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Wildlife and History

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Though Lake Perris was established to provide Southern Californians recreational opportunities in boating, picnicking and swimming, camping, hiking, and others, the park is also home to many species of animals and plants native (and some not native) to the Southern California.

Here you can find information on some of plants and animals on your visit to Lake Perris SRA.  On the right side, you will find links to common animals in the area, and below you will find descriptions of the natural plant members and communities that make up the landscape of Lake Perris. 



Keep Wildlife Wild and Plants Safe

Respect the park's resources!  This for your safety, and animals, and our heritage.  Remember, never feed or approach animals in the park.

  •  Keep your distance from animals, even if they approach you
  •  Dispose of trash in trash cans or dumpsters
  •  Keep your food and trash from wildlife by storing it properly, day and night.
  •  Failure to obey regulations may result in citation.
  • Do not pick plants, leafs, stems, or flowers
  • Do not collet shells or any other natural (or cultural) resource found at the park

Geography and Climate

Lake Perris lies in a land of transition. The small, dry, sparse shrubs around are reminisecnt of the the desert, or at least of a land of little water.  At the same time, coastal fog and marine breezes regularly settle in this region.  These aspects are directly related to the influence of the not-so-far ocean. Here, among the hills and valleys surrounding Lake Perris, the land and weather are constantly transforming and transitioning, and the plants and animals must learn to adapt to an ever-changing world.        


Geography and Geology:

Lake Perris SRA is Located 100 miles north of San Diego, 70 miles east of Los Angeles, and 40 miles west of Palm Springs, at the foot of the imposing San Jacinto Mountains.   Lake Perris SRA lies in the Inland Empire region of California, known for its sprawling suburbs.  As you journey through the park are the imposing, rocky hills surrounding you and the high seasonally snow capped peaks in the background.  Indeed, the region is rich in geographic wonders.  Around the park, the granite hills of Lake Perris, specifically the to the north the Armada, to the east the Russell and Apuma, and to the south the Bernasconi and Alessandro Island, were all formed in a relatively recent geologic time.  This is due in part because of their proximity to the three major fault zones; the San Andreas, San Jacinto, and Elsinore.  The lofty heights of San Gorgonio Mountain to the northeast, the highest point in southern California at 11,502’), and across the San Gorgonio Pass with its wind-farms, San Jacinto Peak (10,834’) stand as stately backdrops to the park.  As one walks along the many trails in the park, all of these geographic realities are encountered.  

Climate and Ecosystems:

Globally speaking, the climate of Lake Perris is extremely rare.  The hot, dry summers, and cool wet winters that characterize the region’s weather is known as a Mediterranean Climate.  A Mediterranean Climate is found along the west coasts of continents along cold ocean currents between 30-40 degrees north or south of the equator.  Globally the regions include the Mediterranean Basin, parts of Chile, South Africa, and Australia, and California.  Covering only about 2.5% of the world’s land area, yet containing 15% of its plant species, this climate’s abundance of biological diversity is well articulated in the four main ecosystems found at Lake Perris.  These include, Coastal Sage Scrub, by far the most prevalent, Chaparral, found on the shadier north slopes of the hills, Open Grassland, located in the lonely eastern ends of the park, and Riparian, water loving plants which grow near streambeds and the along the lake.  Each member of Lake Perris’ ecosystems is specially adapted in unique ways to conserve water over dry periods, and make the most of water’s abundance in the wet times.   




Plant Life

As you hike or drive along the trails or roads in the park, the most common plants you will see include members of the Coastal Sage Scrub community, yet if some dedicated hiking is done, members of the three other ecosystem communities become apparent as well.  For informational purposes, some of the most common will be discussed here for your own identification.

-Brittlebush:   Also known as the Desert Encelia, the Brittlebush is the most common plant found in the Coastal Sage Scrub habitat at Lake Perris.  One could even say it is a “monoculture”, that is by far the most numerous plant at the lake.  Its leaves are a steep V-shape, which reduces the amount of sunlight it receives. The bush has gray-green waxy leaves, which reduces evaporation and allows for water conservation.  Additionally, the plant both has deep root systems, allowing it to reach underground water, and loses much of its leaves in the summer, that is to say, it is  “drought deciduous”; dropping its leaves for the summer, not winter.  As a member of the sunflower family, each plant flowers beautifully in spring.    

-White Sage:  Hiking along the trails up to Terri Peak, this aromatic plant becomes apparent.  It is extremely odorous, and was used by the Native Americans as food, and as a scent disguise for hunting.   Leaves are quite large, and the bush like plant is a grayish-green, flowering large seed pod stocks in spring.   

-Chamise:  A member of the chaparral community, chamise, also known as greasewood, can be found as the green specks on the northside of the Bernasconi Hills and Russell Mountains.  Enjoying a bit more shade and moister soils, this plant rebounds well after fires, sprouting from its stump.  Leaves are small and evergreen, a bit sharp, and the plant can grow quite tall.

-Buckwheat: Also, one of the most common plants found throughout the park is buckwheat, a small shrub that can flower wonderfully at any time during the year, but most commonly does in spring.  Look for a bunchy green in spring, brown in summer, plant with small rosemary-like leaves.

-Blue Elderberry: This tree enjoys a moister soil, and its presence can be seen as an indicator of higher water content in the soil.  It is a small tree that flowers white in the spring, which turns into berries later in the year, before dropping its leaves for the dry summer.  Its berries are a staple food for many animals at the park, as well as for Native Americans.