El Capitan Reservoir 06/04/12
In about thirty minutes, you can leave the city and get out into nature.
Visit El Capitan Reservoir for a Quick “Get-Away”
By Connie Goldin, MA, MFT
A few months ago, my husband and I drove east to explore several East San Diego County Parks. We left the overcast coast, headed east on the Interstate 8 freeway, and arrived about thirty minutes later at El Monte Park, hoping to follow the San Diego River. El Monte Park is a lovely county park with lots of space and picnic areas, but no creeks, streams or river. It is possible to see the vegetated river bed of the San Diego River on the approach to the park, but we were looking for water. Since we had seen a sign for El Capitan Reservoir we decided to keep moving and check it out.
It was a short, pleasant drive, which kept narrowing until we reached the top at the entrance to the reservoir. There was a small booth for collecting fees, but when we explained that we only wanted to park and walk around to see the reservoir, the friendly person at the booth said “sure” and we entered for free.
It was a clear sunny day with a strong wind blowing at the reservoir. It wasn’t crowded, and was lovely and peaceful. The man-made reservoir is used to store water for San Diego County. The water comes via aqueduct from the Colorado River. Visitors can fish, boat, float and Jet Ski, but not swim. There are entry fees, and people who want to fish must have a permit. Kids under sixteen can fish without a permit and it is possible to purchase a permit online. There are also boat rentals.
I was happy to see three Great Egrets along the shore. There were signs that warned about rattlesnakes, and I learned that the lake had bigmouthed bass, trout, and catfish. From talking to the person who ran the concessions stand I learned that there were also cougars in the area, and that the lake has an unwelcome invader-Quagga Mussels. These non-indigenous crustaceans come through the water pipes that feed the reservoir and cause problems with the pipes and the ecology of the lake.
A trip to El Capitan Reservoir is a fun activity that makes for great conversations and experiences for kids and families. It is easy to reach by car, and is such a different environment from the city. It is inexpensive and a family-friendly destination for a day trip. The highlight of our journey, for me, was spotting two wild turkeys in the brush alongside that road as we drove from the park. I had no idea San Diego County had wild turkeys but with a little research when I got home, I learned the wild turkey population was introduced into our local habitat years ago. The Population is reported to be around 20,000 in San Diego County.
Short day trips like this can have a lasting impression on a child. Introduce your kids to fishing, boating, bird watching and picnicking without having to spend a lot of money. San Diego County has so many interesting places to visit. If you live in the west–head east. If you live in the east–head west. North, south, east or west, San Diego County has wonderful opportunities for spending time in nature with your kids.