Posted by: cvancil | April 17, 2009

Possibilities: Santa Margarita Lake Park

Another great place to set up your tent and roll out those dusty sleeping bags is Santa Margarita Lake Park. Originally created by the Salinas Dam to supply water Camp San Luis Obispo in 1941, the lake now provides endless enjoyment for locals and tourists alike. (Swimming is not permitted in the lake at it is the reservoir for San Luis Obispo.)

SLO County Parks says “Beyond the developed area of the park, Santa Margarita Lake Natural Area represents several thousand acres of designated open space. This section of the park is managed for its natural resource values, passive recreational use, and environmental education opportunities. The area is accessible to hikers, bicyclists and equestrians. Motor vehicles are not permitted in the Natural Area. Santa Margarita Lake Regional Park is a nature lover’s retreat. With thousands of acres of unspoiled open space, the park is home to countless species of plants and wildlife making it the perfect location for nature study, boating, and fishing.”

There are 67 primitive campsites (which means no hook-ups) in the area and reservations can be made up to one year in advance. There is excellent fishing in the lake. Your line is likely to catch a bass,redear , trout, catfish, bluegill, and more. There is also a swimming pool available for recreational use. It is open from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, and you can contact the Santa Margarita Lake office forhourse of operations. For a nominal fee, you can reserve the pool for get-togethers (2 hour minimum).

The follwing information is from the San Luis Obisbo County State Park website. I hope you find it useful and that it leads you to enjoy all that Santa Margarita Lake Park has to offer!

Driving north or south on Highway 101 take the Highway 58 exit into Santa Margarita. Follow thru town and look for Highway 58 signs. At the end of town you will turn right onto Highway 58. This is also referred to as Santa Margarita Lake Road orPozo Road. Follow this road for approximately 6 miles to Santa Margarita Lake Road. Do NOT turn left onto Highway 58. You want to continue straight until you get to Santa Margarita Lake Road. Turn left (theRinconada Store will be on your right). Entrance to Santa Margarita Lake is at the end of this road.

Primary access to the Natural Area is from River Road at the east end of the lake. Take Pozo Road about eight miles southeast of Santa Margarita Lake road, turn left on River Road, and proceed for about two miles. The entrance is on the left.

As of October 7, 2008 Santa Margarita Lake’s water level is at 80.4% (surface acres). Info:

There are 60 primitive campsites (no hook-ups) and reservations can be made up to one year in advance. Campsites are located in the Coyote, Roadrunner, Grey Pine, and Osprey campgrounds TheSapwi and Khus campgrounds are primitive boat-in sites that can be reserved by individuals or groups (up to five sites maximum).

Santa Margarita Lake is noted for its excellent fishing and peaceful boating. Cast your line into Santa Margarita Lake and you’ll find hungryredear , striped bass, trout, catfish, crappie and bluegill. Fish from shore, use one of the launch ramps, or try your luck from a boat or canoe.

Individual picnic sites with shade, ample seating, larger barbecues and other amenities are found throughout the park. The White Oak group day-use picnic area is perfect for family reunions, company picnics, clubbarbeques or special events, and can be reserved year-round. the park also hosts a vast range of hiking and riding trails which offer breath-taking views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

The Santa Margarita Lake Swimming Pool is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Contact the Santa Margarita Lake Office for hours of operation.

(Picture courtesy of San Luis Obispo County Parks website.)



  1. Not depending on the Salinas Dam- a new dam was made for this lake only in the late 50s/early 1960s. I organized the landowners to construct the dam and original park facilities as private people before they sold the property as a whole- to avoid the Sierra Club’s extortion demand of $2 million. I cut out the “primitive” campsites and the boat ramp and some other building, no charge.

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