Santa Ynez River


The Santa Ynez River is a 92 mile long river that flows from east to west through the Santa Ynez Valley reaching its mouth at Surf Beach, near Lompoc and Vandenburg Air Force Base. The Santa Ana River drains most of the southern part of Santa Barbara County. It originates at over 4,000 feet on the northern slopes of the Santa Ynez Mountains, in the Los Padres National Forest, and the southern slopes of the San Rafael Mountains. The river flows through Solvang and Lompoc. It is one of the largest rivers in the Central Coast Region of California and is a primary source of drinking water for nearly 350,000 people.

Tributaries of the Santa Ynez River include Alamo Pintado Creek, Alder Creek, Alisal Creek, Cachuma Creek, Miguelito Creek, Salsipuedes Creek, Santa Cruz Creek, and Zaca Creek. During the summers, the river becomes a small, but during the winters and spring, the river becomes a torrent.

The Santa Ynez River has three large dams with three reservoirs: Jameson Lake, Gibraltar Reservoir, and Lake Cachuma, which is the largest of the three.


Lake Cachuma

Lake Cachuma is a man-made lake or reservoir in the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County that was created by the construction of Bradbury Dam on the Santa Ynez River in 1953. The reservoir covers 3,200 acres. The word Cachuma is derived from a Chumash village that once existed. Due to the fact that Lake Cachuma is a reservoir used for drinking water, human contact is not permitted on the lake. Small non-motorized boats are permitted and fishing is allowed. The lake is stocked with Rainbow trout. A large popular, campsite, which is operated by the Santa Barbara County Parks Department, is on the south shore of the lake and many trails are available for hiking and biking. The community of Santa Ynez is approximately 7.3 miles to the west of the dam, and Solvang is about 10.5 miles to the west.


Bradbury Dam - Cachuma Dam

Bradbury Dam, formerly named Cachuma Dam, is a 279 foot tall earth fill dam built on the Santa Ynez River in Santa Barbara County in 1953. Construction of the dam formed Lake Cachuma which is a reservoir that supplies Santa Barbara County with most of its drinking water.


Gibraltar Dam – Reservoir

Gibraltar Dam, built in 1920, is a concrete arch dam on the Santa Ynez River in Santa Barbara County. The 195 foot high and 600 foot wide dam formed the 248-acre Gibraltar Reservoir which supplies approximately 30% of the drinking water to the city of Santa Barbara. The dam is located about five miles north of Santa Barbara, just north of Devils Canyon on the other side of the Santa Ynez Mountains.






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