Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Santee Lakes

Just eighteen miles east of La Jolla on California State Highway 52, Santee Lakes Regional Park lies hidden in gently sloping Sycamore Canyon. The Padre Dam Water District had operated this model water reclamation project for over forty years, and it has been featured on Arts & Entertainment's Modern Marvels: "Water Conservation." 

Santee Lakes is a multi use park. It provides a flyway for a wide variety of water fowl, and the park is involved in a wood duck propagation program. Professional and amateur bird photographers are familiar with the large variety of birds that come through the park following migratory lanes south and then returning north again.

Several of its lakes are stocked with large mouth bass and catfish for local anglers. No fishing license is required, but a day use permit is necessary to purchase at the General Store. Several contests are held yearly with tagged fish and prizes. In my weekly hikes, I see people catching fish with some regularity.

In East County where shade is a scarce resource in the summer, Santee Lakes provides a number of covered picnic areas that can be reserved for group events, and single picnic tables are found throughout the park, with several playgrounds close by for the kids.

The park’s newest addition is a Lion’s Club sponsored Sensory Garden for the blind, while the Kiwanis Club sponsors a Handicapped Fishing Pier. The park also has regulation horseshoe pits, which you don’t see around much these days.

This is truly a community park. Throughout the year, the park holds community events, and in the summertime, Santee Lakes hosts a weekly Friday night movie for families. At the back of the park, there are RV sites with hookups, and a new feature, overnight and weekly rental cabins, some floating on the water.

The Sprayground is the young kids' favorite place to be on hot, sunny days. Water jets shoot city water skyward from the ground surface, only to fall back to earth with a joyful splash. Tipping overhead buckets fill and spill cool, refreshing water on screeching, giggling kids. Makes me want to be young and carefree again.

But even as an adult, I count myself lucky that I live close to the Santee Lakes; I walk around them several times a week. But as wonderful as the park is, the seven, man made recreational lakes are only a part of this impressive water reclamation project. There is a lot more to Santee Lakes than most people are aware.

To be continued….