Lake Elsinore is one of the largest natural lakes in southern California. It is surrounded on the east by arid, coastal sage scrub-covered hills, and on the west by the steep eastern escarpment of the Santa Ana Mountains, which are cloaked in chaparral and oak woodland. The lake is fed by Temescal Creek and the San Jacinto River, which enter from the Lake Mathews/Estelle Mtn. IBA from the north. Though largely surrounded by trailer parks, campgrounds and marinas, the southern end features an extensive constructed wetland (Wetland Habitat Area, City of Lake Elsinore) with small islets, mudflats, and freshwater marsh vegetation bounded by a large dike. More freshwater marsh and riparian habitat is found just north of the lake, associated with Temescal Creek, and accessible from Hwy. 74. South of the lake (though also separated from the lake by the large dike) is the historic draw-down area of the lake, now a broad plain covered with alkali grassland (mainly exotic) and scattered clumps of mulefat-dominated riparian scrub. More intact grassland (mixed with coastal sage scrub) is found just west of Temescal Creek north of Hwy. 74, but is slated for development. Pockets of willow-cottonwood riparian woodland are also found along the lakeshore, particularly at the southwestern corner (vic. Rome Hill).

Ornithological Summary

The drawdown area of Lake Elsinore supports a diverse raptor community, and several species of locally-scarce waterbirds (incl. Caspian Tern) breed in the constructed wetlands. Currently, access limits thorough exploration of the wetlands (it's a 2-mile walk out to the habitat). Several heron rookeries are found in the riparian growth around the lake. The Coastal Sage Scrub is especially lush on the east side of the lake, and though seriously fragmented by roads and houses, supports high densities of California Gnatcatcher, Cactus Wren and Bell's Sage Sparrow (pers. obs.).

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Conservation Issues

Human disturbance (OHV use, dumping) and arson threatens the remaining patches of coastal sage scrub, particularly those on the eastern side of the lake. The entire IBA is widely popular with OHV enthusiasts, and fences and signage are nearly impossible to maintain given current activities. Riparian thickets are especially at risk, both from vehicles and from serious infestation by exotic plants, especially tamarisk, which was found to be completely lining the constructed wetlands and much of the drawdown area in 2001 (pers. obs.).

Ownership

The lake is largely owned by the City of Lake Elsinore.

Habitat

Lake Elsinore is one of the largest natural lakes in southern California. It is surrounded on the east by arid, coastal sage scrub-covered hills, and on the west by the steep eastern escarpment of the Santa Ana Mountains, which are cloaked in chaparral and oak woodland. The southern end features an extensive constructed wetland (?Wetland Habitat Area?, City of Lake Elsinore) with small islets, mudflats, and freshwater marsh vegetation bounded by a large dike. More freshwater marsh and riparian habitat is found just north of the lake, associated with Temescal Creek, and accessible from Hwy. 74. South of the lake (though also separated from the lake by the large dike) is the historic draw-down area of the lake, now a broad plain covered with alkali grassland (mainly exotic) and scattered clumps of mulefat-dominated riparian scrub. More intact grassland (mixed with coastal sage scrub) is found just west of Temescal Creek. Pockets of willow-cottonwood riparian woodland are also found along the lakeshore, particularly at the southwestern corner (vic. Rome Hill).