Thursday, May 11, 2017

LAKE MATHEWS (Riverside County, CA): March 10, 2107

On our way to Harford Springs Reserve in the Gavilan Hills area off Cajalco Road in Riverside County, we passed by Lake Mathews, which looked beautifully calm and serene in the distance. This reservoir, fed by inflows from the Colorado River Aqueduct and surrounded by several thousand acres of protected land, has been closed to public access for decades.

From Wiki: 

Lake Mathews is a large reservoir in Riverside County, California, located in the Cajalco Canyon in the foothills of the Temescal Mountains. It is the western terminus for the Colorado River Aqueduct that provides much of the water used by the cities and water districts of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The reservoir is fenced and closed to all public access. The lake is near the Riverside community of Lake Hills, and is skirted by Cajalco Road on the south, El Sobrante Road on the north and east, and La Sierra Avenue on the west. La Sierra Avenue traverses the top of the west dike. These roads are often used by commuters as a shortcut between Interstate 15 and Interstate 215 or California 91.
The reservoir was constructed by building a large earthfill dam across the northern side of the basin. Two smaller dams, called dikes, were built during the 1961 expansion to increase the lake's capacity.


Originally named the Cajalco Reservoir, the reservoir is now named after W.B. Mathews, an attorney who was a key architect of the MWD and its business relationships with member water agencies. Construction on the reservoir began in 1933, at the same time the aqueduct was being built across the desert. The reservoir site had previously been occupied chiefly by carob orchards and tin mines. Lawrence Holmes, Sr., who owned 1,100 acres in the future reservoir basin, lost his property to eminent domain in a lengthy court battle. The dam across Cajalco Canyon and its intake structure were completed in 1939. The first water arrived from the Colorado River in February 1940, and water deliveries began in 1941. In 1961, the reservoir’s capacity was nearly doubled to its current capacity of 182,000 acre-feet.
In the mid-2000s, a large project was undertaken to rehabilitate the old outlet tower and to construct a new tower as an alternate. The MWD was concerned about the tower’s susceptibility to earthquakes, and age had rendered many of the tower’s massive valves unusable. To allow for construction without impacting the water supply, a cofferdam was constructed. Massive concrete tunnels were built to connect the new tower to the existing waterworks.

Lake Mathews Ecological Reserve[edit]

Lake Mathews is surrounded by approximately 4,000 acres of protected land. In 1982, this land was declared a State ecological reserve. In the early 1990s, an additional 9,000 acres was added to the reserve after the discovery of the endangered Stephens kangaroo rat (Dipodomys stephensi) in the area. The area is now called the Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve.
The Lake Mathews area is an important bird resting and feeding site, particularly in the winter months. In addition to a variety of ducks, double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus), Western grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis), eared grebe (Podiceps caspicus), golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), and bald eagles (Haliaeatus leucocephalus), are present during the winter.

Controversy over recreational use[edit]

Since its dedication in 1940, the reservoir has been fenced off and closed to public access, supposedly to preserve water quality. The MWD has always been concerned about water quality and prohibits body contact sports like swimming in its other nearby reservoirs that are open for recreation, Lake Skinner and Diamond Valley Lake. Mathews is of greatest importance as its outlet feeds directly into pipelines that connect to member water agencies serving 8.4 million people. Proponents of recreation assert that recreation does not and cannot cause significant impairment to water quality and dispute MWD claims.
Another concern raised by opponents is preservation of the coastal sage scrub biome that has developed over time on the protected land around the lake.
During its existence, a number of attempts have been made to gain access to the lake for various purposes, but none have been granted. One of the most interesting was a 1952 request for a movie shoot at the lake. The scene from the 1953 movie Fair Wind to Java would have featured, among other things, a smoke-belching volcano constructed on one of the lake’s islands. After their idea was rejected by the MWD Board, the movie’s producers reportedly constructed a lagoon and volcano on a studio backlot.
In 1960, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors mounted an unsuccessful campaign to open the lake for recreational purposes. The board generated a resolution citing a “pressing and definite need” for recreational facilities in Southern California.
California Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, on February 14, 2012, introduced legislation, AB 1686, which would have opened the lake for limited recreation similar to that available at other MWD reservoirs or, at the very least, have allowed for low-impact hiking in the Ecological Reserve. However, Jeffries withdrew the bill on March 20, 2012 after research determined that “virtually bulletproof” agreements prohibiting public access exist between the MWD and other entities interested in maintaining the status quo, and going forward with the bill would have likely resulted in prolonged and expensive legal battles.

3/10/17 California poppies and other wildflowers 
in bloom near the lake

Friday, May 5, 2017

CORONA LAKE (Corona, Riverside County, CA)

Corona Lake is a privately stocked lake east of I-15 off Temescal Canyon Road and used to be a popular fishing spot (fishing license not required) for bass, rainbow trout, tilapia, catfish, bluegill and crappie. They have a large sign visible off the freeway saying something along the lines of "Largest Trout in California Caught Here" (I believed the record was 24.5 lbs.). In 2016, we noticed that the water in the lake  started evaporating over the course of the year until it looked more like a pond. Clearly, the the water in the lake was receding, not being replenished, and no longer in operation - surely because of California's ongoing drought. But then we had a wetter-than-expected winter this past season, so the lake is once again filled to the brim. 

The latest report from  indicates that, despite the auspicious rains, the lake is still closed to fishing. I imagine the lake has to be great for birding so will keep checking in on its status.


Address: 12510 Temescal Canyon Road, Corona, CA 92883

Status: Temporarily closed

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

DRIPPING SPRINGS (Riverside County, CA): March 24-25, 2017 Dripping Springs Campground, Dripping Springs Trail, Agua Tibia Wilderness, Cleveland National Forest

This was our third RV camping trip with our fur babies (1st was to Joshua Tree National Park, and 2nd to Idyllwild). Dripping Springs is a pet friendly campground in the Cleveland National Forest about 10.5 miles south of Temecula off SR79. There are 34 no hookup sites, some reservable and equestrian, each with fire pit and picnic table, with vault toilets nearby. The camp host is an older lady who lives in a trailer just past the entry to the campground - she tools around in a golf cart and stopped by our site to chat and check us in (I had reserved site#22 a couple months prior through She warned us that there was a resident pack of coyotes and raccoons as large as a good-sized dog that may meander through the campground at night, so we should keep our pooches inside and get rid of any food remnants before turning in - something we would always do anyway during all of our camping excursions. As a result of a wet winter season here in SoCal, the campground was nicely green and the Arroyo Seco Creek flowing with water, a total contrast to the first time we visited Dripping Springs in August of 2016 when most of the vegetation was dry and on the crispy-brown side

March 24, 2017:

Dripping Springs campground

Dripping Springs campground

Our campsite #22

Unloading the camping stuff

Lots of Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) around the campsite, a non-native herb (native to Europe, N. Africa, SW and Central Asia), which I grow in my own herb garden at home. Seems to have naturalized in many areas here in SoCal. 

Basketbush, Skunk Bush (Rhus aromatica), near campsite #22

Common Phacelia (Phacelia distans), growing in abundance around the campground

Sasha towering over her dad

Miniature Lupine (Lupinus bicolor), also abundant around the campsite

California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa), Dripping Springs campground

Coast Live Oaks (Quercus agrifolia), Dripping Springs campground

Tejon Cryptantha (Cryptantha microstachys), Dripping Springs campground

Chaparral Gilia (Gilia angelensis) near our campsite

A large patch of Common Phacelia (Phacelia distans), Dripping Springs campground

Giant Wild-Rye (Elymus condensatus) near our campsite

Not sure what it is about our fur babies need to stand on picnic tables...better view?

Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpa), above our campsite

Common Fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii), Dripping Springs campground

White Sage (Salvia apiana), Dripping Springs campground

Southern Suncup (Camissoniopsis bistorta), Dripping Springs campground

Vine Hill Manzanita? (Arctostaphylos densiflora), probably planted at the campground, not native

Sugarbush (Rhus ovata), Dripping Springs campground

Fenced off area of the Arroyo Seco Creek next to the campground, 
protecting the breeding area of the endangered Arroyo Toad (Anaxyrus/Bufo californicus).
The campground is usually closed April-May to protect the Arroyo Toad during its
breeding period.

Fenced off area of the Arroyo Seco Creek next to the campground 

Nevin's Barberry (Mahonia nevinii) near the campground entrance. 
Would be cool if this one was native, but most likely another planted specimen

California Aster (Lessingia filaginifolia var. filaginifolia), Dripping Springs campground

Sasha, traipsing through the greenery at the campsite

Gorgeous Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis) in full bloom. 
Probably planted here on the campground.

Mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana), campground before 
Dripping Springs trailhead

Southern Honeysuckle (Lonicera subspicata var. denudata), Dripping Springs Trail

Torrey's Scrub Oak (Quercus x acuditens)? 
Campground before Dripping Springs trailhead

Narrowleaf Bedstraw (Gallium angustifolium), Dripping Springs trailhead

Giant Wild-Rye (Elymus condensatus), Dripping Springs trailhead

Dripping Springs trailhead

Dripping Springs trailhead

Dripping Springs trailhead

Dripping Springs trailhead

Dripping Springs trailhead

Dripping Springs trailhead

Dripping Springs trailhead at Arroyo Seco Creek crossing

Dripping Springs trailhead at Arroyo Seco Creek crossing

Dripping Springs trailhead at Arroyo Seco Creek crossing

Dripping Springs trailhead at Arroyo Seco Creek crossing

Dripping Springs trailhead at Arroyo Seco Creek crossing

Dripping Springs trailhead at Arroyo Seco Creek crossing

Dripping Springs trailhead at Arroyo Seco Creek crossing

Dripping Springs trailhead at Arroyo Seco Creek crossing

Dripping Springs trailhead at Arroyo Seco Creek crossing

Dripping Springs trailhead at Arroyo Seco Creek crossing

Dripping Springs trailhead at Arroyo Seco Creek crossing

Dripping Springs trailhead at Arroyo Seco Creek crossing

California Sycamores (Platanus racemosa) near Arroyo Seco Creek, 
Dripping Springs trail

Stinging Lupine (Lupinus hirsutissima), near Arroyo Seco Creek at Dripping Springs trailhead

California Poppies blooming at top of bluff near Arroyo Seco Creek at Dripping Springs trailhead

Mule Fat (Baccharis salicifolia), near Arroyo Seco Creek

California Poppies blooming at top of bluff near Arroyo Seco Creek at Dripping Springs trailhead

Near Arroyo Seco Creek

Royal Goldfields (Lasthenia coronaria) Dripping Springs trail

Near Arroyo Seco Creek

Wild Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus), Dripping Springs trail

Whitebark Ceanothus (Ceanothus leucodermis), Dripping Springs trail

Whitebark Ceanothus (Ceanothus leucodermis), Dripping Springs trail

Dripping Springs trailhead at Arroyo Seco Creek crossing

Parish's Nightshade (Solanum parishii), Dripping Springs trailhead

Heart-leaved Penstemon (Keckiellia cordifolia), 
Dripping Springs trailhead

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), Dripping Springs trailhead

Blue Dicks/Wild Hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum),
Dripping Springs trailhead

Southern Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata ssp. mexicana), Dripping Springs trailhead

Gil snoozing back at camp after our late afternoon trek to Dripping Springs trailhead

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), growing just above our campsite

View of the evening sky from our campsite

Gil, stoking the fire for dinner

Addy's found his sweet spot at the campsite

He's a handsome bear and he knows it!

Addy getting some love from his dad...

Ribeye steaks grilling over the campfire

Dinner is served: grilled ribeye steaks with homemade chimichurri sauce and a side of grilled peppers, zucchini, onions, and portabello mushrooms.

Saturday, March 25, 2017 (Dripping Springs Trail):

 Red Shanks (Adenostoma sparsifolium)

 Elegant Rockcress (Boechera californica)

 Elegant Rockcress (Boechera californica)

 Purple Owl's Clover (Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta)
Hoary-leaved Ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolium)

 Hoary-leaved Ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolium)

 Dripping Springs Trail at Wild Horse Trail junction

Gil and Sasha at Dripping Springs Trail at Wild Horse Trail junction

 Dripping Springs Trail at Wild Horse Trail junction

 Hairy Fringepod (Thysanocarpus curvipes)

(Leptosiphon floribundus)

Ground Pinks (Linanthus dianthiflorus)

 Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris)

 Bird's Foot Fern (Pellaea mucronata var. mucronata)

Goldback Fern (Pentagramma triangularis ssp. triangularis)

 Basketbush, Skunk Bush (Rhus trilobata)

 Pacific Sanicle (Sanicula crassicaulis)

 Unidentified (Sidalcea?)


Entering Agua Tibia Wilderness