Casitas Lake is a rather "tame" area (vs. "wilderness") in view of it's developed and regulated status. But here is "good part" for the kayaker: Body contact is not allowed in the lake, hence it is a very clean and less crowded lake. One does not have to contend with jet skis, swimmers, and water skiers. One will see an occasional powerful ski boat, but usually those are run for short test runs by the enthusiast at the helm. Not that I dislike jet skis and the like, but one finds very few watercraft on the lake...the water seems very clear, there are many places to launch, including some sandy areas that can be reached by vehicle, etc. For example, one does not have the problem of working from a concrete boat ramp with others anxiously waiting for the kayaker to get gear together and move off.
The lake features very clean banks and lots of waterfowl that can be observed. Casitas is about 2,700 acres in surface area and has 32 miles of shoreline. One can get out on that lake and feel alone.
This is a great lake for sea kayaking, fishing from a kayak, (Casitas once held the California State record for largemouth bass at 21 pounds, 3 ounces) and for sailing. It is usually windy in the afternoon, but the waves and swells are generally "nothing" that a typical recreational kayak can't handle. On our last trip out to Casitas, wife and I talked with a fisherman obviously enjoying himself in his new Wilderness Systems "Pungo" which met his needs perfectly. The lake is obviously large enough to provide a good day's paddle and workout in areas that are glassy. Our relatively long sea kayaks had a chance to move right along...making like a racing shell in the glassy areas.
To recap: The charm of this lake is its beauty, cleanliness, fishing potential, and lack of watercraft on the lake despite fairly crowded conditions on the shore.
As a treat, one can head home through the nearby town of Ojai for shopping or dining...Ojai is a quaint fairly rural city.
The lake features 400 plus developed sites, which are set up for anything from a tent to an RV requiring hookups. Recreational activities include great fishing (the lake is known for record bass fish), picnicking, hiking, playgrounds, model airplane flying, bicycle rentals, and a water playground. The area also features a snack bar, restaurant, grocery store, showers, bait and tackle shop, trailer rentals, trailer and boat storage, and frequent visitor discount cards. I found lots of areas to which I could drive my 4x4 to the sandy shoreline for launching.
I took my vehicle and two kayaks for a day of kayaking. I believe the cost for the vehicle and the two kayaks was $12.50. This fee would have allowed our using (very clean and well maintained) picnic areas if we chose to do so.
Lake Casitas is located approximately 60 miles north of Los Angeles, California. One reaches Lake Casitas from the Los Angeles area by taking highway 101 North to State Highway 33 and taking 33 north and turning left at Santa Ana Boulevard. Follow the signs to the lake. Alternately, if one lives north of the Ventura, California area, one takes 101 south to highway 150. Take 150 northeast to the lake.
Casitas Recreation Area, 11311 Santa Ana Road, Ventura California, 93001, Phone 805-649-2233.