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Zaca Lake
updated: Mar 11, 2014, 1:05 PM

By Edhat Subscriber

I remember going there as a kid and renting the paddle boats, doesn't it belong to Santa Barbara County? How do I get there?

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 501870 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 01:14 PM

I have the same memory as OP. It was a really cool place where you could fish and paddle around. A few years ago, some friends and I decided to go check it out to do just that. When we got there, it was closed and had a private property sign on it with the name of a vineyard (can't remember which).

Once again, something nice and wholesome has been sold to the highest bidder and then shut down to the public.

 

 COMMENT 501872 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 01:17 PM

I also heard it's run down and over run with algae and leeches based on an accurate Yelp review, at least clean the place up!

 

 COMMENT 501873P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 01:19 PM

The last time we went there, it was an over-priced place to stay in very rustic cabins, and the "lake" more like a pond, was so covered & clogged with green algae it was not a pretty sight. I would have never let my kids swim in it. Yuk.

I wonder what it's like now in 2014?

 

 COMMENT 501877 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 01:23 PM

The lake has been private property since the arrival of the Spanish. So since there has been private property in these parts.

 

 COMMENT 501878 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 01:25 PM

872 picked the older yelp review to quote. The newer reviews say something different than the one in 2011. And how do you know it's accurate? Because they said it is in their own review? lol

Zaca has been private for many years, like 20+ years. I knew the family that bought it back in the late 80's. It's a shame you can't just go up there for a day trip anymore, that place is wonderful!

 

 COMMENT 501880 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 01:30 PM

Serenity Gathering there later this month, which is a ticketed event, so yes it must be private land now...

 

 COMMENT 501891 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 01:55 PM

Hey you can't take away somewhere I used to go, oh wait SB county maybe you can

 

 COMMENT 501895 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 02:11 PM

Zaca Lake has been private since 1925 and has had many owners over the years, however it has only recently been closed to day users and individuals. Zaca lake Retreat owns it now and rents it out to groups.

Here's a little history:

1898 - Zaca Lake Reserve created under President William McKinley
1903 - Zaca Lake merges with Santa Ynez Forest Reserve Forest under Teddy Roosevelt
1908 - Santa Ynez Forest Reserve becomes Santa Barbara National Forest
1925 - Zaca Lake eliminated from S.B. National Forest under President Calvin Coolidge
1925 - Zaca Lake sold to Dr. Sam Robinson

 

 COMMENT 501896 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 02:12 PM

I too went there as a kid and have actually gone a few times as an adult. It often is private but there are times that they rent out the cabins to individuals. The lake is NOT dirty and although there is some green moss in a section or two of it the water has always been very clean and good to swim in, it's spring fed and extremely deep. Right now the lake is only available to rent to groups so if you're part of a group you can contact them. They have a website and you can reach them easily by phone or email. Sadly no individual rentals right now but hopefully they will open it back up again in the future because I miss it! Such a special place

 

 COMMENT 501897 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 02:12 PM

Zaca Lake has been private since 1925 and has had many owners over the years, however it has only recently been closed to day users and individuals. Zaca lake Retreat owns it now and rents it out to groups.

Here's a little history:

1898 - Zaca Lake Reserve created under President William McKinley
1903 - Zaca Lake merges with Santa Ynez Forest Reserve Forest under Teddy Roosevelt
1908 - Santa Ynez Forest Reserve becomes Santa Barbara National Forest
1925 - Zaca Lake eliminated from S.B. National Forest under President Calvin Coolidge
1925 - Zaca Lake sold to Dr. Sam Robinson

 

 COMMENT 501900 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 02:23 PM

Google is your friend...
.zaca lake retreat dot com/

 

 COMMENT 501909 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 02:48 PM

Google isn't really my friend.

 

 COMMENT 501912 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 02:55 PM

Yes it is!

 

 COMMENT 501919P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 03:08 PM

Actually, google is more like a useful enemy than a friend.

 

 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 03:38 PM

Wonder where the idea it ever belonged to the county came from? It's like Rancho Oso, different OWNERS offer different services, or none at all if they want it private.

 

 COMMENT 501934 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 03:58 PM

Well if it belonged to the Natl Forest, then that is public, am I right? I heard it's 40 feet deep but nonetheless the only natural lake in the county is private!

 

 COMMENT 501942 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 04:10 PM

Zaca lake was part of Rancho La Laguna which was granted by the Mexican Government to Octavio Gutierrez in 1845, patened by the US in 1865. It has been private property for a long time.

 

 COMMENT 501943 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 04:16 PM

Wonder why it was eliminated from National Forest lands and sold to Dr. Sam Robinson? Hmm....

 

 PATRICK agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 04:27 PM

Did the Creature from the Black Lagoon have to pay admission when he swam there?

 

 COMMENT 501951 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 04:34 PM

My husband surprised me with a 2 night stay in the furthest of the rustic cabins for my b'day in Nov. 2007. Only fireplace heat and you wouldn't want to go near the tiled tub. We were the only ones there -- shared the property with wild turkeys and bears. LOTS of bears. Trekked back and forth to Los Olivos to eat. Last morning, found bear claw holes right through the metal on our truck!

 

 COMMENT 501959 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 04:54 PM

Wow 951! I like the cabins down by the lake, have heard bears, it's up there, there are bears. There are also wild apple trees and deer that eat them, and birds and squirrels, it's so awesome up there.

 

 COMMENT 501964 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 05:20 PM

I remember staying there with a group in the early '90s and a bear had ripped open our metal coleman cooler and ate all our food!!

 

 COMMENT 501982 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 07:19 PM

Camped there back in the early 80's when it was open to the public . Loved the old Restaurant with the sloping floor , Those were we're good old dazes for sure!

 

 COMMENT 501986P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 07:30 PM

We stayed there in 1991. There were a few other guests. We paddles on the lake in a leaky boat, played the old grand piano in the "lounge" and ate a reasonable dinner in the dining room. Not too bad, but it was pretty beat. I remember our cabin had about 5 or six mattresses all stacked up. Good times and good memories
Our first son was born 9 months later.

 

 PIXIETANGERINE agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 08:00 PM

Spend our wedding night there in 1980. It was an incredibly beautiful place back then!

 

 UNCLEBILLY agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 08:46 PM

I think Gerald Kessler of Natures Organics Inc. bought the 500 acre ranch in 1972. I sneaked in there a few times on my moto and waved at the ranch hands like I owned the place.

 

 COMMENT 502003 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 08:54 PM

Spent a great deal of time there in the very late 90's/early 2000's. It is a very magical place. Changed my life, in fact. It's definitely saddening to me that I no longer have access without a group rental. The lake will come around again - it has had a way of pushing people out (previous managers with very odd ways about them) eventually. Miss you, Zaca!

 

 COMMENT 502005P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 09:05 PM

If you do go, watch out for Jason Voorhees!

 

 VORAN agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-11 09:12 PM

It's my understanding that is now belongs to a Christian group that mostly rents it out to groups. I think there is a website that details it all.

 

 COMMENT 502020 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-12 06:27 AM

The owners of Zaca Lake do not welcome the day-hiking public, yet apparently they want the public to give them money (to build a chapel and a dock, among other things.)

From their website:
"Zaca Lake is always open to donations from the public. People enjoy seeing their generous donation going into a charity that will put it to good use. Zaca Lake appreciates any donation item that you may have including but not limited to the following items:..."

 

 JBYRD agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-12 09:03 AM

Some trivia missed on this post - The original Friday the 13th was filmed in up there. 'Crystal Lake'...lol. Used to creep me out when camping up there as a kid!

 

 COMMENT 502094 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-12 09:23 AM

I think the lake scene in the 1975 Michael Sarrazin movie, "The Reincarnation of Peter Proud," was also filmed at Zaca.

 

 COMMENT 502098 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-12 09:29 AM

Oh, yeah--according to the Zaca website, some of the scenes from "The Creature From the Black Lagoon" were also filmed at Zaca.

 

 RED CREEK agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-12 10:33 AM

In the early 80's we stayed in one of the chilly cabins and were startled to see Chumash metates, or grinding stones, embedded in the stone fireplace. The lake was very stinky, in one of it's incarnations before it "turned over" after an algae bloom (we were told).

It is too bad that area went into private hands as it is so environmentally unique and historically significant as a Chumash area.

 

 COMMENT 502181 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-12 12:33 PM

501897

Thank you for the facts -- so rare in these parts.

Coolidge giving away the lake is like a certain politician of the same party giving away parts of the WTC as political favors.

 

 COMMENT 502209 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-12 02:09 PM

Zaca Lake has been under the same ownership since the 1970's and is still currently owned by Gerald Kessler's non-profit called the Zaca Lake Foundation, Inc.. Kessler is the founder of Nature's Plus Vitamins. It has been closed to public access off and on for the last several years, but is currently only being leased for group retreats and events (like weddings). Individual cabins are no longer for rent due in part to the deterioration of the cabins, the cost to renovate them and the cost to keep a staff on site to maintain them for overnight guests. The current managers are devout Catholics and are primarily interested in Catholic youth retreats, but it is open for rental to other groups and events.

 

 COMMENT 502227 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-12 03:00 PM

A drummer I know had had his wedding reception and spent their first wedded night together up there. It was a pretty wild time. Maybe that's when they started to focus on Catholic groups.

 

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