Published in Lakes

Lake Morena

    Lake Morena

    Additional Info

    • Managed by: County of San Diego
    • Facilities: Snack Bar, Restrooms, Portable Toilets, Boat Ramp, Campground, Fish Cleaning Station
    • Float tubes: Allowed
    • State license: Required
    • Fish species: Black crappie, Blue catfish, Bluegill, Carp, Channel catfish, Largemouth bass, Rainbow trout

    Lake Morena sits at an elevation above 3000 ft. in the foothills of the Laguna Mountains. During the winter, trout are full of energy and feel at home in this chilly water, and feeding frenzies run amok here.  Bass fishing at Morena is not to be overlooked, and can actually stand out from the crowd when fish reports come out. There are miles of shoreline with rocks, ledges, stickups, trees and bushes to work, along with an island when the water is up.

    Morena has a healthy forage fish population with semi-stained to clear water to spot feeding bass in. Not to mention, Morena has been stocking trout for decades so the potential for a world record bass is there, lake record is 19 lbs. 3 ozs. Catfishing at Morena is as good as any with fish being caught year-round. Crappie and bluegill also populate the lake.

    For the trout, choice areas include the Dam area, Pump House Cove and the south shoreline. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait are the preferred bait, and should be fished either with a sliding sinker on the bottom or a few feet below the surface with a bobber. If the bite is tough, try rigging up a water bobber with just enough water to make it sink very slowly, cast your bait out and watch your line for runs. Rooster tails are very effective as are kastmasters and any of the other trout lure standards.


    Lake Morena is located 63 miles east of San Diego on the remote eastern slope of the Laguna Mountains. Surrounded by thousands of acres of chaparral covered hills, huge old oak trees and large rock formations the park resides slightly above 3000 ft. and is the most distant and remote reservoir within the county. Take I-8 east to Buckman Springs Rd, head south 4 miles to Oak Drive, then west 3 miles to Lake Morena Dr. and the park entrance.


    Construction of the Morena Dam began in 1897 to form a reservoir on Cottonwood Creek that would help provide crucial water storage for the growing city. In 1898 construction was halted and it wasn't until 1912 that the dam was finally completed. Heavy drought at the time did little to fill the newly formed reservoir and anxious politicians reluctantly sought the help of a popular rainmaker to assist in filling the new reservoir. In January 1916, either through amazing coincidence or other facts unknown, the rainmaker was successful and heavy rain fell for most of the month. In fact so much rain fell that floods wiped out all but 2 of the city's 112 bridges, killed dozens of people and damaged two other reservoirs in the county. For the full story click here.

    Morena Reservoir is fed by Cottonwood Creek which continues on to feed Barrett Reservoir (junction point of Cottonwood and Pine Creek), Lower Otay Reservoir and the Tijuana River. Water level can fluctuate drastically as water is released to fill reservoirs downstream. Otay in particular, which is a final holding spot for water before public consumption. During drier years the lake can take on a completely different topography than is represented by the map above.

    Facilities & Camping Information

    The park boast two beautiful campgrounds on each side of the lake each with it's own individual charm and comforts. The main South Shore campground is conveniently located just inside the parks main entrance and is a short walk from the launch ramp and rental boat dock, country store and ranger station. The South campground consists of 86 individual campsites, of which 58 have electrical and water hook-ups for RV's, several primitive tent-only sites for backpackers or weekend campers, an RV dump station, restrooms and showers. The whole campground is encircled with giant oaks and rest within feet of the water. Just down the road is a youth group camping site which provides enough room for 48 people, and cabins are available with reservations. Along the North shore is a primitive camping area which is spread out across a large peninsula which during high-water seasons puts you right in the middle of prime shore fishing areas. Each campsite in the North shore campground consists of a fire-ring, flat ground to setup tent, and a place to park your vehicle-that's it. The sites are well situated within groups of trees, behind hills and well spread apart. This campground is often used by large outdoors groups, trail riding tournaments and other activities so be sure to call ahead if you are counting on an empty campground, 858-565-3600.

    Hours, Fees & Boating Information

    The lake is open to fishing and boating everyday 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Private boats including motorboats, sailboats, canoes, kayaks and sailboards are permitted to launch for a fee as described below. Speed limit on the water is 10 MPH at all times. Float tubes are allowed. Swimming is not permitted.

    For a 24-hour recorded message with daily updates, call (619) 478-5473.
    For camping reservations and info call (858) 565-3600.

    Last modified on Tuesday, 26 November 2013 11:35