Despite days of record-setting heat in recent weeks, the crisp nighttime air says winter is on the way, but that doesn’t mean an end to recreational activities at Cachuma Lake Recreation Area, which could offer a cure for those experiencing holiday overload.

Activities offered at the lake in December range from outdoor “on your own” recreation to more structured year-round nature programs outdoor and indoor fun at the Neal Taylor Nature Center.

Here’s a look at what’s in store for those seeking a break from the traditional holiday fare.

Outdoors on your own

For people who enjoy fishing, a total of 16,000 pounds of rainbow trout will be planted in the lake by May, officials said.

The first 4,000-pound plant took place Nov. 9, and another is slated for mid-December, followed by a third in March and a fourth in May under a private stocking permit County Parks was granted in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The triploid trout from Mt. Lassen Trout Farms range in size from half-pound “catchables” to 8-pound “trophy fish.”

In addition to rainbow trout, the lake supports large- and smallmouth bass, crappie and channel catfish.

Fishing from shore in the campground or from a boat is open all year with a valid state fishing license.

For more information about fishing and trout plants, visit

Bow fishing for carp also is permitted at Cachuma Lake. Permits are free and can be obtained at the lake.

More information and regulations for carp bow fishing are available at

Park rangers noted boat inspection and quarantine requirements are in place to prevent such invasive species as quagga mussels from entering the lake, so those planning to launch a boat at the lake should visit for an explanation of procedures.

For those unable to meet the quarantine requirements, Cachuma Lake Marina rents motorboats, party boats, pontoon boats, kayaks and canoes as well as boat slips.

One-day fishing licenses, bait and tackle are also available.

The marina is open from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 1 through 15 and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 16 through 31.

For prices and specific times, call 688-4040.

Self-guided hikes, golfing

If fishing isn’t your thing, the park has four miles of trails for self-guided hikes, and a trail guide is available at the front gate.

For information about trails and hiking, call 688-4515 or go to

Numerous hiking trails are available in Los Padres National Forest within a 15 minute drive of Cachuma Lake.

For people who want an activity that combines hiking with certain athletic skills, an 18-hole championship-level disc golf course is now open among the old-growth oaks at the lake, park officials said.

The course is designed to challenge expert and recreational players yet still be enjoyable for kids and beginners, officials said.

Each hole along the 2.25-mile course has multiple basket positions, so players may find the course different each time they return.

The course begins and ends in front of the Cachuma Store, where players can pick up a course map, a new disc and provisions.

Although fishing, hiking and playing disc golf are free, an admission fee of $10 per vehicle is charged at the recreation area entrance.

Organized activities

Nature programs are offered year-round at Cachuma Lake. Some are free, while others have a nominal charge. Programs offered in December are:

• Two-Hour Winter Wildlife Cruises — 10 a.m. to noon Friday, Saturday and Sunday and 2 to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday; for adults and children age 5 and older; reservations required.

A Santa Barbara County Parks naturalist leads the two-hour cruises that focus on wildlife, including local and migratory birds, specifically highlighting both resident and visiting bald eagles. The naturalist also provides interesting information on flora, geology and cultural history.

The cost is $10 for children ages 5 to 12 and $15 for children age 13 up through adults in addition to the $10-per-vehicle park admission fee.

For reservations, call 568-2460 on weekdays and 686-5055 on weekends. For more information, call the naturalist office at 688-4515 or visit and click on “Nature Cruises.”

Private cruises outside regularly scheduled times may also be arranged by calling the naturalist office.

• Nature Walk — 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays or by scheduled appointment; limited to 20 participants on a first-come, first-serve basis.

A Santa Barbara County park naturalist or trained interpretive guide leads the easy-paced half-mile walks that start at the Neal Taylor Nature Center.

The walks are free with the $10-per-vehicle park admission fee paid.

To schedule a walk on a different day or at a different time or to arrange a walk for a large group, call 688-4515 in advance to check availability.

• Junior Ranger Program — 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays; must meet at the Neal Taylor Nature Center before 12:30 p.m.; limited to 30 participants on a first-come, first-serve basis; reservations recommended.

Kids will earn a badge with the help of a county park naturalist as they learn about wildlife and care of the natural environment.

The cost is $3 per child in addition to the $10-per-vehicle park admission fee.

For groups of 10 or more, to schedule a private session or for more information, call 688-4515. More information is also available on the Calendar of Events at

Fun in the Nature Center

Exhibits and hands-on displays for all ages feature local wildlife, birds, plant life, geology and local history in the Neal Taylor Nature Center, located in the historical white ranch house behind the Cachuma Lake General Store.

In addition to a gift and book shop, the Nature Center offers special programs for kids. Some are interesting to adults as well.

• Trout in the Classroom — Throughout December in the Fish Exhibit Hallway, visitors can see rainbow trout develop from tiny fertilized eggs into fish that will ultimately be released into the wild.

The program is co-sponsored by the Santa Barbara Flyfishing Club and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

• Nature Center Detectives — This fun scavenger hunt for all ages is available whenever the Nature Center is open.

The center is usually open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, but it will be closed on the Sundays of Dec. 24 and 31.

Both Trout in the Classroom and Nature Center Detectives are free with the $10-per-vehicle park admission fee.

For more information about the Nature Center, call 693-0691, check the park’s bulletin boards or visit

This report was compiled by News Editor Mike Hodgson. He can be reached at