Lake Cachuma (kayak)

SA Report: Baby it's cold outside

Trip date: 12/6/2013

Launch: Cachuma Lake Recreation Area

Permit/Pass: Vehicle entry - $10, Canoe/Kayak - $5. 

Inspections: Canoes and kayaks without security tags must pass inspection for quagga mussels and possibly undergo power-washing.

Directions: From the South: Take Highway 101 north to Santa Barbara.  Take the “Cachuma Lake/Highway 154” exit and follow the signs. Drive approximately 18 miles.  There is a sign for the park ½ mile before the entrance, and there is a right turn lane to use for your safety.

From the North: Take Highway 101 south to the “Cachuma Lake/Highway 154" exit.  Make a left at the stop sign and drive approximately 14 miles.  There is a sign ¼ mile before the park entrance, and there is a left turn lane to use for your safety.

Portage: None

Type: Loop with side trips

Distance: 8 miles

Rating: Easy-Moderate (factors: wind, length)

Synopsis: Lake Cachuma is a Santa Barbara County reservoir that has only recently begun allowing small boats like kayaks on the water. As of this trip the lake level was quite low, necessitating a makeshift launch ramp at the lower level. Although this means a longer walk after parking your car, it's not too bad. The lake, though smaller, is still nice, offering solitude (at least on this cold winter weekday), interesting side coves, and excellent views.


Lake Cachuma - Cachuma Lake Recreation Area


  -- With most west coast paddling trips, it's wise to keep the possibility of rising wind in mind. It usually comes up later in the morning or early afternoon, and it's usually from the west.

  -- After entering, paying your fee and, assuming it's necessary, having your boat inspected for quagga mussels (it doesn't take very long), you can head for the launch area. You'll need to show the marina people your receipt and boat tag, and confirm the rules with them (wearing a life-jacket is mandatory). At this point you can drive down to the ramp and unload your boat.

  -- After gearing up, parking the car, and walking back to the boat, I launched and headed northwest toward the dam end of the lake, following my usual routine and getting the windward paddling done early.

  -- Having been advised that kayakers are supposed to cross the water directly, staying out of the middle of the lake as much as possible, I paddled toward an interesting looking inlet on the north side of the lake as soon as I passed the end of the peninsula.

  -- Since the day was bitterly cold I ended up spending significant time on the north (sunny) side of the reservoir, ducking in and out of little side canyons.

  -- After having some lunch I paddled back across the lake toward the east end, trying to see as much of the place as possible. With the low water levels (the Everytrail map shows high water levels) I couldn't reach many parts that would otherwise be accessible, but did check out a couple of inlets on the south side before returning to the launch.