Lake Piru
Location of the reservoir in California.
Location of the reservoir in California.
Lake Piru
LocationLos Padres National Forest,
Topatopa Mountains,
Ventura County, California
Coordinates34°28′39″N 118°45′18″W / 34.47750°N 118.75500°W / 34.47750; -118.75500
Primary inflowsPiru Creek
Agua Blanca Creek
Primary outflowsPiru Creek
Catchment area421.4 sq mi (1,091 km2)
Basin countriesUnited States
Surface area1,240 acres (500 ha)
Max. depth130 ft (40 m)
Water volume83,244 acre⋅ft (102,680,000 m3)
Surface elevation1,043 ft (318 m)
ReferencesU.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Lake Piru

Lake Piru (/ˈpr/ ) is a reservoir located in Los Padres National Forest and Topatopa Mountains of Ventura County, California, created by the construction in 1955 (69 years ago) (1955) of the Santa Felicia Dam on Piru Creek, which is a tributary of the Santa Clara River.

The reservoir is more widely known for celebrity incidents: in 1999, actor Harrison Ford crashed his helicopter by the lake, and in 2020, actress Naya Rivera died by drowning. Several other people have drowned in the lake as well. Due to these incidents, swimming at the lake is permanently banned.

United Water Conservation District

The elevation of the reservoir is 1,043 ft (318 m), and the elevation of the dam spillway is 1,055 ft (322 m).[1] The dam is owned and operated by the United Water Conservation District based in nearby Santa Paula, California.[2][3] The district is a multi-service district providing flood control, recreation services, surface, and groundwater conservation, groundwater replenishment, and wholesale water for agriculture and urban uses to the Santa Clara River Valley and Oxnard Plain. Formed on December 5, 1950, under the Water Conservation Act of 1931,[4] it owns approximately 2,200-acre around and including the lake and dam (890 ha).[5]

Lake Piru Recreation Area

The Lake Piru Recreation Area, along the western shore, has about 60 acres (24 ha) with various recreational facilities for camping, boating, fishing, and picnicking.[6] The 238 campsites have water and electric hookup along with a snack bar. There are 66 boat slips with a full-service marina.[5] While swimming had been a popular recreational activity, it was formally prohibited in August 2020 following the death of actress Naya Rivera in July that year; the lake had been closed to the public for over a month before the ban was imposed.[7] Prior to this, it was the only lake in the county that permitted swimming.[8]

The lake is situated downstream from Pyramid Lake and can be accessed from Piru Canyon Road near the town of Piru, California.

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has developed a safe eating advisory for Lake Piru based on levels of mercury or PCBs found in fish caught from this water body.[9]

In 2020, the Lake Piru Recreation Area was closed for several months for various reasons. Besides one week at the start of July, it was closed to the public for almost five months between April and August. It was initially closed before April 4[10] because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reopening on July 1.[11] It then re-closed a week later following the disappearance of Naya Rivera, and stayed closed until August 20 because of this and, later, the Holser Fire blocking Piru Canyon Road.[7][12]

Invasive species

Quagga mussels became established in Lake Piru and then downstream in the Lower Piru Creek in 2013. While this was the first discovery in Ventura County, they are an invasive species found in various rivers and lakes in the U.S.[13][14] As of 2014, the district was exploring options using a technical panel consisting of state Fish and Wildlife staff as well as representatives from the National Marine Fisheries Service and other federal, state, and local agencies. The district has to develop plans to deal with further colonization.[15] The Casitas Municipal Water District that manages nearby Lake Casitas suggested that the reservoir be drained. Poisoning it with a potassium solution was also considered.[16]


Due to harsh conditions such as debris, low visibility, different currents, strong winds, and cold water temperatures, a number of fatalities related to drowning have occurred at Lake Piru:

Other incidents

On October 23, 1999, actor Harrison Ford was on a training flight in his helicopter when he crashed in a dry riverbed by the lake; both Ford and his instructor were unharmed.[26][27]

In popular culture

Parts of the pilot episode of television series Supernatural were filmed at the lake, with the episode focusing on the main characters seeking out the ghost of a drowned woman.[28]

The episode of the series Lost Tapes, "Oklahoma Octopus" was filmed here.[29]

The car chase scenes of NSYNC's music video "Bye Bye Bye" were filmed along Piru Canyon Road leading to the lake.[30]

See also


  1. ^ Department of Water Resources (2009). "Station Meta Data: Lake Piru (PRU)". California Data Exchange Center. State of California. Archived from the original on June 12, 2011. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  2. ^ United Water Conservation District. "Santa Felicia Dam". Archived from the original on July 1, 2013. Retrieved November 7, 2014.
  3. ^ Wenner, Gretchen (March 12, 2014). "Water meeting brings crowd to Oxnard". Ventura County Star. Archived from the original on November 8, 2014.
  4. ^ "Water Code §74000 et seq". California Legislative Information. December 18, 2014. Archived from the original on December 19, 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Municipal Service Review: Recreation and Park Services - Special Districts" (PDF). Ventura Local Agency Formation Commission. March 16, 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 16, 2020.
  6. ^ Richard McMahon (March 1, 1999). Camping Southern California. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-56044-711-5. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  7. ^ a b c Dosani, Rishma (August 22, 2020). "Lake Piru reopens weeks after Naya Rivera's death - but swimming banned". Metro. Archived from the original on October 29, 2020. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  8. ^ "Majestic Lake Piru Is a Big Splash : It's the only lake in the county that allows swimming. Expect crowds on the weekends". Los Angeles Times. June 17, 1993. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  9. ^ Monserrat, Laurie (January 28, 2016). "Lake Piru". OEHHA. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  10. ^ "Local Public Lands: What's Open and What's Closed Due to COVID-19". Los Padres ForestWatch. April 4, 2020. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  11. ^ "Lake Piru Reopens as of July 1st". The Fillmore Gazette. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  12. ^ Wenner, Gretchen. "Holser Fire grows to 3,000 acres in Piru Canyon, prompting voluntary evacuations". Ventura County Star. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  13. ^ Coyne, Alasdair (January 27, 2014) "Quagga mussels loose in Santa Clara watershed" Ventura County Star (subscription may be required for this article)
  14. ^ Wenner, Gretchen (October 26, 2014) "Lake Piru, groundwater jewel, needs costly TLC" Ventura County Star (subscription may be required for this article)
  15. ^ Wenner, Gretchen (December 15, 2014) "Quagga concerns alter irrigation practice" Ventura County Star (subscription may be required for this article)
  16. ^ Wenner, Gretchen (January 18, 2015) "Poison Lake Piru? Option on table to kill quagga mussels" Ventura County Star
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Davis, Gail (September 7, 2000). "Lake Piru's Tragic Toll". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 9, 2020. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  18. ^ "Man's Body Found After 1-week Search". - Chabad News, Crown Heights News, Lubavitch News. September 2, 2008. Archived from the original on September 3, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  19. ^ a b "Body of Piru drowning victim found". The Fillmore Gazette. September 2, 2008. Archived from the original on September 14, 2008. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  20. ^ "Piru resident drowns at Lake Piru". The Fillmore Gazette. May 20, 2009. Archived from the original on July 14, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  21. ^ TooFab Staff (July 9, 2020). "Man Drowned in Front of Eight Friends Jumping Off Pontoon Boat on Same Lake as Naya Rivera". Toofab. Archived from the original on July 9, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  22. ^ "Man found dead in Lake Piru was drowning victim". Ventura County Star. May 25, 2010. Archived from the original on July 12, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  23. ^ "Suicide blamed in death of woman found in lake". Ventura County Star. September 12, 2014. Archived from the original on July 13, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  24. ^ Staff Reports (July 8, 2020). "'Glee' Actress Missing After Her Young Son Was Found Alone on Boat at Lake Piru". NBC Los Angeles. Archived from the original on July 9, 2020. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  25. ^ Aiello, McKenna (July 13, 2020). "Naya Rivera Dead at 33: Actress' Body Recovered 5 Days After Boating Accident". E! Online. Archived from the original on July 14, 2020. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  26. ^ "Actor Ford Unhurt in Copter Crash". Los Angeles Times. October 25, 1999. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  27. ^ " | Aircraft Down | NTSB Report on Harrison Ford Helicopter Crash (Nonfatal) in Piru, 10-23-1999 (Final)". Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  28. ^ Various (September 5, 2006). Supernatural season 1 DVD commentary for the episode "Pilot" (DVD). Warner Brothers Video.
  29. ^ "Oklahoma Octopus". IMDb.
  30. ^ *NSYNC - Bye Bye Bye (Official Music Video), retrieved January 7, 2023