Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area: A Little Known SGV Gem

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Distance 

3.7 Miles

Time

2 Hrs

Difficulty 

Easy

Season

All Year

Elevation Gain

75 Ft

Santa Fe Dam holds a very special place in my memories because my parents would bring me here every year in the summer to swim at the lake. It’s the perfect place for a day out with the family, or to go for a walk around the lake. 

Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area is an 836-acre park with a 70-acre lake located in Irwindale, CA within the San Gabriel Valley. This park offers fishing, camping, bike and boat rentals, a swim beach, splash pads, and more. The vehicle entrance fee is $12. Dogs are allowed and must be leashed.

Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area Map

Santa Fe Dam Directions 

Santa Fe Dam is located at 15501 Arrow Hwy, Irwindale, CA 91706.

Santa Fe Dam Hours

Current hours of operation for Santa Fe Dam are Monday through Sunday from 6:30 AM – 8 PM. Starting November 1st, it will be open from 6:30 AM – 6 PM.

Santa Fe Dam Parking and Entrance Fee

The vehicle entrance fee is $12 per day, year-round.

Camping at Santa Fe Dam

You are not allowed to camp or park RVs overnight. Camping is only reserved for special occasions, such as on-site youth group camping near the Nature Center and during the Moonlight Fishing event.

Santa Fe Dam Events

Moonlight Fishing

Moonlight Fishing is a summer night camping event held yearly at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area. You can enjoy special activities such as fishing in the dark, kayaking, camping, movie nights, nature center presentations, and more.

 

General admission is $10, while kids ages 11 and under are free! Be aware that times and dates change on a yearly basis, so be sure to stay up to date by checking the LA County Parks website.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire

The Renaissance Pleasure Faire is an annual event meant to create and reenact “living history” from the late 1500’s English market. The fair brings in over 200,000 guests annually, including family, friends, and children. It hosts live entertainment, food tastings, games, rides, pub crawls and so much more.

This year, the fair will take place from April 9 – September 22, 2022, on Saturdays and Sundays. Be sure to purchase tickets ahead of time on the RenFair website.

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Santa Fe Dam Nature Center

You can begin the loop around the lake via a dirt road that connects to a small portion of the bike trail. This bike path runs from the beach alongside the 605 Fwy to the top of the dam, through the north side of the lake, and ends at the mouth of Asuza Canyon. 

santa fe dam bike path

On the right side of this cemented bike path is our first destination, the Santa Fe Dam Nature Center. 

Unfortunately, they were closed when we visited, but if you’re interested, they’re open Mon-Sat from 10 am-1 pm.

santa fe dam nature center

At the nature center, you’ll find more information regarding Santa Fe Dam, an outdoor amphitheater, and a beautiful bridge with a creek bed underneath.

This is where you might catch a glimpse of wildlife, such as quails, rattlesnakes, coyotes, and the wildest of all animals, the fisherman.

As you come around the west side of the lake, the view is breathtaking. 

The lake peacefully looms in the foreground while snow-capped Mount Baldy towers over the trees.  

 

Santa Fe Dam Splash Pad

Now that we’re on the Southside of the lake where the park is located, we come to our second attraction, the water park, also known as the Splash Pad. 

The Splash Pad opens on June 15th from 10:30 am until 6 pm 7 days a week, including Holidays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. 

The cost is $2 per person and per session. A limit of 4 sessions are allowed per day. Each session is 90 minutes. 

Here’s the schedule for the sessions: 

  • 1st 10:30am to 12:00pm
  • 2nd 12:30pm to 2:00pm
  • 3rd 2:30pm to 4:00pm
  • 4th 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Children cannot be taller than 52 inches, must be accompanied by an adult, and should be potty trained. If the child isn’t potty trained, swim diapers will be required.  

Feel free to double-check the link here to make sure none of the info mentioned above has changed.

Santa Fe Dam Fishing 

Fishing is more than just allowed at Santa Fe Dam, it’s highly beloved and encouraged year-round.  

As you’ve probably already read at the top of the post, Santa Fe Dam is home to the moonlight Fishing events during the summer, where families can camp and fish all night.

The California DFG stocks catfish during the Summer and rainbow trout every year from Fall through Spring. At the lake you’ll also find: 

Largemouth bass

Bluegill 

Crappie

Carp

Click the link here to view the stocking schedule on the Department of Fish and Wildlife website. 

The park even offers its very own sinks to clean and gut your fish.

Please remember to carry your fishing license with you at all times. If you don’t have a license you can purchase one at the bike and boat rental shop or at the store, assuming they’re open. 

Don’t want to fish off the shore? No problem, Santa Fe Dam has a nonmotorized boat launch just a few feet away from the sinks. 

santa fe dam boat ramp

It costs $12 to launch your boat, and you can do so all year.

Bike & Boat Rentals

As you walk past the boat launch ramp, you’ll notice a random storefront adjacent to the lake called Wheel Fun Rentals. 

If you’re trying to make the best out of your trip, this place is a must. They rent out various types of bikes and watercraft for the whole family. 

Their hours vary depending on the time of year. They are: 

  • Aug 2, 2021 – Mar 11, 2022: Sat, Sun, & Holidays 10am – 4pm
  • Mar 12 – Jun 24: Sat & Sun 10am – 6pm
  • June 25 – Jul 31: Thu & Fri 11am – 5pm, Sat & Sun 10am – 6pm

You can double-check their hours here.

santa fe dam bike and boat rentalls

Their rentals include: 

  • 2 & 4 seater pedal boats
  • Paddleboards
  • Kayaks (single, double, & triple)
  • Surreys (double, 4 seaters, and 6 seaters)
  • Bicycles, Tricycles, and Quadcycles

For more info on prices click the link here. 

Swimming at Santa Fe Dam

Santa Fe Dam is such a cool spot (especially during the summer) because it literally resembles a little beach in the foothills.

santa fe dam swimming

You have the sand area with palm trees, a section of the 70-acre lake closed off specifically for swimming, a view of the snow-capped peaks in the back, and, as if that wasn’t enough, a playground on the sand. 

By the way, just in case you don’t want your kids playing in the sand, there’s a regular playground located to the east of the sandy playground

santa fe dam sand playground

The park’s swimming hours are Mon-Sun 10am – 6pm 

  • Jun 17th – June 20th
  • Jun 24th – Jun 27th
  • July 1st – Sept 5t

Be sure to arrive early during the summer as the lifeguards close the park once it reaches its full capacity, and from what I remember, the park gets full real fast (and that was 20 years ago).

santa fe dam

Unfortunately, no balls or floats are allowed in the water, as they may create obstructions for lifeguards.  

The swimming section of the area is deep enough for adults to dive down while the lakeshore is shallow enough for babies to sit and splash in the warmer shallow water. The park is perfect for the whole family.  

 

Fitness

Looking to stay in shape? Near the east side of the lake, you’ll find a little outdoor gym/fitness zone. 

After completing the 3.7-mile loop, finish strong with a quick workout before jumping back in your car and calling it a day. 

History of Santa Fe Dam

The Santa Fe Dam was first constructed back in 1941 by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. The main reason for the construction of the dam was because of major floods on the San Gabriel River back in 1938. Another flood occurred in 1943 which halted further construction, but then resumed in 1943. By January 1949, the dam was completed. 

 

In the mid-1950s there was a proposal to create recreational amenities at the dam. However, a master plan to fulfill those wishes wasn’t created until 1975. A lot of the amenities we see today were built between the years 1976-1984. 

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We’re Monica and Phillip. Just like you, we share a passion for the outdoors and our beautiful state of California. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, we thought we’d share them with you! We hope this blog shows you tons of new CA adventures!

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