Monday, December 6, 2021

Looking for San Diego Lakes?


I'm looking for lakes too! 

This website is a record of a personal quest started late in 2019: to personally visit, photograph and report on all bodies of fresh water in San Diego County. I've lived here most of my life but never bothered with lakes and ponds until last year.

Between Oct 2019 and the Coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, I visited 66 Lakes and reservoirs, 160+ Ponds, and 10 clusters of Vernal Pools. In addition to 200+ Lake & Pond Visit Reports, I wrote 20 short general articles related to San Diego's fresh water. They are listed at the right side of this page; please look them over.


You may ask Who am I, and How am I qualified to do this website? 

I’ve been a writer all my professional life, including youth worker and church materials; automotive repair manuals and emissions diagnostic strategies; and mathematics curriculum. I have been a business development consultant working with publishers in the US, Canada and UK. I've written thousands of articles and hundreds of blog pages. I moderate a watch forum. I'm curious, I have a car, and enough money and time to take on this project. That's basically it - I'm not a scientist, ecologist, herpitologist or hydrologist.

This main page serves as an entrance gate to the site, and presents you with a choice: Which of the three would you like to visit first? Lakes, Ponds or Vernal Pools?  Maybe this will help your decision:

Click on a link inside the box to see some fresh water!

LAKE / RESERVOIR            POND            VERNAL POOL             HOME (here)

Friday, April 3, 2020

A Long Day Looking for Lakes, Part 1

Greetings from today's Looking for Lakes team (my wife and I).

8:45 My wife and I agree to go lake hunting today, before the rains start. We can afford to spend 4 hours, from 10 am - 2 pm.

Our destination is the bottom of Zone 2 (north of Hwy 56, west of 15, south of 78). We haven’t been there but the road names imply we will find water: Twin Lakes Rd, Poco Lago (small lake), etc.

We leave the house at 10:10 and drive for 40 minutes. We turn onto Rancho Santa Fe Lakes Rd and start looking. I notice a lack of places to stop and dozens of No Parking signs... the curse of a lake hunter!

We take a photo to the east at what should be pond #1 (it's on our maps) but we see only dirt. This is not uncommon around San Diego. Here are the ponds we are seeking: 

[click to enlarge]

Back in the car driving North, we notice a big pond (#3), alongside the road. We take long-range photos of it, as there are NO PARKING NO STOPPING BIKE LANE signs everywhere. 

Doubling back, we slip behind another car and enter a gated community, where we find the wet end of Pond #1:

Just across the street and separated from Carmel Mountain Road by a 6-foot wall we spot  Pond #2. The rural ambiance is spoiled by all the tall street lights on the main road.


We spend a half hour, driving around, deterred by gates and STAY OUT signs, and finally for the 3rd or 4th time pass an enormous home under re-construction. It's swarming with workers. I ask an electrician if there's a body of water behind the house, and he says yes. He invites me to come over and take a look. We walk in to the back yard and get fine  views of the east end of Pond #3. I take photos.

Fifteen minutes later we give up looking for other ponds,  move to my second target site,  Fairbanks Lake South. I also want some pictures of the southern tip of the main Fairbanks Lake (SE of the road). 

Laurie gets a shot through the trees as we drive by very slowly, annoying a bunch of cars behind us (the community has intentionally prohibited stopping or parking). You can see a bit of lake but not an useful image (lots of blurry photos get discarded during this quest).

11:30 We reach the parking spot I have selected in advance.  Expecting that we won't get through the manned community gate (we don't), I had another approach in mind. We can trek through an open space area to reach the south end of South Fairbanks Lake.

Here's a Google Satellite image. Our walk is hot and hilly and seems much farther than the map suggests.

We climb uphill going south from San Dieguito road which we can see here over our shoulders in the distance (top of map above)

We keep to the right by those trees and walk through the grass down to a concrete spillway indicated by the arrow:

Hurray! We see the lake and some workers eating lunch on the deck of that big house. 

I take a few photos.

We walk back up this hill all the way to the top then back down to the truck. To show you the scale, the arrow is pointing at Laurie.

Here's a print from my Windy Maps app ( I didn't get it tracking us until we were 100 yards from the truck).

NOTE: my iPhone health app says we ascended 22 floors! My lungs sure felt the climb.

12:14 We drive for 15 minutes, get lost once or twice, and finally slip into a private community as someone else is leaving. We are looking for a pond and a reservoir I've seen before but didn't get a good photo. Laurie waits in the truck while I look.

I get a great photo of the reservoir "for free", only 10 steps from the road.

Only 3 minutes of hiking and I find the pond is dry. A small dog yaps continuously at me from inside the fence of a nearby house. 

Exploring the community, we drive around hoping for better luck and do find another dry pond. The fence and a mosquito spraying sign indicate there's water here some of the time. Maybe I'll come back after the rains start again.

12:20 We try to get into another private community with a manned security gate. We fail. The guard says come back after 1 pm when model homes are open. We leave, disgruntled. 

12:30 I find a parking lot off the side of the main road, and a fire road running around that private community. We park, walk, and within a hundred yards we happily find the pond we are looking for. Yay!

From our vantage point on the fire road I can also see a large hilltop reservoir. I get two in one photo; old-school steel tank on the left and modern on the right.

12:35 Here's the kind of house they are building behind the pesky gates - BIG, on BIG lots:

12:50 We leave the planned communities behind and wander off on an old road where the lots are measured in acres, the horses are counted in dozens, and open space is secured for posterity within the Lusardi Open Space Preserve. 

We start walking. Laurie comments that she taught one of the Lusardi kids at her school near "Little Italy" in San Diego.

Here's a typical San Diego signboard. Confusingly, it’s mounted upsidedown relative to where we are. Do we stand on our heads to read it? Turn sideways or backwards to read it?

Hike or mountain bike along Lusardi Creek and take in views of boulder-strewn rolling hills & canyons. This robust riparian habitat features native plants and blooming vegetation along the water’s edge. A 3-mile trail system leads to natural beauty, and connects to other lightly-used paths for 10 miles of adventure. 

The property consists of 195 acres along the northern boundary of the City of San Diego, southeast of Rancho Santa Fe and west of 4S Ranch. This is part of the County’s larger vision by to protect, restore and educate park patrons about protected species that live on site, like San Diego marsh elder, Del Mar Manzanita, California adolphia and graceful tarplant – all part of the Multiple Species Conservation Program. Other species  include the Coronado Skink, Orange-throated Whiptail, San Diego Horned Lizard and Red Diamond Rattlesnake. Blah blah blah... 

We are not looking for endangered species, but for water, and it's OUT THERE somewhere, at the bottom of a ravine...

We find a cactus in bloom pretty quickly.

 Don't touch!

There's some water! But too far away, too far downhill, and it's now too hot out here.

It seems to be a mile away (my zoom lens is amazing).

Our vehicle is way back behind those trees at the top. We neglected to carry water with us on this hike; it’s in the truck. Darn. 

After 20 minutes walking we are approaching the top again.

Two typical BIG and isolated houses out here:

1:15 We decide to drive towards home, but seeing the road goes farther down into the canyon, we turn around, ignoring the"dead end" and "no way out" signs and take our chances.

Signs reveal that the water might be nearby.

Riparian: Pertaining to or situated on the bank of a river.

1:23 Water at last, the road is flooded! No bridge. No problem. We could wade if we had to, but we don't. We chance it with the truck (tall, 4WD).

We find the swamp/pond/lake but it's a bit too close for comfort. We are essentially IN it!

1:30 We return across the "river" and we head for home.

2:02 We arrive home, on time and famished. After lunch, and the next day, I spend at least 8 hours researching and reporting on our 4 hour adventures.

Purple lines show our driving, and green our walking [click to enlarge]

Thursday, April 2, 2020

A Long Day Looking for Lakes, Part 2

NOTE: I went back to the "Long Day" area a few weeks later. Here are 3 MORE ponds I found on the second visit; they are shown as #4-6 on the map below:

I started on the main road, went North for a mile (just past Pond #3) and then East on Poco Lago (just past Pond #3).

I had no cell signal nor map guidance in this area, but I did spot Pond #4 on Caminito Santo Tomas behind a gate. Luckily a car was coming out, so I was able to enter.

Here's looking West out my right window at pond #4:

Looking East out my left window at pond #5  

I had to go to the end of the street to turn around so here’s pond #5 again,

and pond #4.

The easternmost pond #6 is in a horse facility, just EAST of the high-end housing area and annoyingly accessed by an entirely-separate, winding, steep, half-mile Black Mountain Road.

The reeds and no trespassing sign are sure clues there is (or once was) water nearby. 

I slide the car to the side of the road and walk a hundred steps or so to get some altitude. I can see the water from here.

There's a path across the "dam" but I didn't walk it because the no trespassing signs are on my side of the dam.


I drove past this very nice pond in the Del Mar country club entrance, along the way to the freeway.