Silverwood Lake Information

Silverwood Lake is nestled into the San Gabriel Mountains in southwestern San Bernardino County, in the northern section of the San Bernardino National Forest. Silverwood Lake covers 976 acres, with13 miles of shoreline, and a maximum depth of 166 feet at an altitude of 3,380 feet. It is slightly northwest of and 90 miles from Los Angeles. San Bernardino, California, is the closest city about 23 miles south of Silverwood Lake’s southern shores.

The California Department of Water Resources operates Silverwood Lake and provides a major water source for agencies serving the San Bernardino Mountain and Mojave Desert areas. The West Fork Mojave River feeds Silverwood Lake. The Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area (SRA) manages the boat ramps, boat capacity, parks, campgrounds, and other facilities at Silverwood Lake. Silverwood Lake is part of what locals call California’s Inland Empire.

Silverwood Lake is set among high, barren peaks and scattered forested hillsides. A rugged beauty characterizes Silverwood Lake. Silverwood Lake is located off Highway 138, which leads to the entrance kiosk. Visitors pay their entry fees there. Car and boat trailer parking lots are scattered throughout several areas in the park. Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area experiences high visitation beginning in April and continuing through October. On holidays and all summer weekends, the park may fill to capacity early and will close.

Stay up to date with our Silverwood Lake Email Newsletter.

History of Silverwood Lake

The California Department of Water Resources built the Cedar Springs Dam in 1971 and impounded Silverwood Lake upon the dam’s completion. Silverwood Lake generates hydroelectric power through turbines at its south end, then the water moves to contracting agencies or flows on to Silverwood Lake. Crowds on summer weekends can mean lines at the entrance gate and at the launch ramp.

Silverwood Lake swallowed up the small community of Cedar Springs and forced its residents to relocate. Ward Parker, resident of Cedar Springs since 1937, told the newspapers when Silverwood Lake was built, “They sent appraisers in there and, well…I got what I thought was fair. You can’t fight the state, anyway, so there was nothing I could have done.”

When Silverwood Lake went 90 feet below its regular level so crews could retrofit the outflow towers to meet earthquake standards, Ward reported, “I can make out where I used to live and where my wife’s brother lived. Most of the buildings are gone, but I can see the foundations. It was quite a little community. They used to raise strawberries in the hills here. We had a strawberry festival once a year.”

Archeologists found Paleo-Indian sites dating from circa 10,000 BC and believe that these Indians inhabited the San Bernardino county area for at least 12,000 years before the Spanish came to the region. The town of San Bernardino, originally the Indian village of Guachama, received its Spanish name during an 1810 expedition. Spanish missionaries were the first settlers to the region. Father Dumetz, with a notable career Christianizing native California peoples, gave the San Bernardino Valley its name.

The Spanish missionaries named San Bernardino's inhabitants of Guachama the Serrano Indians, Spanish for "people of the mountains". The Serranos spent their winters in the valley, and their summers in the cooler mountains. In 1851, around 500 Mormons left Utah for California. They found abundant water in the valley, along with cottonwood, sycamore, and willow trees, as well as mustard and yucca plants. The Mormons built Fort San Bernardino at the site of today’s San Bernardino County Courthouse.

As early as the 1840s, settlers in the Cucamonga area near San Bernardino planted grape vineyards. A land grant from the Mexican government established Rancho San Bernardino in 1842. In 1857, a farm in Old San Bernardino planted three orange trees. Brigham Young called the Mormons back to Utah in 1857, and his reasons are unclear. The 1870 census San Bernardino County showed a production of 48,720 gallons of wine. By 1882, a rail car shipped a load of oranges and lemons grown in the San Bernardino Valley to Denver, Colorado.

San Bernardino County grew significantly wealthy into the twentieth century. Wyatt Earp, as a teenager, and his family traveled to San Bernardino by wagon train in 1864. President Lyndon B. Johnson was an elevator operator in the Platt Building in San Bernardino in 1925. President Bill Clinton visited the now closed Norton Air Force Base in May 1994. As of 2019, the population of San Bernardino County was 2.18 million.

Fishing Silverwood Lake

Popular game fish species are bluegill, largemouth and striped bass, channel catfish, black and white crappie, and rainbow trout. Other species include smallmouth bass, common carp, Sacramento perch, redear sunfish, and brown trout. During the summer, it is essential to obtain a Boat Launch Reservation. The Silverwood Lake Marina has the only boat launch with four lanes on Silverwood Lake.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife stock Silverwood Lake with trout throughout the year. In cooler weather, trout tend to stay in shallow water to feed and avoid the striped bass. Bass typically suspend in 30 to 40 feet of water but will move into shallower water to hunt. Stripers hang around the dam, especially around the intake and outtake areas that can attract foraging stripers. You can catch bass from the shore by the docks in shallow water in winter.

Catfish swim throughout Silverwood Lake, with the rockier areas and coves delivering the most action. Bluegill and potentially redear sunfish at Silverwood Lake like the docks, rocky areas, and submerged weeds in the coves around the lake. Productive coves include Chamise Cove, Quiet Cove, and Quarry Cove.

Find crappie around the edges of drop-offs in and near the coves and will move into shallow water in April and May to spawn, and they are easiest to locate at that time of the year.

Five MPH speed limits on most of the best fishing areas of Silverwood Lake keep recreational boaters at a distance. The entire south end of the Silverwood Lake is limited to 5 mph. No powerboats are allowed in the arms of Cleghorn and Miller Canyon, or in the main channel, and the fishing in those areas is excellent for largemouth bass and other species. Trollers like to work the main channel and the area around the dam.

A general store at the marina sells bait, fishing equipment, and other supplies. Silverwood Lake is known for producing a decent population of large bass, catfish, and crappie. Several expert fishing guides on Silverwood Lake know where its fish are biting, and can introduce you to new fishing techniques and gear. 

Find experienced local guides on our Silverwood Lake Fishing Guides page.

Boating Silverwood Lake

Silverwood Lake has two designated swim beaches, with lifeguards during peak season, several picnic areas with boat-in access only, and one marina where visitors can launch their boats. The Silverwood Lake SRA allows only 125 boats per day, and the lake reaches capacity early in the morning, especially during summer. Rugged hills surround most of the shoreline, right to the water’s edge of Silverwood Lake, and it has an average visibility of four feet.

Canoes, kayaks, and pontoon boats are popular for exploring Silverwood Lake. Scuba divers and snorkelers can explore aquatic wildlife, find old fishing gear, and anchors with chains hooked around inundated timber. Early morning light provides the best scuba diving visibility. Local law enforcement conducts scuba diving training because of cloudy conditions and poor visibility in Silverwood Lake. You can only scuba from a boat and scuba diving from shore is prohibited.

During the summer, you must make a Boat Launch Reservation. The Silverwood Lake Marina is a full-service marina and has the only boat launch with four lanes on the lake. Silverwood Lake is popular for water skiing, but strictly enforced 5 mph speed limits protect its best fishing coves and inlets and the entire south end. The northern part of the lake has a water ski area with a 35-mph maximum speed limit. Explore our Silverwood Lake Boat Ramps Map. Make sure to keep an eye on the Silverwood Lake level when planning an outing.

Visitors can rent boats and personal watercraft at the Silverwood Lake Marina, which also offers courtesy docks. Rentals include pontoons, aluminum boats, jet skis, kayaks, and pedal boats. Silverwood Lake is a primary destination for the greater Los Angeles metroplex, so plan your visit in advance and make reservations.

Find or sell a boat on our Silverwood Lake Boats for Sale page.

Silverwood Lake Boating, Fishing, and Swimming Regulations:

  • A valid California State Fishing License is required for all persons 16 years of age.
  • The Silverwood Lake SRA limits the boats to 125 per day.
  • Silverwood Lake entrance fees are $10 per vehicle & $10 per vessel.
  • California requires boat operators to have a California Boating Card. This card is required for all persons age 40 and under to operate a boat in California's waters.
  • During peak season in the summer months, launch reservations are necessary at Silverwood Lake. Silverwood Lake can accommodate 125 boats, and the lake reaches capacity early in the morning.
  • On holidays and all summer weekends, the park may fill to capacity and will close.
  • Make launch reservations online at the at ReserveCalifornia website.
  • Boating hours are from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. All vessels must be on their trailers by sunset.
  • Boat launch fees apply, along with entrance and vehicle fees.
  • State Park Police and Game Wardens strictly enforce the many “no wake zones” on Silverwood Lake.
  • The river channel is a no-ski zone.
  • You can tow a float tube behind a boat or a wave runner only if it is a commercially manufactured inflatable device.
  • Non-commercial devices such as car or truck inner tubes are not allowed.
  • No alcohol is allowed except in designated areas only.
  • All vessels entering Silverwood Lake SRA will be inspected for standing water and quagga mussels. Vessels that fail inspection will not be allowed to launch and may be turned away from the park. Please ensure your vessel is cleaned of vegetation and organic material, and drained of any and all standing water, including in the outdrive and live wells, and completely dry. Any amount of water found may constitute a failure to pass this inspection.
  • You must use local firewood for Silverwood Lake campsites. Contact the Silverwood Lake SRA for information.
  • Dogs are not allowed on the beaches and cannot have any body contact with the water at any time.
  • Dogs allowed in campgrounds, picnic areas, parking lots, and on boats.
  • For your safety and the safety of the animals, do not harass or interact with the wildlife, and always tread carefully.

Daily Limits and Fish Length:

  • Large Mouth Bass: Limit: 5; Length: 12 Inches
  • Striped Bass: Limit:10; No Size
  • Crappie/Bluegill/Sunfish: Limit: 25:No Size
  • Trout: Limit: 5: No Size
  • Catfish: Limit: 10; No Size
  • Carp: No Limit; No Size

State Regulations apply to all other game species

Swimming in Silverwood Lake

Humans who drink or swim in water that contains high concentrations of cyanobacteria or cyanobacterial toxins, also known as algae blooms, may experience gastroenteritis, skin irritation, and allergic responses. Check with the Silverwood Lake SRA for algae bloom updates.

  • Do not drink the water and try not to get water in your mouth.
  • Do not eat algae or aquatic plants.
  • Do not let pets enter the water. They are not allowed in the water by regulation.
  • Do not go swimming if you have open wounds or cuts.
  • Shower after using the lake.

Silverwood Lake Real Estate

Apple Valley, Hesperia, Mariana, Mountain View Acres, Spring Valley Lake, and Victorville, California, are the closest towns to Silverwood Lake on the northern borders within ten to 20 miles. San Bernardino is the closest metroplex and 23 miles south of Silverwood Lake’s southern border. All these towns have school districts.

As of 2021, San Bernardino County homes sold for a median price of $343,999. San Bernardino homes on average sell after 330 days on the market. Although the property surrounding Silverwood Lake is rural with no homes because the California SRA and the San Bernardino National Forest own it, city shopping, restaurants, nightlife, and services are convenient within a few miles of its western, northern, and southern borders.

To find your dream lake home, explore our Silverwood Lake Homes for Sale page.

Camping at Silverwood Lake

The Mesa and New Mesa Campgrounds offer 142 campsites that vary from single tent units to full hookup RV sites, with some walk-in/bike-in sites available. They have flush toilets, piped water, showers, and an RV sanitation station. These campsites provide picnic tables, grills and fire rings. You can only use local firewood.

The Silverwood Lake Campsites campground has picnic tables, grills, fire rings, bathrooms, and a stream running through it. The Miller Canyon Group Sites is located east of the southeastern arm of Silverwood Lake. This campground offers campsites along the south shore of the lake for tents and trailers and has full hookup RV sites.

The Rio Baranca Valle Group Campground is less than a mile on the west side of SR 138 from the entrance to the Silverwood Lake SRA entrance on the east side of SR 138. It has restrooms and showers on site and potable water. Each of the three large group campsites can accommodate over 100 people, and offer horse camping with corrals.

Campfires are allowed in the campground in park-provided fire rings. Use of charcoal is allowed in park-provided grills in the campground and designated picnic areas. Use of personal propane gas grills, stoves, lanterns, and heaters are allowed. Portable charcoal barbeques, ground fires, or other portable wood-burning fire pits or units are not permitted because of potential wild fire danger. During periods of high fire danger based on weather, Silverwood Lake SRA may impose a fire ban. 

Check out our list of campgrounds and RV parks for your family adventure on our Silverwood Lake Camping page.

Silverwood Lake Trails

Thirteen miles of paved multi-use trails for horseback riding, biking, and hiking at Silverwood Lake include a point of entry to part of the famous Pacific Coast Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada, and follows Silverwood Lake’s western and northern borders. Seven walk-in sites are available. Contact the Silverwood Lake SRA for trail maps and information.

Things to Do at Silverwood Lake

Silverwood Lake and the San Bernardino National Forest are the focal points of things to do on the water and in nature. Even though the Silverwood Lake is close to towns and cities, the lake and surrounding lands are rural. The Rim of the World Highway is 101 miles long from San Bernardino to Big Bear Lake. A portion of it runs along the western and southern borders of Silverwood Lake on SR 138. It features the mountains, lakes, and scenery of the Inland Empire.

From January through March, nature lovers, bird watchers, and photographers can register for free Bald Eagle Boat Tours on Silverwood Lake, but park entrance fees apply. Semimonthly guided tours take you to spot bald eagles wintering near the lake and run from December through February. By December or January, hundreds of migrating eagles arrive at their wintering grounds in California, having flown hundreds or thousands of miles from breeding areas in states and Canadian provinces in the north. Registered visitors should dress warmly and bring binoculars, cameras, snacks, and water.

The Silverwood Lake Nature Center is a visitor center on Silverwood Lake and the West Fork Mojave River in the Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area. It is located off of Highway 138. This 2,700 square foot facility provides interpretive media and programs focusing on the significance of Silverwood Lake and its resources. It is a central meeting point and a venue for special events and opens on Fridays through Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm.

Plan your next trip with our What To Do At Silverwood Lake page, and check out our Silverwood Lake Event Calendar.

Silverwood Lake Weather & Climate

Silverwood Lake’s climate, with its elevation of 3,380 feet, offers cool summers and snowy winters. San Bernardino County sees an average of 15 inches of rain, with nine inches of snow, and 284 days of sunshine per year. The winter low in January is typically 36 degrees, with a summer high in July of 95 degrees. April, May, and October are the most comfortable months for this region.

Keep an eye on the skies with our Silverwood Lake Weather Forecast page.

Silverwood Lake Zip Codes

The primary zip code around Silverwood Lake is 92407 in San Bernardino County.

Silverwood Lake Flora and Fauna

Silverwood Lake is surrounded by 2,400 acres with ancient cedar, black oak, Douglas firs, pinyon juniper, Joshua, and sycamore trees, and barrel cactuses and provides the backdrop for spectacular views of Silverwood Lake, wildlife, and its mountains and streams.

Watch Eagles soaring over the lake, hunting for fish and ducks, perching on branches, and landing atop shoreline rocks from January through March. Birders in the black oak woodlands around the lake can look for acorn woodpeckers, western bluebirds, and ground squirrels. In the Ponderosa pines high above Lake Silverwood, watch for house finches, juncos, mountain chickadees, and Steller's jays.

The San Bernardino National Forest provides habitat for bald eagles, peregrine falcons, bighorn sheep, and over 85 species of sensitive plants. Common sightings include chipmunks, coyotes, raccoons, and squirrels. Wildlife watchers rarely see black bears, bobcats, deer, foxes, and mountain lions because they are elusive to human presence.

Many of the pine species do not get enough water and cannot protect themselves from attacks by beetles, which lay their eggs inside of the trees. The Coulter pine and Ponderosa pine are highly susceptible to these attacks because the beetles lay eggs multiple times each year in them. Forest fires and droughts also pose a threat to the flora and fauna in the San Bernardino National Forest. 

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Silverwood Lake Weather Forecast



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Thursday Night

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