A walk around Goleta’s Lake Los Carneros is a relaxing, delightful way to not only get some exercise, but to take in the beauty of the region. Though not especially well known to those outside the immediate neighborhood, the lake — now about 25 acres — has existed in one form or another for more than 9,000 years.

Members of the Chumash tribe lived in the area and utilized what they needed of the waterfowl, fish, land mammals and tules around what was then a vernal pool or pools at the north end of the Goleta Slough.

The lake, or Stow Pond as it was sometimes called, was enlarged substantially by Sherman Stow after he built a home on adjoining acreage where he began farming in the late 1800s. While Stow and his wife, Ida Hollister Stow, were raising a family on Rancho La Patera, he had an earth-fill dam constructed that doubled the lake’s capacity, allowing irrigation of the home’s extensive gardens and orchards.

Today, the lake and surrounding acreage are still home to numerous species of wildlife: bass, bluegill and black bullhead fish; while raccoons; gray foxes; striped skunks; wild bunnies; and opossums are known to inhabit the preserve.

Birds are an important ecological aspect of the lake, with as many as 220 different species — many year ’round residents and others stopping off during migrations — residing at different times in the preserve. The area also has its share of reptiles and amphibians.

It is also home to coastal sage, grasses, pampas grass and tules, along with eucalyptus, oak, palm, Monterey cypress and Monterey pine trees.

Visitors can view the lake from a bridge that also serves as an overlook at the marshy north end of the lake.

Artists, on their own and with classes, frequent the preserve on a regular basis, and birdwatchers consider it an excellent place to spot wide varieties of the feathered creatures.

Students of all ages, elementary through college, come to Lake Los Carneros to learn about eco-systems. Classes sometimes combine the lesson with tours of the historical Stow House and Rancho La Patera, which has displays of some of the first tractors and other farm equipment used in the Goleta Valley.

The Goleta Valley Historical Society oversees the ranch. Also adjacent to the lake is the historical Goleta Depot and South Coast Railroad Museum.

Numerous women, men and children are regulars on the path circumventing the lake; dog walkers, runners, infants in strollers, couples and individuals frequent the peaceful oasis daily.

A stroll around Lake Los Carneros is especially lovely early in the morning or at twilight, but anytime of day will deliver unexpected rewards.


How to get there

Lake Los Carneros is between N. Los Carneros Rd. and N. La Patera Lane on the west and east, Covington Way on the north and Calle Real on the south, just north of Hwy. 101. It can be accessed by walking around Stow House and toward the east.