As I paddled the cobalt blue waters of Lake Cahuma, I soaked in the surroundings off Highway 154. A small herd of mule deer browsed near the edge of the lake. Western grebes, American coots and several mallards fed in the shallows while a red-tailed hawk soared overhead.
I headed east, where dark clouds hugged rugged backcountry mountains, the remnants of another winter storm passing through. The higher peaks were covered in freshly dumped snow as I kayaked toward a dense grove of oak trees.
Bradbury Dam was built in 1953 along the Santa Ynez River and the reservoir the dam forms provides water to Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Carpinteria and a handful of smaller water districts.
Recreational boating has always been allowed on Lake Cachuma. But for the first time ever, the seven-mile manmade lake will be open to canoes and kayaks, beginning April 15.
“The resource management plan was revised for expanding recreation departments,” said Liz Gaspar, a Lake Cachuma park naturalist. “We’re finalizing our contract with the Bureau of Reclamation, and one of those activities is kayaking.”
Anyone looking to do some paddling along the 42 miles of shoreline will have to put their vessel through a minor inspection and wash before putting in at the lake. Gaspar said she hopes kayakers and canoeists will be honest with their abilities and heed the predominant northwest winds that pick up steam most afternoons. Personal flotation devices are required and swimming is still not allowed.
“We would like kayakers to stick to the perimeter,” she added.
Maps of different paddling routes will be available at the Lake Cachuma Nature Center, 2265 Highway 154, and online. Cachuma is also a great birding spot with more than 150 species recorded.
There is an $8 per vehicle entrance fee to the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area.
Click here for more information on paddling Lake Cachuma as it becomes available, or call 805.693.0691 or 805.693.8381.