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Field Trips

Vista del Lago State Water Resource Visitors Center at Pyramid Lake

California Dept. of Water Resouces
[Interstate 5 No., at Vista del Lago exit

Information about Free Educational Resources can be found here.

By Michael Leppert

Water.  . . besides oxygen, it is the most basic element in all of our lives. We can live far longer without food than without water. Here in California, water is even more pronounced in its importance, because nearly half of our state is a semi-arid desert, and it happens to be the most populated portion, as well. Unlike Northern California, that receives significant rainfall and snowmelt, in most winters, water has to be “imported” into Southern California and the rich farming country of Kern County, as well.

Because water is so vital to California, the State Department of Water Resources is among our most important state agencies – and one of the few that actually makes money for the state, rather than taking money from the General Fund! The DWR also provides some of the most interesting destinations for homeschooling field trips and tours! Besides providing very necessary information and enlightenment about water conservation and water use to all of us, Vista del Lago offers a unique educational environment for our children, including a section sponsored by the U.S. Forestry Service, about the flora and fauna of the area.

Pyramid Lake Reservoir, a major recreational area, and the aquatic reason for Vista del Lago Visitors Center, is one of the largest southern reservoirs in the California State Water Project (SWP), which is under the direction of the State Department of Water Resources, and the hands-on authority that developed the distribution system of pipelines, dams, the California Aqueduct, reservoirs, pumping stations and power stations from Lake Oroville, above Sacramento. The SWP is also the authority that distributes the gathered and stored water nearly 600 miles, to the San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento, the agricultural areas, and points south, including San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Riverside. The SWP ranks as one of the modern marvels of human planning and execution, much like an aqueous version of the New York City subway system!

The history of California’s water is very interesting and colorful, offering a perfect centerline for studying all of modern California history. Vista del Lago provides a large amount of information and free material for such a study, including videos that can be borrowed, free of charge. The first pumping of water for irrigation began in 1870 and slow but steady development of laws and practices in water usage and conservation continued. In 1956, the California Department of Water Resources was created to oversee the development of water resources in general and specifically, to effect the creation of the SWP. Voter approval of the bond issue for the SWP came in 1960 and construction began immediately.

A portion of the enjoyment of a tour of Vista del Lago Center is two dedicated and very knowledgeable people who are pleased to guide you through their relaxing and attractive facility. Kathy Simmons, is the Water Education Coordinator and Gary Moore, is the Historical Tour Guide. Both are vibrant experts in the history of California’s water systems and love to instruct their visitors about it. The Center contains seven rooms, each with a different theme, ranging from Water Trivia to Water Treatment and Watershed Management. Each room contains interesting video presentations, scale models and interactive exhibits and displays that bring home the importance of water in our daily lives and the importance of the SWP in preserving our access to water. One of the first and most important topics covered by the Vista del Lago facility is Water Safety. Children are taught how to keep themselves safe and in the event of a water accident, how to stay alive until help arrives.

Vista del Lago is the perfect place for your family or homeschool group to spend a half day or more, exploring outside at Pyramid Lake and inside at the Visitors Center. Group student tours are welcome, but in order to have a Guide available, they ask that you make reservations ahead. Please call 661-294-0219 and be prepared to provide information on group size, group name, phone number and how long you plan to stay at the Center. Tours can be tailored to your group’s time frame and if you have a special area of interest, they will be happy to address that. Vista del Lago is located about an hour from southern L.A. County, on I-5 North, on the “Grapevine”, 20 miles north of Magic Mountain. Take the Vista del Lago exit, turn left, proceed over the freeway and then left up the hill to the Visitors Center. Admission is free and the Center is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. MjL

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