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. Thank you to Bret Warner from Stand up to Alzheimer’s for exploring this great state and sharing new areas to paddle. -C.P.
If you live in Southern California then chances are you have been stuck in afternoon traffic on the 210 and passed by the massive Miller/Coors factory. It is, after all, hard to miss its mammoth containers lining the freeway that proudly bear the companies name and logo. Regardless of any possible beer snobbery, I could see how this factory typifies the urban sprawl that lies east of LA. What also typifies inland SoCal, however, is that there is a nature escape right behind the factory where you can easily forget that you are in the middle of the city.
This is the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area. It’s a small lake, small enough so that power boats are not allowed, in the city of Irwindale. The lack of powerboats, however, ensures its glassiness the majority of the time. It is not a particularly windy area so it is one of those spots that is often so glassy you can encounter your own wake right after you turn around. Additionally, the lake is still big enough to get moving and get a good workout. One lap around the lake is a little over a mile and a half.
The calmness of the lake and the urban escape it offers are not the only positive aspects of the area either. Like other LA county lakes it has trails, picnic areas, and play structures for those in the family who may not want to do continuous paddle laps. In fact, one of my best memories of this lake is not from paddling, but from before the LA Dragon Boat festival started when I saw at least 20 high school age kids playing on one of the play structures together without any care of judgment.
That also leads to another important aspect of the lake. It is the practice site for the DPW Dragon Boat team. I have only been able to practice with them one time, but they were incredibly welcoming. For those who haven’t tried dragon boating it is a great workout, like any form of paddling, that also cultivates a great sense of teamwork. The glide you feel when that big boat starts to plane is pretty awesome as well.
Parking - $10 and launching a craft is $7. Parking is free Monday - Friday in the WInter months. You can get an annual pass for either of these fees that is also good to get into Bonelli Park and Lake Castaic.
Food and Coffee - There are several places just across the street from the entrance. Mostly fast food, and nothing that would make me drive over just for food, but you won’t leave hungry either.
Rigging Space/Launching Areas - There are several spaces where the “shore” is cement and/or rocks. Be careful you do not end up launching there if you are worried about any scratches. If you park in parking lot 3 you will be at the swim beach, which you likely can’ launch from in crowded times, but I have launched from there in the mornings and on weekdays without any problems. There is plenty of grassy space and beach space to set up your paddling craft.
DPW Dragon Boat Team Contact info
Head Coach: Nathan Salazar
Website - www.facebook.com/teamdpw
Practice times: Fri - Sun mornings from 7:30-9:30
Team Writer Bret Warner - Paddling truly got its hooks into me when I, on a whim, watched the 1999 Santa Cruz Paddlefest with my dad. I had kayaked a little before, but from then on the addiction was palpable. My first kayak, a purple and turquoise Necky Rip, came soon after. The following year I was that kid at UCSD who had a surf kayak in the common study area instead of a surfboard in my dorm room. I also taught sea kayaking all through college in San Diego, and up in Santa Cruz after I graduated.
When SUP came around, however, the paddling addiction became even more rabid. The garage started to fill up with different types of boards, and is now more than half full of hollow wood boards I have built myself,both for environmental reasons, and because it’s awesome to get to talk about how you built your own board when people ask you about it after a race. I love the paddle racing scene in California right now. Everyone is so stoked to be on the water competing, and the fierce competition is matched by the smiling faces when the race is over. I have gotten to paddle crafts that I never really considered before, and can see myself getting hooked all over again on something else: prone, OC-1, surfski,whatever, I just need more garage space.
Three years ago I founded the non-profit Stand up to Alzheimer’s. An organization that raises money and awareness for Alzheimer’s research through paddle races. This organization was born from lacking a tangible way of dealing with my father’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, but has now become a way, hopefully, for other to help cope as well. Our next event is on July 9 in Monterey at Del Monte Beach, just a little north from Monterey Bay Kayaks. Visit us at www.sup2alzh.weebly.com.