Discover the Serenity of Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve: A Nature Lover’s Paradise

Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve

Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve is a hidden gem in Southern California in the Cajalco Canyon, located in the foothills of the Temescal Mountains. Mountains, lakes, forests, and other breathtaking natural features may be found throughout this 10,000-acre reserve.

Additionally, it is a haven for wildlife, with more than 200 bird, mammal, and reptile species making the reserve their home.

The Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve is a testament to the region’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty and biodiversity. However, the reservoir is fenced around to prevent the public from gaining access hence protecting the cleanliness of the water.

The Reserve is the ideal location whether you’re searching for a spot to hike, camp, fish, or just relax and enjoy nature’s beauty.

Things You Should Know About Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve

Discover the Serenity of Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve: A Nature Lover's Paradise

Here below are some things you should know about the Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve:

  • The width of Lake Mathews varies, but at its widest point, it measures approximately 2.5 miles (4 kilometres).
  • The reservoir is home to diverse wildlife, including deer, coyotes, bobcats, bird species, and reptiles.
  • Lake Mathews has a length of around 5.5 miles (8.8 kilometres) from north to south.
  • The reservoir has a water volume of about 182,000 acre-feet. And an average depth of approximately 150 ft (46 meters).
  • The lake features several small islands scattered throughout its waters.
  • The Santa Ana River and other local streams primarily feed the reservoir.
  • Lake Mathews serves as a vital water supply for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
  • Beautiful mountain ranges, including Estelle Mountain, give the area its name.
  • Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve is protected as a conservation area, promoting preserving its ecological balance and biodiversity.

Brief History and Background

Discover the Serenity of Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve: A Nature Lover's Paradise

The Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve is a significant conservation area in Riverside County, California, United States of America. It was established in the early 1900s, several decades ago. 

The reservoir covers approximately 182,000 acres and is home to diverse flora and fauna, including rare and endangered species.

Known initially as Cajalco Reservoir, the land was purchased by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) in 1932 to create a reservoir to meet the region’s growing water demands.

The construction of the Lake Mathews dam began in 1936 and was completed in 1939. The reservoir was named after W.B. Mathews, the MWD’s general manager.

Over the years, the area around the lake was designated as a protected reserve, primarily to safeguard its ecological importance and maintain water quality.

Hence the need to restrict the public from gaining access. The reserve has since become a vital habitat for numerous plant and animal species, contributing significantly to regional biodiversity and environmental preservation efforts.

Location and Access

Lake Matthews is about 14 miles southeast of Riverside; the Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve boasts a strategic location easily accessible from various nearby cities.

Visitors can take Interstate 15 and exit at Cajalco Road to access the lake and reserve. Head east on Cajalco Road and turn right onto La Sierra Avenue. Continue on La Sierra Avenue until you reach the entrance of the reserve.

However, whether you’re arriving from Los Angeles, San Diego, or Riverside, well-maintained roads and clear signage make it a breeze to reach the reserve.

Due to its commitment to preserving natural habitats, the reserve strictly adheres to designated operating hours, and visitors are encouraged to plan their trips accordingly.

You may like to check out Things to Consider for a Smooth Travel Experience.

3 Best Things you can do at Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve

#1. Wildlife Watching

Discover the Serenity of Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve: A Nature Lover's Paradise

One of the most striking features of Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve is its diverse and vibrant flora. The reserve is home to many plant species, including rare and endangered ones that have found a sanctuary within its boundaries.

From the picturesque wildflowers that bloom during the spring to the majestic oak and sycamore trees that provide shade during the summer, the reserve’s plant life offers an ever-changing landscape.

Accompanying the rich flora is a thriving fauna, showcasing an intricate web of life. Birdwatchers can delight in observing various avian species that inhabit the reserve, including migratory birds, during certain times of the year.

Here is a list of animals you can find in the reservoir:

  • Deer,
  • Bobcats
  • Rabbits
  • Coyotes
  • Fish (largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, and bluegill)
  • Other small mammals also inhabit the area, adding to the biodiversity within the reserve’s protected confines.

#2. Camping

Discover the Serenity of Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve: A Nature Lover's Paradise

Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve is a fantastic location for camping. The reserve has several campgrounds with both RV and tent camping options. Every campground requires a reservation.

The reserve is an excellent spot to enjoy the outdoors since it has beautiful scenery, wildlife, and various activities. Visitors can hike, fish, boat, picnic, and see animals.

Camping at the Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve is a beautiful way to enjoy Southern California’s natural splendour and get close to nature.

Here are some of the benefits of camping at Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve:

  • Stunning scenery: The reserve is home to mountains, lakes, and forests.
  • Abundant wildlife: Over 200 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles call the reserve home.
  • Variety of activities: Visitors can hike, fish, wildlife watching, boat, and picnic.
  • Family-friendly: The reserve is a great place to camp with kids.
  • Affordable: Camping at Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve is a relatively affordable option.

The Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a picturesque and reasonably priced camping area in Southern California. So why are you still waiting? Prepare for your camping excursion right away!

#3. Hiking near the reserve

Discover the Serenity of Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve: A Nature Lover's Paradise

Hiking in Southern California is fantastic at the Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve. More than 20 miles of trails have options for all skill levels.

Some of the best trails include:

  • Ernie Maxwell Loop Trail: This 4-mile loop trail offers stunning views of the lake and mountains.
  • Hidden Valley Trail: This 3-mile out-and-back trail leads to a secluded valley with a waterfall.
  • Sycamore Canyon Trail: This 6-mile loop trail offers a variety of terrain, including forests, meadows, and canyons.

No matter your skill level, a trail at Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve is perfect for you. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your hiking trip today!

Read more on the Best Hikes and Trails to Do Near Toronto.

Why Lake Mathews Is Not Open to the Public

Since Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve was established in 1940, the reservoir has been off-limits to the public, purportedly to protect water quality.

The Metropolitan Water District (MWD), responsible for water supply to over 8.5 million people, is deeply concerned about maintaining water quality. Thus, body contact sports like swimming are prohibited in the nearby reservoirs open for recreation.

Over the years, various attempts have been made to gain access to Mathews Reservoir for different purposes, but they have failed.

Notably, in 1952, a movie shoot was requested to feature a volcanic scene on one of the lake’s islands, but the MWD Board turned the idea down. The filmmakers then created a replica on a studio backlot instead.

However, the bill was eventually withdrawn as research indicated that strong agreements were in place, preventing public access. Pursuing the bill could have led to prolonged and expensive legal battles.

Things You Can Do If Lake Mathews Wasn’t Restricted From the Public

Assuming Lake Mathews wasn’t restricted from the public, you can do many things within the reservoir, ranging from fishing to hiking to birdwatching and lots more. 

Lake Mathews would have been an excellent place for fishing enthusiasts who would love to explore the clear waters for various fish species, such as bass, catfish and trout. 

The spot would have also been a good option for those who love boating, including kayaking, canoeing, sailing and paddle boarding.

Furthermore, the clean water would have been leisurely suitable for those who love swimming to cool off to beat the heat during the summer months. 

Other recreational activities visitors can carry out within the reservoir include picnicking, hiking, photography, camping, astronomy, hosting events and festivals, nature walks, birdwatching etc.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Lake Mathews Open to the Public?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions by tourists and visitors. However, it may not be easy to come up with an answer to this very question.

Well, from our research, some sources claim that Lake Mathews has always been restricted from public access, but this may only be true some around, as some areas of the reservoir are open to visitors while others may be restricted.

For example, the official website for Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve says the reserve is open to the public for day use only. In this case, it is assumed that some lake areas are not accessible to the public.

However, to be on the safer side, it is recommended that you check with the Reserve or other local authorities before your visit to avoid disappointment.

What Is Lake Mathews Water Used For?

As the name of the lake implies, Lake Mathews, located in Riverside County, serves as one of the largest water reservoirs for the people of Southern California.

The reservoir is known to be a significant source of clean water to over 8.5 million people, including other inhabiting plants and animals, and that is one reason why the owners (Metropolitan Water District of Southern California) have decided to restrict the public from gaining access.

Drinking clean water is as vital as eating good food. And for this purpose, Lake Mathews has been kept closed since its establishment, limiting any recreational activities in the reservoir.

Is Lake Mathews Worth Visiting?

Yes, Lake Mathews is worth visiting whether as a tourist, explorer, or what have you. The location is one of the most beautiful places you will love to visit in Southern California.

Accompanied by the fact that it is a rich tourist centre, there are several activities you can perform to make your visit exciting and memorable. 

You could decide to swim in the clear water, go hiking, board a boat, etc. And if you visit with your family, you can as well host an event, organize a picnic section and spend quality time together feeling the greatness of mother nature. 

Before You Go…

The Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve is an ecstatic place to behold with its many worth-seeing views. Its diverse ecosystems, breathtaking landscapes, and abundant wildlife remind us of the irreplaceable value of protected areas.

Though some claim that it is restricted from the public, it is also possible that people can gain access to some areas of this precious sanctuary during the day.

So when next you find yourself in California, make sure you make out some time to explore the beauty of one of California’s largest water reserves. 

Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and reconnect with nature. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your visit today!



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