San Luis Obispo County, Central California

Santa Margarita Lake

Santa Margarita Lake

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Santa Margarita Lake

Santa Margarita Lake is popular as a boating, fishing, and camping destination. Because the lake serves as the drinking water supply for the City of San Luis Obispo, body contact with the water is not allowed. A swimming pool at the lake is open during the summer months.

A natural area is located adjacent to the lake. Santa Margarita Lake Current water level: Santa Margarita (Salinas Reservoir) Water Level

2019 Entrance Fees:

  • Vehicle Entrance/Parking Fee - $10
  • Annual Vehicle Entrance Pass - $100
  • Motorized Boats - $10
  • Non-Motorized Boats - $5

For a complete fee schedule see SLO County Parks Fee Schedule


Boating on Santa Margarita Lake is mostly fishing boats and slow moving pleasure craft. With no body to water contact allowed, waterskiing and jet skis are not permitted. The default speed limit on the lake is 5 MPH, but there are some areas allow faster speeds. Boating is allowed from sunrise to sunset.


Santa Margarita Lake has a single marina with a few services and some boat rentals. Patrons like the friendly service at the marina and the reliable outboard motors on the rental fishing boats.


Santa Margarita Lake is stocked with rainbow trout. It also has largemouth bass, striped bass, carp, crappie, catfish, bluegill, and sunfish. Without water skiers or personal watercraft competing for space on the lake, anglers have enjoy quiet water and excellent fishing. Lots of underwater structures and tulle shorelines provide great habitat for the fish. The only live bait allowed are worms, crawdads, and crickets caught from the lake.


All the campgrounds at Santa Margarita Lake are limited in number. Four campgrounds are located around the marina, along with one group campground. Across the lake are two boat-in campgrounds. Once outside the lake, there are few good campsites to be found nearby in the Los Padres National Forest. Forty miles to the west on the coast is Morro Bay State Park. Several RV Parks are within the region.


Santa Margarita Lake has no lodging at the lake itself. In nearby San Luis Obispo you will find the usual array of big name motels, some upscale, others offering basic services.


Like its sister Lake Nacimiento, Santa Margarita Lake resembles a dragon with numerous inlets leading off in twisted configurations. Islands dot the lake and beautiful wooded mountains rise from its shores.

Nearby Communities

Santa Margarita Lake is only 9 miles from the little community of Santa Margarita and 20 miles from the city of San Luis Obispo. To the north Atascadero is only 18 miles away and Paso Robles 30. Morro Bay is 32 miles to the west.

Nearby Beaches

Within easy driving distance of Lake Santa Margarita are all the great beaches along the San Luis Obispo Coast:
Pismo Beach, Morro Bay, Oceano State SVRA, Avila Beach, Cayucos Beach, Moonstone Beach, San Simeon Beach, and many more. Find them all at California's Best Beaches


Santa Margarita Lake Facts
Lake Size: 1100 surface acres
Maximum Depth: 130 feet
Maximum Length: 7 miles
Shoreline: 22 miles
Dam Construction: 1941
Reservoir Manager: City of San Luis Obispo
Maximum Lake Elevation: 1,300 feet
Average Air Temperatures
  spring: 72 degrees
  summer: 82 degrees
  fall: 80 degrees
  winter: 65 degrees

California's Greatest Lakes

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