Lake levels rise while residents respect social distancing guidelines at Lake Elsinore

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Lake Elsinore recreational use remains open while visitors are urged to practice social distancing and wear a face cover. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

Kim Harris
Managing Editor

With more than 6 feet of water flowing into Lake Elsinore’s namesake lake thanks to heavy rains from later winter storms in March and April, residents and visitors are taking to the shores for a way to stay cool while still respecting social distancing guidelines.

“The lake has remained open.” Nicole Dailey, Lake Elsinore’s assistant to the city manager, said, adding there has been no public health orders requiring the closure of lakes. “To date, use of the lake has been nominal, and most have been obliging by social distancing and cover your face guidelines.”

Bob Magee, mayor pro tem of Lake Elsinore who also serves as the treasurer and secretary for the Lake Elsinore San Jacinto Watershed Authority, said that anyone visiting the lake needs to adhere to safety guidelines set forth by public health due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

People enjoy the fresh air at Lake Elsinore as the water levels at the lake are the highest it has been in eight years due to recent storms. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

“With the lake nice and full, Lake Elsinore is currently still open for recreational use, despite the COVID-19 outbreak,” Magee said. “Enjoying the lake is an excellent opportunity to get outdoors and take advantage of the beautiful weather we are having, but we also urge anyone coming to visit the lake to stay safe and follow all public health guidelines in place at this time.”

Signage is posted at all city beaches and launches, and flyers are being distributed to those visiting the lake as a reminder of the rules and the information was shared at all private launches, Dailey said, adding that there were 744 boats at Launch Pointe the weekend of April 24-26. There were 157 day-use entries during the same time period.

“It was busy,” she said.

People relax and fish at Lake Elsinore as the lake’s recreational use remains open while visitors are urged to practice social distancing and wear a face cover. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

While there were some people not wearing facemasks while swimming or boating, the city intends to keep the lake open so residents can continue to enjoy outdoor activities, while following the social distancing guidelines, she said. 

According to Dailey, city officials will continue monitoring the lake activity, and if large crowds appear or people stop abiding by the rules, the city will shut the lake down.

Lake Elsinore is at its highest water in level in eight years, Lake Elsinore and San Jacinto Watershed Authority said recently, saying it has risen more than 6 feet since October.

“April showers will bring May flowers, and they have also caused the Canyon Lake’s Railroad Canyon Dam to spill over and send millions of gallons of water into Lake Elsinore,” the organization said in a press release issued Monday, April 20. “This overflow, caused by repeated days of heavy rains, has brought Lake Elsinore to a water level of 1,244.85 feet, the highest since June 2012.”

People relax and fish at Lake Elsinore as the lake’s recreational use remains open while visitors are urged to practice social distancing and wear a face cover. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

“This is great news for our community and our lake,” Phil Williams, chair of the LESJWA board of directors and vice president of Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District board of directors, said. “The combination of recycled water and recent rain events are exactly what this thirsty lake needed.” 

The rise in water levels is good news for the lake which has suffered from numerous algae blooms and poor water quality over the years. 

“Lake Elsinore is known to have improved water quality and a healthier ecology for the fishery whenever water levels are at or above the optimal lake level of 1,240 feet,” LESJWA said. “Last year’s wet winter and this year’s late rain have helped the lake reach its highest water levels in eight years.” 

LESJWA closely monitors and provides solutions for water quality for the impaired waterways in the watershed. Part of the monitoring includes preserving stability between runoff nutrients with a healthy water level. 

“One of the reasons it’s critical to maintain a healthy lake level is due to nutrients and sediment that flow downstream into Lake Elsinore, which can impair water quality,” Mark Norton, an administrator with LESJWA, said. “While the rain and runoff is greatly needed in our local lakes, minimizing the nutrients that enter Canyon Lake and Lake Elsinore is critical.” 

While Lake Elsinore evaporates by roughly 4 and one-half feet each year, based on the increased water levels, EVMWD estimates the lake will be able to stay at or above its optimal level of 1,240 feet for the next two years. 

Kim Harris can be reached by email at valleyeditor@reedermedia.com