Jet skier on a lake

El Capitan Reservoir

El Capitan Reservoir is one of the City of San Diego's many water storage reservoirs. It is located about 30 miles northeast of San Diego in a long, narrow canyon of the San Diego River. Only about 4 miles of the lake's 22-mile shoreline are easily accessible by foot.

El Capitan Reservoir is one of only a few of the city's reservoirs that permits waterskiing, wakeboarding, and the use of personal watercraft, but only on water contact days. Swimming or stand-up paddleboarding are not allowed.

Recorded Information Message: (619) 465-3474 (465-FISH)

The lake is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

Lake Hours: Change regularly with season, generally from one half hour before sunrise to sunset. Check What's New at the City Reservoir Lakes for current opening and closing times.

Fees (cash only):

Entrance:   $8 per persons age 16 and older, $2.50 for 8 to 15 years. Children 7 and under are free.
Boat Launch Fee:   $7 (kayaks free)
Water Contact Fees:   $10 for ages 16 and older, $5 for youths ages 8-15. (This fee is for those using personal watercraft, waterskiing, or similar activities.)


El Capitan Reservoir is open for waterskiing and personal watercraft Thursday through Sunday (Sundays only in the winter). On Monday boating is limited to non-water contact activities, e.g. fishing, cruising. A special zone near the dam is set aside for personal watercraft use. Three-person personal watercraft are allowed to two skiers outside the PWC zone.

During times of low water, boating is limited to the front bay, the main section of the lake near the dam. Limits are placed on the number of water activity boats allowed to be launched. Other boats, such as fishing boats and PWC, are not limited. For information call the boat capacity hotline: 619-668-2770.


Rocky Mountain Recreation Company operates the marina at El Capitan Reservoir. They have motorized fishing boats and rowboats for rent on a first come, first served basis. During the winter they are only open from Friday to Sunday, 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM.


El Capitan Reservoir is fished for blue catfish, green sunfish, carp, crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, and largemouth bass. Fishing can be done from the bank, with waders, from boats, or float tubes.


There are no campgrounds at El Capitan Reservoir. Camping can be found at nearby Lake Jennings. A number of RV parks are located in the El Cajon area.


There is no lodging at El Capitan Reservoir, but at nearby El Cajon visitors will find a range of motels and other lodging choices. Most lodging is found along the Interstate 8 corridor.


Bold mountains rise sharply from El Capitan Reservoir, forming rounded peaks with long, sloping shoulders. Scrub vegetation and scattered small trees covers the hillsides. The long, twisting channel up the San Diego River arm forms a dramatic canyon. In spring wildflowers burst with color.

Nearby Communities

The nearby communities of Lakeside, Santee, and El Cajon have a wide range of stores, restaurants, and services available. For bow hunters, Bow N Arrow Shop is located in Lakeside. There are also several bait and tackle shops. Marine services are available in El Cajon.


El Capitan Reservoir Facts
Lake Size: 1,562 surface acres
Maximum Depth: 197 feet
Length: 7.5 miles
Shoreline: 22 miles
Dam Construction: 1935
Reservoir Owner: City of San Diego
Maximum Lake Elevation: 750 feet
Average High Air Temperatures
  spring: 79 degrees
  summer: 95 degrees
  fall: 85 degrees
  winter: 71 degrees
Summer Water Temperature: 80 degrees

El Capitan Reservoir

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