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What is there to do at Lake Perris?

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Lake Perris State Recreation Area provides many opportunities for public enjoyment, including hiking, bicycling, fishing, swimming, picnicking, camping, and horse back riding.

About Lake Perris

Indian MuseumThe untended areas of Lake Perris may seem rocky and barren at first glance, but an amazing variety of natural wonders are waiting to be found by those who seek them out. The predominant plant community, coastal sage scrub is host to a variety of birds and wildlife. Mule deer, roadrunners, bobcats, coyotes, cotton tail, jack rabbits, quail, gopher snakes, and rattlesnakes may sometimes be seen by day though they tend to shy away from people. More frequently seen are a wide variety of lizards, rodents, water fowl, and birds of prey. Beautiful displays of wildflowers occur during the rainy season- generally November through April.

Lake Perris is ringed by various hills and small mountains. The coastal sage scrub community is predominant on the south-facing slopes of the Russell Mountains and Bernasconi Hills and is characterized by shrubby plants including desert encelia, brittlebush, sagebrush, black sage, white sage, buckwheat, and cacti. Conditions are somewhat shadier on hillsides that face north or northwest so that chaparral plants such as chamise, penstemon, and--caution!--poison oak are apt to be found. Remnants of the original perennial grasses that once flourished in this region can still be found in the flat interior of the park surrounding the lake, but the majority of plants that now make up the valley grassland community (including Russian thistle) were imported from Europe by early settlers. Riparian areas near springs and seeps, and on east and south lakes include willows, cattails, elderberry and nettles.Killdeer

Most plants and animals at Lake Perris are well adapted to the hot, dry environment. Chamise leaves are tiny and waxy to maximize water loss due to evaporation. Some grasses and wildflowers rush from bloom to seed in just a few short weeks and are able therefore to complete their life cycle within the brief wet season. Kangaroo rats are so well adapted to dry environments that they seldom drink water, and manage to extract the moisture they need directly from their food. The plants and animals of Perris valley have changed considerably over the last two hundred years due to human activity, but the natural history of this area can still intrigue the observant visitor.

Burrowing OwlMore than a hundred different species of birds have been spotted at Lake Perris. Many are migratory, and stop at the park briefly during their travels, while others make their permanent residence here. Larks, loggerhead shrikes, roadrunners, California thrashers, quail, wrens, sparrows, hummingbirds, golden eagles, several varieties of hawks, ospreys, and even bald eagles may be seen. In addition, many varieties of waterfowl use the lake including pintails, widgeons, teals, mallards, shovelers, various geese, and sometimes whistling swans and pelicans. Blacknecked stilts, avocets, killdeer, willets, kingfishers, egrets, and herons are attracted to the water’s edge.

Day and night, hawks and owls are frequently seen hunting for mice, moles, wood rats, and other rodents. These animals provide food not only for hawks, owls, and snakes, but also for coyotes, long-tailed weasels, skunks, badgers, and bobcats. The bike trail offers an easy and convenient way to see some of the birds and other wildlife of Lake Perris. Early morning or dusk are the best times. Ranger-led hikes are conducted during the spring and early summer months.

For your safety, and the safety of the animals please do not harass or interact with the wildlife and always tred carefully when not on a paved road.

Park Regulations: Day Use

California State Laws Always Apply.

     THE POSSESSION AND CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES ARE PROHIBITED IN ALL DAY USE.  Alcohol is only allowed in your overnight camp site and you may consume alcohol from a vessel.  Please designate drivers both on the road and on your boat. Law Enforcment Rangers arrest an average of 50 visitors a year for drunk driving.  Please be smart and safe.

     All vehicles must remain on the pavement.  For information about Off Highway Vehicle parks, please visit

Animals and Pets

     Animals must be leashed (6’ or less), caged, or in a tent, motor home, or vehicle at all times. (For your pet's safety, do NOT leave animals locked up in your car during the day, even with the windows cracked. Use a crate in a shady area or a portable pet run). Visitors are responsible for cleaning up after their pets. Animals can not be left unattended.

     For their own safety, keep dogs off of unpaved trails.

     Animals are not allowed on the sand (Beach areas) because the water is used for municipal drinking water. This includes the island and Bernasconi Beach area, and Alessandro Island.

     Animals are allowed in the campground and picnic areas. Animals are allowed to be on watercraft but they can NOT have any body contact with the water at any time. 

     Dogs in the campground must not disturb other campers. If your dog barks excessively you may be asked to remove your dog. 

     ADA Service animals are always welcome and are not subject to the above rules, except for contact with the water.