Lake Elsinore, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - Inland Empire -

Cradled at the foot of the Ortega Mountains and at the entrance to the Cleveland National Forest, Lake Elsinore enjoys an ideal location. At about 3,300 acres, the lake also holds the title of largest natural freshwater lake in southern California. Boasting a temperate climate year-round and known for its diverse water offerings, the lake has gained a following of visitors and area residents that enjoy all that the Lake Elsinore has to offer.

The greater Lake Elsinore area was inhabited by Native Americans before the white settlers arrival in the 1800s. In 1888, the town of Lake Elsinore was incorporated, enjoying a location convenient to the nearby natural lake. By the early 1900s, the lake had become a popular destination for celebrities to enjoy the warm California sun and refreshing lake waters. Unfortunately, Lake Elsinore’s water levels are unstable, fluctuating from excessive evaporation during drought periods to flooding during periods of heavy rain. The lake last went dry in the 1960s and flooded in 1983, causing significant damage. The Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District took steps to stabilize water levels. A levee and an outlet channel were constructed to control flooding. During periods of too little rainfall, the District has supplemented water supplies with recycled water and water from refurbished lakeside wells.

Nature lovers will enjoy the over 460,000-acre Cleveland National Forest, home to the Sunrise Scenic Byway, many miles of well-maintained hiking trails, picturesque picnic locales, and everything from primitive campgrounds to trailer-friendly sites. Both amateur astronomers and passing stargazers can participate in the National Forest’s Explore the Stars program, an amateur astronomy project that occurs every summer and autumn at the Palomar Mountain Observatory Campground.

Back at Lake Elsinore, myriad activities await you, as well. Take the plunge into extreme sports and test your courage – take a skydiving lesson or try your hand at hang-gliding. The incredible views will be worth the sweat, but if extreme isn’t your favorite flavor, the lake offers plenty of other activities. Fishing, hiking, bird-watching, boating, and swimming are all some of the lake’s favorite offerings.

Rent a boat and hop on board for an afternoon of fun in the sun. Power boats and jet skis will get you around fast, offering you cool splashes of water and a bumpy adventure on Lake Elsinore. If you’re up for it, jump behind and go waterskiing or, if you get inspired by the lake’s other riders, have a go at wakeboarding. To slow it down a bit, grab a paddle and take a canoe or kayak ride. Taking a relaxed approach will let you get up close and personal with the animals and flora that call Lake Elsinore home.

If you’re itching to get your heart rate up and your camera full, consider going mountain biking or hiking on one of the area’s trails. In addition to those at Cleveland National Forest, Elsinore Lake’s shoreline and surrounding area are dotted with old logging roads and developed hiking and biking trails. Enjoy vistas that stretch for as far as the eye can see, peaceful treks through the woods, and the unique scent of pine wafting through the air. Your hike can take as long as you like, so prepare ahead for a day of nature that is all yours.

The lake also prides itself on its gastronomic delights, offering anything from quiet little street cafes to diverse international offerings such as Thai or Italian cuisine. After a long day out on the water or investigating the countryside, a hearty meal will be just what you crave, and you’ll soon find that your favorite way to end your day is with a glass of California wine.

Lake Elsinore is an area that offers a unique blend of developed city and tranquil nature, making it an ideal place for your next vacation. Here, you’ll wrap yourself in the comfort of solitude by day and go out on the town each evening, mixing and matching your tastes to your every whim.

Things to do at Lake Elsinore

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Birding
  • National Forest

Lake Elsinore Photo Gallery

  • HDR from 6 exposures, generated in Photomatix

  • Lake Elsinore, California

Lake Elsinore Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District

Surface Area: 3,300 acres

Shoreline Length: 10 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,240 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,264 feet

Average Depth: 10 feet

Maximum Depth: 14 feet

Water Volume: 30,000 acre-feet

Lake Area-Population: 47,634

Drainage Area: 47 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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