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[Current Water Level & Water Year Rainfall Totals]

Welcome to my Lake Los Carneros website. I started this page as a collection of photographs of the lake and surrounding property. In the Fall of 2012 my grandfather passed away. Occasionally in my youth he would accompany me to the lake. It wasn't often but some of my fondest memories of the lake were spent with him. After his passing I was inspired to write a little something ("Early Memories" paragraph below) which evolved into the "story" below and continued to evolve into the additional pages of this website. Enjoy...


I first visited Lake Los Carneros on September 25, 1983. At the time it seemed like most of the local people I would talk to either didn't know about the lake or thought of it as a "polluted mud hole". I saw it differently. I saw it as a beautiful slice of nature within walking distance from my home. A place I could practice the activity that would encompass my life, a place that would teach me the importance of conservation, a place that gave a teenager a reason to care about nature and the environment.


Originally a small duck pond, or "La Patera", Edgar Stow built the dam in 1932 creating the ~25 acre lake nestled in the heart of Goleta.


On several occasions over the years there have been plans or ideas to develop the property but except for a few benches, a fence along the dam, and a walking bridge on the North end of the lake, it has pretty much stayed the same since my first visit. Today the "polluted mud hole" image is pretty much gone. There is a wide variety of local residents and visitors who enjoy Lake Los Carneros including runners, wildlife observers, dog walkers, photographers, painters, or those simply taking a walk and enjoying the scenery. It is also a great place for kids to experience nature and learn the importance of caring for places like Lake Los Carneros. Real life experiences and lessons they simply can not get from reading a book or watching a video.


Early memories:

One of my fondest early memories of Lake Los Carneros was on April 17, 1984. It was a warm and sunny Spring day. Like most days I couldn't wait to get home from school so I could walk over to the lake. My grandparents were in town visiting so my grandfather walked to the lake with me. I can still clearly see him sitting on the edge of the dam watching me. I was standing on "the drain" (bottom outlet) near the base of the dam that is about 12 ft. below the spill level of the lake. Suddenly, while reeling in my lure to make another cast it stops dead. After a good fight I catch the largest bass I had caught since I started catch and release bass fishing a few years earlier. My grandfather wasn't a fisherman. He would tell us on multiple occasions, "I don't get it". Although he "didn't get it" he knew how much it meant to me and I know he was proud.


A Perfect Day:

It is a calm overcast Summer morning. My son and I gather our gear and head down the path toward the lake. Little cotton-tailed rabbits dot the edges of the road while a white-tailed kite hovers to the left of us. The birds serenade us with their morning songs.


We launch our float tubes and kick over to Southern shore of the island. A Great Blue Heron watches us go by then resumes fishing for her breakfast. We come to a small point in the tules along the Southern shore of the island. A near perfect cast lands my favorite topwater lure just outside a small pocket in the tules near the point. I start my retrieve... twitch, pause, twitch, pause, twitch, pause... causing the lure to "walk" back and forth on the surface of the water. A few moments later I notice a tule reed off to the side twitch strangely as a small wake heads toward my lure. Before I process what is happening my lure is met with an explosion of water and the tug of war begins. The fish makes a dive, then without missing a beat changes direction and comes leaping out of the water with a spectacular jump right in front of us. Shortly after that I land this powerful creature, admire it for a few seconds, take a few measurements, and a picture or two. Kids love to release fish so I hand it to my son who gently places it into the water, says "goodbye Fluffy" as we watch it swim down into the darkness.


As the sun starts to break through the fog we kick around the lake and visit some of our favorite spots. At the North end we notice a new family of American Coots. Two parents and five little grey puff balls with reddish orange heads. We watch as the daily "swimming lesson" begins. The parents seem to intentionally swim away from the babies forcing them to catch up. Once they do the parents swim off again. On our walk back we are greeted by a friendly neighborhood couple and fence lizards sunning themselves along the edge of the road.


Experiencing Life:

Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not the fish they are after". For me it's simply experiencing life. The surrounding beauty, the tranquility and peacefulness, observing wildlife, and learning everything I can about the lake and it's inhabitants. Fishing at Lake Los Carneros with artificial lures is challenging. The hours spent between bites are often many. But I'm okay with that as it gives me a lot of time to observe nature. Or maybe it simply gives me something to do while I'm observing nature. Either way I have witnessed some very cool things over the years.


Seasonal Changes and Water Levels:

Seasonal changes are usually pretty mild in Goleta. But even these mild changes bring different things to see at the lake. Most of the year the foliage surrounding the lake is mostly a dry brown. But after a little rain the land becomes draped in a beautiful green blanket. Spring is the time to watch swallows as they dance in the air while collecting water for their nests. Like tiny delta-wing fighter jets in a dog fight, they expertly dart in, out and around each other with incredible precision. Early Summer is the time to see baby ducks, coots, and other water birds. Summer through Winter is feeding time for fish-eating birds. Look for other fish hunters in addition to the egrets and herons which are regularly seen at the lake. By this time the baby fish from the spawn in the Spring have grown to a perfect size for ospreys, terns, kingfishers, cormorants, and pelicans. Of course, these fish-eating birds rely on a healthy fish population which can be negatively effected during periods of drought and falling water levels.


The water level at the lake will vary depending on rainfall. The changing water level brings changes that are not only seasonal. Low water levels also expose new, muddy beaches that attract varieties of birds that feed along the shoreline. High water years are a great time to spot turtles, bullfrogs, and other animals under the walking bridge at the Northern end of the lake... sometimes nearly completely hidden in the duckweed.


Fish Kills:

In 1985, after two years of visiting Lake Los Carneros I discovered a large number of dead fish floating around the shoreline of the lake. I was devastated and thought maybe the rumors of it being a "polluted mud hole" were true. Of course, that is not the case. Lake Los Carneros is eutrophic which basically means it receives nutrients from urban run-off that can lead to increased algae growth. I have seen many fish kills since the one in 1985.


What factors lead to a fish kill at Lake Los Carneros? The simple answer is low oxygen levels caused by an algal bloom usually following periods of below average rainfall and falling water levels.


Keep it Clean:

If you visit or fish at the lake please be courteous to other visitors, do not disturb the birds or other wildlife, and do your best to leave the property in a better condition than you found it. Clean up all of your trash and any other litter you find. Especially items such as plastic bags, kite string, fishing line, 6-pack rings, etc. Handle the fish with care and practice catch and release. Help preserve and keep the lake as beautiful as it has been since we were kids... for our kids and grandkids to enjoy.

  - Pete Wolf, November 2013

[History] [Water Levels] [Wildlife] [Photo Gallery] [Maps] [Fish Kills]

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100 more pictures...

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City of Goleta: Lake Los Carneros

Goleta's Dam Dinner

Facebook: I Love Lake Los Carneros

Rancho La Patera and Stow House

Wikipedia: Stow House

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The Joy of Float Tubing With Kids - Paul Rockwell

Santa Ynez Valley Journal: Goleta's Lake Los Carneros Beckons

Santa Barbara Independent: A Great Place for a Quiet Walk

Santa Barbara Activity Guide: Lake Los Carneros

Santa Barbara Outdoors: Lake Los Carneros