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Recreation and Park District

Lake Cuyamaca History

In May of 1886 the San Diego Flume Co. was incorporated and the Cuyamaca earthen dam was built. The dam was completed in 1888, making it the second oldest dam in the state of California.


It was created to store water to be piped down to San Diego to support the growing city.


At that time, water was transported down to the city through a system of wooden flumes. Construction of the flumes was an enormous endeavor. Redwood lumber was brought by boat to San Diego harbor, cut to the proper lengths and loaded onto wagons for the trip inland. Over 800 mules and horses and 100 wagons were needed to transport the nearly 9 million feet of redwood board used on the project.

Fish were first stocked in in Lake Cuyamaca in 1891, but drought conditions and a desperate need of water in San Diego completely wiped out the fishery in the 1940s around the end of World War II.


The lake was desolate until the 1960s when the Lake Cuyamaca Recreation and Park District was formed to create a more permanent infrastructure at the lake.


The District constructed a dike to create two sections of the lake; a deeper and more viable western side and a shallow and sprawling eastern end which only holds water during very wet seasons.

Lake Cuyamaca continues to be part of the municipal water supply system for San Diego. 

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