Memories of Santee Lakes

Belted Kingfisher - Ceryle alcyon

Water treatment facilities can be environmentally beneficial and often provide great habitat for wildlife, especially waterfowl and other water-loving species. Santee Lakes is a prime example and one of the better locations in San Diego County to find interesting birds.

Two million gallons of partially treated sewage enter the facility and progress through a series of ten small lakes before joining the San Diego River system in Mission Trails Regional Park. The treatment starts a mile and a half up Sycamore Canyon and passes through a treatment plant and three ponds before it reaches the first of seven more ponds open to the public. By the time the water reaches the river system it has been transformed and the hazardous elements have been removed.

The seven public ponds stretch exactly one mile across the valley floor. Each are separated by an earthen levy with crossing paths or parkways. These small lakes or ponds are numbered One through Seven, with One being downstream and Seven being the upper-most of the publicly accessible lakes. Access to lakes Six and Seven are restricted to RV’s and campers staying at any of the 300 sites on the adjacent grounds, but day-use visitors can access all of the other five lakes.

I’ve not visited these lakes often, but I’ve enjoyed the times I’ve spent there, wandering though its grounds. Trails, walkways and bridges weave through the parklands, and adjoining islands. In season, migrant ducks on these waters are fun, but Wood Ducks, Mallards and possibly others raise families here. Perhaps my favorite encounter here was one early morning when I caught a Belted Kingfisher performing hovering maneuvers right before me.

The gallery below shows some of the results from my visits.

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