Cali Paddler Explorations - Lake Elsinore

Cali Paddlers are known for their passion of exploration. A desire to paddle our waters, and pay respects to the amazing wildlife and nature that lives in our waterways. Please enjoy this series of articles, broaden your paddling horizons and explore this amazing state! ~C.P.

CP Exlorations - Lake ElsinoreLake Elsinore is the largest natural freshwater body in Southern California.  It is not a reservoir nor is it created by engineering.  Since it is owned by the city of Lake Elsinore, it’s main purpose is recreation.

In 2013 the State of California Department of Boating and Waterways granted money to the city for an Aquatic Center.  The last two years has provided lessons of both Kayaking and Stand up paddle boarding to the local youth clubs and residents of the neighboring communities.  2017 promises to increase the number of lessons offered.  

Being a natural lake means there are natural problems such as when the whole state is in a drought.  But this past winter of La Nina  storms put the lake at a level that it has not seen in the past 5 years.  The birds, wildlife, fish and people are back.

CP Explorations - Lake Elsinore

The prevailing winds flow off the Ortega Mountains, also known as the Cleveland National Forest, in the afternoon.  Because all paddlecraft has to stay within the bouys, doing a downwinder from west to east is not possible nor is it safe.  The best time to paddle is in the morning.  Enjoy the natural preserves in the coves on the south side of the lake.  Paddle intervals around the bouys for your preperation for race day. The local birds, as well as the migrating species, are fun to watch.  Like to fish?  Lake Elsinore is stocked with several types and hundreds of fish including Bass, catfish, and crappie.

Summer time heat is something you have to plan for.  There is no ocean breeze at the lake.  When the winds pick up, there is some cooling but we are still talking 90 to 95 degrees.  Bring something to wear on your feet.  Your feet will thank you for saving them from the sharp little pebbles within the sand and the temperature of the day is directly felt on your feet when barefooted. Hydrate, sunscreen, hats, glasses and protection for your board are mandatory.  

CP Explorations - Lake Elsinore

Rules and Tips and Launch Areas

Paddlecraft traffic for Lake Elsinore is to stay within the bouys which circles the 14 mile perimeter of the lake.  Traffic direction for powerboats and personal watercraft (jet skis) is counter clockwise.  The lake is patrolled by the Riverside County Sheriffs, CalFire and the Lake Elsinore Marine Search and Rescue team which are Sheriffs volunteers.  Take off from Elm Grove Beach or La Laguna.  Watch the birds, paddle within the preserves and enjoy getting away from the stress of life.  Paddling a lake is truly different from the bay or open ocean.  There is something about Lake Elsinore being fully natural that allows you to enter a space of solitude that only the local birds know about.

CP Explorations - Lake Elsinore


The Aquatic Center wants everyone to bring their paddle craft to Lake Elsinore.  Don’t have any paddle craft?  Then take a lesson and and use ours.  Or rent ours if you already know how to paddle.

CP Explorations - Lake Elsinore


There is camping at Lake Elsinore.  Both RV and tent.  The city is pouring 11 million into updating the campground and it should be ready by 2018.  For this year, the city has built YURTS.  Which are stationary shelters on a platform for sleeping. 

The drive to Lake Elsinore, with some traffic, is aproximately 2 hours from Orange and San Diego countys and parts of Los Angeles and San Bernadino are less than 90 minutes.


There are two places in which to launch.  La Laguna and Elm Grove.  La Laguna is off of Riverside Drive and will be the first entrance headng north into the Lake from Ortega Highway (HWY 74).    If you are going to be taking a lesson or renting a board or boat, the entrance is free.  Otherwise it is $10.  It is another $20 if you decide you want to bring a powerboat with you.  Check on-line with the City’s website for Aquatic Center programs.  Cityoflakeelsinore/aquaticand

Elm Grove is a city beach and has free parking along Lakeside Drive.  The beach is rarely crowded, especially compared to Southern California ocean beaches.  In the summer on Friday nights the local semi -pro baseball team has a fireworks display.  And then there is the Fourth of July celebration on the Lake which includes a festival and parade down Main Street.  Which is only a mile away.

CP Explorations - Lake Elsinore


Main Street and Riverside Drive are near both launch sites and both have a variety of restaurants and shops.  Its hard to recommend just one.  But if in the mood for some local craft beer or wine try Main Street Kitchen.  Main Street is the exit off the I-15 freeway if coming from San Diego or San Bernadino.  Main Street leads you directly into the lake, although you will want to turn right unto Limited Street to get to Elm Grove Beach.  Continue on Lakeshore Drive to Riverside Drive for La Laguna if you are not up for driving Ortega Highway.



Team Writer Kelly ByrneTeam Writer Kelly Byrne - Submitted by Kelly Byrne of the Lake Elsinore Aquatic Center.  Cali Paddler SoCal Inland Empire Chapter member and truly depressed if not near a body of water.

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