activity, it was formally prohibited in August 2020 following the death of actress Naya Rivera in July that year; the lake had been closed to the public for over a month before the ban was imposed. Prior to this, it was the only lake in the county that permitted swimming.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has developed a safe eating advisory for Lake Piru based on levels of mercury or PCBs found in fish caught from this water body.
In 2020, the Lake Piru Recreation Area was closed for several months for various reasons. Besides one week at the start of July, it was closed to the public for almost five months between April and August. It was initially closed before April 4 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reopening on July 1. It then re-closed a week later following the disappearance of Naya Rivera, and stayed closed until August 20 because of this and, later, the Holser Fire blocking Piru Canyon Road.
Quagga mussels became established in Lake Piru and then downstream in the Lower Piru Creek in 2013. While this was the first discovery in Ventura County, they are an invasive species found in various rivers and lakes in the U.S. As of 2014[update], the district was exploring options using a technical panel consisting of state Fish and Wildlife staff as well as representatives from the National Marine Fisheries Service and other federal, state, and local agencies. The district has to develop plans to deal with further colonization. The Casitas Municipal Water District that manages nearby Lake Casitas suggested that the reservoir be drained. Poisoning it with a potassium solution was also considered.
- In August 1994, 27-year-old Jesus Danilo Carranza drowned in the lake while on an outing with his family, even though he was wearing a life jacket.
- In July 1997, Liborio Dominguez of Long Beach drowned in the lake while trying to rescue his daughter. Dominguez’s body was discovered several days later.
- In September 1997, 22-year-old Isidro Castillo of Newhall drowned in the lake and his body was found a day later.
- In September 1997, rescue workers recovered the body of 30-year-old Ulises Anthony Mendoza of Port Hueneme, who disappeared days earlier while swimming in the lake.
- In February 1998, Lake Piru employee Arthur Raymond Caladara was found drowned in the lake. The details of his death are unknown.
- In June 1998, the body of 30-year-old Vy Xuan Dang of Garden Grove was found by a park ranger; he was last seen swimming near a boat days earlier.
- In September 2000, 25-year-old Eric Cruz of Van Nuys drowned 10 feet from the shore.
- On August 25, 2008, 39-year-old Anatoly Naftoli Smolyansky drowned in the lake. He was on a boat with his family when his 5-year-old daughter fell into the water. Smolyansky jumped into the water to save her, but disappeared beneath the surface as he was pushing her back onto the boat. Smolyansky's 9-year-old son aided in his sister's rescue and both children survived. After a week-long search, Smolyansky's body was found floating north of Diablo Cove by a group of Lake Piru rangers and Ventura County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue divers.
- Nine-year-old Piru resident Denise Arredondo drowned roughly 150 feet (46 m) from the shore while wading in the water on May 16, 2009.
- On May 22, 2010, 36-year-old Roberto Barrios disappeared under water while swimming in the lake with friends. His body was found submerged in the lake three days later.
- On September 11, 2014, the drowned body of a 28-year-old Piru woman was found. The following day, Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office described the death as a suicide.
- On July 8, 2020, actress Naya Rivera disappeared while swimming in the lake with her son. Rivera's body was recovered on the morning of July 13 following a five-day search. Taking Rivera's death into consideration, as well as similar incidents prior, Ventura County decided to ban swimming at Lake Piru permanently.
In popular culture
- List of dams and reservoirs in California
- Reservoirs in Ventura County, California
- Topatopa Mountains
- Department of Water Resources (2009). "Station Meta Data: Lake Piru (PRU)". California Data Exchange Center. State of California. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
- United Water Conservation District. "Santa Felicia Dam". Retrieved November 7, 2014.
- Wenner, Gretchen (March 12, 2014) "Water meeting brings crowd to Oxnard" Ventura County Star (subscription may be required for this article)
- Water Code §74000 et seq. California Legislative Information Retrieved December 18, 2014
- "Municipal Service Review: Recreation and Park Services - Special Districts" (March 16, 2005) Ventura Local Agency Formation Commission
- Richard McMahon (March 1, 1999). Camping Southern California. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-56044-711-5. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
- "Lake Piru reopens weeks after Naya Rivera's death - but swimming banned". Metro. August 22, 2020. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
- "Majestic Lake Piru Is a Big Splash : It's the only lake in the county that allows swimming. Expect crowds on the weekends". Los Angeles Times. June 17, 1993. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
- Monserrat, Laurie (January 28, 2016). "Lake Piru". OEHHA. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
- "Local Public Lands: What's Open and What's Closed Due to COVID-19". Los Padres ForestWatch. April 4, 2020. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
- "Lake Piru Reopens as of July 1st". The Fillmore Gazette. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
- Wenner, Gretchen. "Holser Fire grows to 3,000 acres in Piru Canyon, prompting voluntary evacuations". Ventura County Star. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
- Coyne, Alasdair (January 27, 2014) "Quagga mussels loose in Santa Clara watershed" Ventura County Star (subscription may be required for this article)
- Wenner, Gretchen (October 26, 2014) "Lake Piru, groundwater jewel, needs costly TLC" Ventura County Star (subscription may be required for this article)
- Wenner, Gretchen (December 15, 2014) "Quagga concerns alter irrigation practice" Ventura County Star (subscription may be required for this article)
- Wenner, Gretchen (January 18, 2015) "Poison Lake Piru? Option on table to kill quagga mussels" Ventura County Star
- Salo, Jackie (July 9, 2020). "Lake Piru, where Naya Rivera is presumed dead, notorious for drownings". Page Six. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
- Davis, Gail (September 7, 2000). "Lake Piru's Tragic Toll". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
- "Man's Body Found After 1-week Search". CrownHeights.info - Chabad News, Crown Heights News, Lubavitch News. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
- "Body of Piru drowning victim found | The Fillmore Gazette". thefillmoregazette.com. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
- "Piru resident drowns at Lake Piru". The Fillmore Gazette. May 20, 2009. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
- "Man Drowned in Front of Eight Friends Jumping Off Pontoon Boat on Same Lake as Naya Rivera". Toofab. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
- "Man found dead in Lake Piru was drowning victim". www.vcstar.com. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
- "Suicide blamed in death of woman found in lake". Ventura County Star. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
- "'Glee' Actress Missing After Her Young Son Was Found Alone on Boat at Lake Piru". NBC Los Angeles. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
- Aiello, McKenna (July 13, 2020). "Naya Rivera Dead at 33: Actress' Body Recovered 5 Days After Boating Accident". E! Online. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- "Actor Ford Unhurt in Copter Crash". Los Angeles Times. October 25, 1999. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
- "SCVHistory.com | Aircraft Down | NTSB Report on Harrison Ford Helicopter Crash (Nonfatal) in Piru, 10-23-1999 (Final)". www.scvhistory.com. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
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