Fish and Flowers Flourish at Diamond Valley Lake in Spring

Famous fishing destination, Diamond Valley Lake, also known as The Diamond, is ready to test all levels of fishing skills this Spring. Rainbow trout are stocked on a regular basis but the reservoir is also home to black bass, striped bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, and both blue and channel catfish. During this season, the fish are spawning and more active, and largemouth bass remain in the shallow water. These current conditions at Diamond Valley Lake, a manmade reservoir in the Santa Ana River watershed, attract fishermen from across the globe. Anglers often pull in 4-5 pound largemouths but some truly giant fish weighing in at more than 10 pounds can be caught in April and May, before the hot summer sun forces the fish to find cooler deeper water. Entrance to the lake is $9 per car, a fishing license can be obtained for $3 per person, and you can even rent a boat at the marina.

Spring is also the perfect time to experience the beauty of wildflowers at The Diamond. Many varieties such as Baby Blue Eyes, Owl’s Clover, Canterbury Bells and the California Poppies cover the surrounding hills. With so many beautiful flowers to see, it’s no surprise that hiking is a popular pastime at The Diamond, with well-marked trails, some of which also allow non-motorized bicycles and horses. For adventurous hikers, there is a 21.8 mile complete lake loop that requires you to carry your own water supply as there is no accessible water on the trail. Shorter hikes like the North Hills Trail (6 miles) and the Flower Trail (1.3 miles) give visitors access to flower-viewing with less walking. Be sure to stay on the trails; too much activity on the trails and surrounding land caused temporary closures of the Flower Trail in previous years. Dogs are not permitted on these trails. Check out the Diamond Lake website for other restrictions, trail maps and park hours.

With proper planning, an enjoyable Spring day on an April weekend can be spent at Diamond Lake in Hemet before the flowers fade and the big fish move out to deeper water.

Three Ways to Spring into Action

While the calendar shows March 20 as the first day of Spring, for many people the start of Daylight Saving Time (March 11) signals the beginning of the new season. Moving the clock forward an hour for this seasonal shift is often a reminder to freshen up our homes after winter with a spring cleaning. Well, why not the watershed, too? The extra hour of daylight and the warmer weather offer plenty of opportunities to make a difference at one of the watersheds in Riverside County.

Choose one (or all!) of these activities to spring into action this month:

  • Community Clean Up Day: Organizations like Keep Riverside Clean & Beautiful and Clean LE (Lake Elsinore) host clean up events during the Spring to pick up litter at parks, on streets and in waterways. Be a #WatershedWarrior and volunteer on a weekend morning to gather and dispose of the trash that might otherwise end up in the watersheds.
  • Free Bulky Item Drop Off: Many communities throughout Riverside County will be holding free drop off days for bulky trash items in March. After you clean out your house, you can take any used furniture, broken appliances, outdated electronics and old mattresses for free disposal to a location near you. Check out the Riverside County Department of Waste Resources website for a list of unincorporated community locations or visit your city’s website.
  • Learn to Compost at Home: Take a free backyard composting class from Riverside County Department of Waste Resources to learn how to turn your grass clippings, leaves and food scraps into a high quality soil conditioner. This DIY technique will keep excess material out of the landfills and save you money on fertilizers and soil additives.

Early Rain Brings Out Santa Rosa Plateau’s Vernal Pools

The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve is a treat to hike in any season, with its 9,000 acres of protected land that boasts several different ecosystems, including woodlands and wetlands. For a special – and fleeting – delight this month, visit the seasonal vernal pools in this distinctive park within the Santa Margarita Watershed. January’s heavy winter showers have filled the pools early this year, and with little rain forecast in February and March, they aren’t expected to last long.

Vernal (derived from the Latin word for Spring) pools form when the wetlands receive substantial rainfall and the acres of coastal sage scrub and bunchgrass are covered in water. Basalt rock under the new mini lakes, some no bigger than large puddles, prevents the water from seeping deeper into the ground. These pools last until they evaporate in drier and hotter temperatures, and offer ideal conditions for wildlife such as pond turtles, spadefoot toads, garter snakes and fairy shrimp.

Shortly after the first rainfall, crustaceans called fairy shrimp emerge from the soil where they have lain dormant through the hot months. As they grow over the next few weeks, they become more visible. These translucent creatures look like something out of a science fiction film, adding to the ephemeral magic of the vernal pools.

The best way to reach the vernal pools is the nearly flat Vernal Pool Trail, which is the most popular trail during this time of the year. At the pools, a boardwalk will allow closer inspection of the water and its fauna while protecting the wildlife.

So grab your family and friends for a visit to the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve for a chance to see the fairy shrimp up close. Then come back in March or April for the wildflowers that bloom as the water recedes.

5 Ways to Love the Watershed With the One You Love

Typical dates for couples may include fancy restaurants, blockbuster movies, and theme parks but have you ever experienced our watersheds together? With three unique watersheds in Riverside County, there are plenty of opportunities for spending time with the one you love. Here are 5 ways you can create lasting romance in our watersheds:

  1. Volunteer: Working together side by side on a community service project is a great way to cement a relationship. Participate in a river trail clean up, plant trees, or remove invasive vegetation. Check the Schedule of Events or visit the Facebook page for upcoming activities.
  2. Exercise: From kayaking to hiking, Riverside County watersheds offer a diverse range of activities to keep you and your partner challenged. Grab your matching water bottles, skip the gym, and head outdoors.
  3. Picnic: Ready to break out of your usual restaurant routine? Can’t decide where to eat? Pack a lunch instead and head to the San Jacinto Mountains for a picnic. You will be amazed by how much better a meal can be when surrounded by nature rather than walls and tables. Be sure to pack out all your trash!
  4. Photoshoots: Nature makes a perfect backdrop, whether for engagement potraits or social media posts. Sunsets or sunrises, mountains, rivers or lakes, the scenery is always picturesque. Choose Lake Hemet, Whitewater River, or Lake Evans in Fairmount Park near downtown Riverside for great Instagram posts #CoupleGoals #InstaLove
  5. Relax: Ditch the sofa and binge watching. Instead, grab a blanket head to a Riverside County lake. Relax, enjoy the peace and quiet of nature, and spend time talking to each other, free of distraction.

Fall in love with, and in, our watersheds and make lasting memories for you and your partner.

Start the Year on Smooth Waters

January is an excellent time to visit Lake Perris, and enjoy the quiet of winter kayaking. Created in 1973 as a reservoir in the California State Water Project, this manmade lake is a popular destination in summer, and is often crowded with boats and jet skiers when the temps hit the 90s. In the early part of the year, however, fewer boats are out on the lake, making it ideal for kayaking in solitude.

Home to more than a hundred species of birds ranging from roadrunners to pelicans, Lake Perris provides enjoyable hours of bird watching while on the water. Make Alessandro Island, located nearly at the center of Lake Perris, your target and enjoy a hike, too. This island is a great place for a stopover with amenities such as picnic tables, grills, shade ramadas, and restrooms.

The park is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with boating hours from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Entry to the park is $10 per vehicle. There are additional fees for bringing in watercrafts; kayaks are free. If you don’t own a kayak, you can rent one. Rocky Mountain Recreation Company, the concessionaire at the Lake Perris Marina, offers kayaks, canoes and small boats to rent by the hour or all day.

Make the plunge into 2018 in a kayak with a winter paddle at Lake Perris.

Enjoy a White Christmas in Riverside County

If you are dreaming of a white Christmas, grab your scarves and mittens and head out to the San Jacinto Mountains for a Winter Wonderland. Although winter storms will occasionally bring snow to areas below 5000 feet in Riverside County, this Southern California mountain range is almost certain to have snow during December and January. The San Jacinto Mountains span the Whitewater River Watershed and the Santa Ana River Watershed with popular destinations in both watersheds to enjoy a day in the snow.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will take visitors 8,516 feet up Mt. San Jacinto to Mountain Station. From the Station, weather permitting, visitors can embark on miles of hiking trails in Mt San Jacinto State Park. When there is plenty of snow, the Winter Adventure Center is open and snowshoes or cross country ski equipment can be rented. Bring a sled and the kids, and enjoy a wonderful snow day without the long drive and crowded lines of major ski areas. Finish up your adventure with hot chocolate at Pines Café, with its amazing views of the valley below.

Pack for a day of fun but be sure to pack out everything as well. It’s important to remember that snow is the same as rainwater, and trash and debris left behind will end up in the watersheds.

Explore a Real Oasis in the Desert

You don’t have to slog for miles to find water in the desert with the Whitewater River, a year-round stream, just off Interstate 10. The best way to experience this waterway is by visiting the Whitewater Preserve, a beautiful oasis managed by The Wildlands Conservancy. Only a 30-minute drive from Palm Springs, the Whitewater Preserve spans more than 2,851 acres. The visitors’ facility is a renovated historic building from its time as a fish hatchery. There are picnic tables, shaded benches and two ponds with fish, making for a relaxing visit. Or you could choose to be more active by heading out on the trailhead that leads to the San Gorgonio Wilderness.

For the truly adventurous, you can access the Pacific Crest Trail and go 2,445 miles to Canada or 219 miles to Mexico! If you’re looking for a shorter hike, the Canyon View Loop Trail is 3.5 miles and a perfect hiking trail for beginners with excellent views of the canyon and riverbed crossings. There are many scenic spots for a picnic by the river or in the canyon.

The preserve is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Permits are required for camping, backcountry trip parking, and afterhours hiking. The preserve also hosts many free programs, but reservations are required.

The cooler winter temps make this a great season to enjoy beautiful desert landscape in the Whitewater River Watershed.

Fall in Love with the San Jacinto Mountains

Who says Southern California doesn’t have seasons? Grab a Pumpkin Spice Latte, pack a picnic and go visit the best autumn experience in Riverside County. The San Jacinto Mountains, from where much of the water flows in the Santa Ana River Watershed, are lush with opportunity for enjoying fall foliage in places like the Idyllwild Nature Center, Hurkey Creek Park, and Lake Hemet. These rustic locales are the perfect places to see leaves that change color, catch some seasonal sights, and have an adventure close enough for a weekend drive.

The Idyllwild Nature Center is a great place to start your fall tour with its serene setting, perfect for relaxing. Or you can choose to be more active by going hiking, biking, or horseback riding on several of the beautiful trails. The area also has a wide variety of trees that are sure to get you in the mood of the season.

Hurkey Creek Park, located in Mt. San Jacinto State Park, is another great getaway with a seasonal creek, regal pine trees, and stunning mountain views. There are opportunities for fishing, picnicking, and hiking. For the Weekend Warrior types, there is a 10-mile bike course that is used for mountain biking competitions each year.

A mile away in Lake Hemet, a popular spot in Southern California for camping and fishing, is a place where you will want to have your camera at the ready. The year-round beauty of the lake is breathtaking, brimming with wildlife like majestic eagles and hawks, and the early fall is a great time to see the colors of the new season.

The San Jacinto Mountains have enough fall-time bliss to keep you there for the weekend. Enjoy the season in the Santa Ana River Watershed and all the natural beauty that it has to offer. Just remember to recycle that coffee cup, or any other trash, while you are enjoying the scenery.

Watersheds and Human Choices

The way we treat our watersheds does not just affect us, but also all of the wildlife that we share the planet with. Earth Science Week 2017 (October 8-14, 2017) aims to spread awareness about “Earth and Human Activity,” and is a good reminder of the impact we have on our watersheds and why it matters.

All kinds of species can become extinct or threatened if their environment is disrupted. Some examples from Riverside County include the Riverside Fairy Shrimp, the Santa Ana Sucker, and the Western Pond Turtle which have all been placed on the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Riverside Fairy Shrimp

Riverside Fairy Shrimp can be found after rainy seasons in vernal pools, temporary pools of rainwater that collect in shallow depressions. During the dry season, their eggs are cysts that can survive in soil until rainwater refills the pools. Trash, litter and illegal dumping can degrade or even destroy the areas that collect the rainwater these crustaceans rely on to survive. The Riverside Fairy Shrimp has only been found in a few areas, notably Riverside County. Keeping our watersheds healthy protects this tiny creature.

The Sana Ana Sucker

The Santa Ana Sucker is a freshwater fish that is native to California. These fish inhabit the urban areas of Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. Their decline highlights a need to ensure the health of Southern California’s watersheds since it is likely due to the lack of clean water.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have approved a recovery plan for the fish that includes reestablishing the Sucker’s habitat and providing additional areas of high-quality habitat in each of the inhabited watersheds.

Western Pond Turtle

The Western Pond Turtle is California’s only native fresh water turtle. They are typically found in lakes, streams or ponds with lots of aquatic vegetation. Their species has become threatened due to disease, aquatic habitat destruction, and the introduction of predators. Waterways they inhabit have been disrupted by contaminant spills, grazing, and off-road vehicle use. The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in the Santa Margarita Watershed is one protected home for some of the remaining turtles.

You can protect these endangered species by helping keep our watersheds clean and reporting any signs of major pollution or major drought. Join the effort in keeping our precious species alive.

Giddy Up This Summer

With more than 13,000 acres of open space and breathtaking views of surrounding vistas, Diamond Valley Lake has become a prime destination for horse trail enthusiasts. This historic part of the Santa Margarita River Watershed gives nature admirers and equestrians alike a chance to explore the ecologically diverse terrain.

Surrounding Diamond Valley Lake, the 5.9 Mile North Hill trail connects two 5- acre trailheads at the north and northeast end of the lake. The western trailhead offers a picnic area, watering troughs, and available space for horse trailers and additional parking

If you are an early riser, you can try and beat the heat as the park opens 30 minutes after the sun rises. With a small fee of $5, you will be able to have a full day of fun without breaking the bank. For most riders the average trail time is 2 hours, but riding along the north hills overlooking the San Jacinto Valley is a view that could keep you there all day.

Don’t have a horse? Diamond Valley Lake Equestrian Center will allow you to spend time with well-trained, gentle horses for all levels of riders. The Center also provides lessons, training, summer camps, and guided trail excursions along the lake.

So quit horsing around and give the beautiful Diamond Valley Lake a visit!

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