Monday, March 17, 2014


The Vista Del Lago Visitor Center is a cool and refreshing stop along I-5
Along Interstate 5 an hour north of Los Angeles Pyramid Lake lies nestled between the steep hills of the southern California mountains.  The Vista Del Lago Visitor Center sits on a scenic overlook of the lake. The lake and dam are part of the California State Water Project. Most of the time as Art and I travel this route between northern and southern California we zoom by the lake, eager to get home. But on a recent trip, we decided to make the visitor center a rest stop and ended up spending considerable time looking at the many exhibits.

A zigzag line was the Egyptian symbol for water
Water has been important since the dawn of time. The exhibits begin with dioramas depicting the history of water use in ancient civilizations ranging from Roman aqueducts, to the Egyptian Shadouf and Nilometer, to China’s Dujiangyan Irrigation Canal, to the Stepwells of India and Pakistan.

A stepwell is a stairway into the earth, leading to an underground pool. Invented in the late sixth century, these ingenious devices allowed people to collect water at various levels, depending on the height of the water table at different times of year. Stepwells were both practical sources of water and beautiful structures. They were widely used for hundreds of years.  Then, during the mid-nineteenth century, as modern water pumps and plumbing replaced the need for open wells, most stepwells were abandoned and fell into disrepair.  Today, some have been restored and preserved as historic sites. 

Another exhibit is a video display projected on a map of the state of California. As you listen to the narration, bright lights illuminate various parts of the state water project (SWP), including Pyramid Lake and the dam.  According to the brochure I picked up at the desk, the SWP spans more than 600 miles from Northern California to Southern California and includes 32 storage facilities, 17 pumping plants, 3 pumping-generating plants, 5 hydroelectric power plants and approximately 660 miles of canals and pipelines.  I now have a new appreciation of the many canals that we see as we drive along I-5 between the Bay Area and southern California!

Another room provides a time-line of the development of water resources in California during the last century.  The doorway into the exhibit is the actual diameter of the pipe that carries water from the Castaic power plant at the end of the lake!

Pyramid Lake and Dam.  Completed in 1973, they were named after the pyramid shaped rock carved out by engineers building the Old Highway 99, now replaced by I-5.  Water stored in this man-made reservoir flows through the Castaic Power plant and generates electricity for the Los Angeles area.
After we finished looking at the exhibits we went outside to take in the view and watch the boats on the lake below.  Someday, we’ll stop longer and visit one of the picnic areas along the lakeshore. 

For more information about Pyramid Lake and the Vista Del Lago Visitor Center, click here.

Note:  Unlike many of California's reservoirs which are severely depleted because of the drought, Pyramid Lake is nearly full.  

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