Lake Piru lies in Ventura County, California, in the Los Padres National Forest next to the Sespe Condor Sanctuary and the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. The Topatopa Mountains encompass Lake Piru laying the Piru Canyon. The Ventureño Chumash Indians called the reeds they used to make baskets piru.
The Chumash people include the Tataviam, and other related native peoples who spoke the Hoken language and traditionally inhabited the Southern California (SoCal) region. They were hunter gatherers who lived in the California coastlands and adjacent inland areas from Malibu northward to Estero Bay, and on the three northern Channel Islands off Santa Barbara.
It takes less than an hour from Santa Clarita and a little over an hour via the I-5 from Los Angeles to reach Lake Piru. Canyons and gorges surround Lake Piru in an extremely remote area with little to no developments. The Piru Canyon Road is the only road at Lake Piru, running along its eastern border. The Lake Piru Recreation Area is Lake Piru’s only park.
How deep is Lake Piru, California?
The Lake Peru Recreation Area has one campground, The Olive Grove Campground, and two group campsites. The United Water Conservation District (UWCD) owns and operates Lake Piru. Over the years, Lake Piru has suffered droughts and floods, and parts or all of it may be closed at times.
Lake Piru is 130 to 160-feet deep and covers 1,240 acres when full, with 12 miles of shoreline.
Can You Still Swim at Lake Piru?
The UWCD determines safety conditions at Lake Piru. It may, at certain times of the year, close the lake to swimming, parts or all of it to boating and water sports, and roads. The UWCD website lists all the closings and boating and swimming notices.
Visitors can swim in Lake Piru during season if UWCD is permitting swimming that year. Its season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. As of September 9, 2023, Lake Piru is closed to swimming until Memorial Day 2024.
Does Lake Piru Allow Dogs?
The UWCD allows dogs in the recreation area but not in the water.
How full is Lake Piru Right Now?
The Piru Creek, a tributary of the Santa Clara River, and other creeks feed Lake Piru. Until spring 2023, SoCal experienced a years-long drought. Over the years, Lake Piru has had its ups and downs concerning its water level.
The SoCal 2023 spring floods filled Lake Piru in 2023 to 311% over its full capacity. On September 29, 2023, Lake Piru was 307% over its full capacity.
When Did Lake Piru Open?
Lake Piru is the only lake in Ventura county that allows swimming if conditions are safe. Based on historical newspaper accounts, development of the Piru Canyon began in the 1880s. David C. Cook founded the town of Piru in 1887 after purchasing 14,000 acres in Piru Canyon.
In 1955, construction of the Santa Felicia Dam began over Piru Creek, which created Lake Piru. Cook built miles of roads and irrigation ditches for his farm, where he grew almonds, apricots, chestnuts, grapes, olive trees, oranges, English walnuts, and other crops.
Does Lake Piru Have Bears?
Lake Piru supports habitats for a diverse species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and birds. Lake Piru attracts migratory birds like eagles, hawks, and other species that fly into breed and feed. It attracts anglers for its largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, redear sunfish, and rainbow trout.
Yes, bears live at Lake Piru, along with bobcats, deer, ducks, geese, mountain lions, ospreys, and many other wildlife species. Quagga mussel infestations cause problems at Lake Piru and across California by clogging pipes used for drinking water, irrigation and hydropower.
Why Is Lake Piru Notorious for Drownings?
There are several reasons why Lake Piru is known for a high rate of drownings. Swimmers of all abilities need to wear life vests approved by the U.S. Coast Guard in Lake Piru. Even the strongest swimmer can find themselves easily overwhelmed, even though most people who have drowned were inexperienced swimmers.
A combination of strong afternoon winds and columns of cold water temperatures, dangerous whirlpools, drop-offs, and rip currents present a high-risk for drowning at Lake Piru. When a victim disappears in Lake Piru, it can take days, weeks, and sometimes months to recover their body.
Lake Piru’s high winds cause unstable boating conditions that can cause people to fall overboard and sweep swimmers too far out to get back to shore. Its waters are extremely choppy in the afternoon. Whirlpools form when opposite flowing currents collide and create a strong vortex.
The Santa Felicia Dam causes Lake Piru’s rip currents. UCWD stores water in Lake Piru in winter and spring, and releases water from the dam, if needed, in September and October. Swimmers can encounter drop-offs unexpectedly and a fast-moving current can pick them up as Lake Piru is extremely deep.
One man, wearing a life vest, drowned as a current or whirlpool pulled him under Lake Piru. Glee actress Naya Rivera disappeared under Lake Piru on July 8, 2020. Officials found her body floating in Lake Piru five days later. Lake Piru has low underwater visibility and a mesh of aquatic plants growing in the lake bed, which can hold on to drowning victims.
Boating Lake Piru
UWCD establishes boating regulations at Lake Piru. Boaters must follow its regulations or risk receiving a citation. Regulations can change throughout the year, and year to year.
The UWCD developed a Monitoring and Control Plan to contain the quagga mussel infestation. As part of that plan, a strict inspection policy is in effect for all watercraft entering and leaving Lake Piru. As of September 2023, only vessels entering Lake Piru are inspected, not leaving. Failure to undergo an inspection prior to launch may result in a citation.
Boaters should download and print the Lake Piru Vessel Inspection Permit Application. For more information, contact Lake Piru Rangers office at 805 521-1201 or United Water Conservation District at 805 525 4431.
There are separate high-speed boating and fishing areas. The maximum speed limit on the lake is 35 MPH. Boats must be between 12-feet and 26-feet long. Canoes and kayaks over eight feet long are permitted in the special-use area.
The UWCD allows personal watercraft (PWC) and motorized boats up to 26 feet in length. It allows 20 PWCs at Lake Piru at a time.
The UWCD allows water skiing, wakeboarding, and fishing. Lake Piru offers three boat ramps and docks with 66 boat slips.
Strong winds at Lake Piru make it a popular location for sailing. Winds typically pick up after 10 AM.
There are separate Olive Grove Campground fees and day use fees for boats and PWCs.
Tommy’s Boat Rentals provides boat, ski, surf board, tube, and wakeboards rentals at Lake Piru.