Huntington Beach is the place where the Santa Ana River makes waves – quite literally. Part of what makes Surf City such an excellent place to catch a wave is a sandbar created by sediment flowing from the Santa Ana. People have gathered here to surf and enjoy the SoCal lifestyle for decades, and Huntington Beach is still a great place to come to relax and soak up the sun.

Ride the waves at Surf City

Ride the waves at Surf City

The culture of this particular beach makes it a perfect destination to bring your kids for a day of fun. Pack up a cooler full of cold drinks, your lounge chairs, beach toys, boogie boards, and your beach umbrella and camp out for the day.

My niece Emily and nephew Hunter had a great time playing in the surf and dipping their feet in the river. Once they started riding the waves on their boogie boards, it was nearly impossible to get them out of the water.

Suggestions for things to do:

Ride in a Surry (but no fringe on top)

Surry 2

Surries are great fun – but be ready for a workout!

There are a series of rental places/snack shops that dot the boardwalk at Huntington State Beach. You can rent normal bikes, surries, and a few other interesting rides. Emily had her heart set on a surry, which is actually cheaper than renting a bike for each member of your family. They have two sizes – one with room for two peddlers and one with room for four. Both types have seats in the front for very small children (they get to enjoy the ride with no work!)

We took the one with room for two and I had the kids switch out between peddling and resting. Emily had a great time pretending to “drive” with the dummy steering wheel. Surries are a great relationship builder if you are looking for a workout and don’t mind joggers passing you.

Wade in the River

Emily’s favorite part of the day was getting to dip her feet in the Santa Ana before we moved over to the Pacific side of the beach. Families set up camp along the river’s edge – some even set their beach chairs right in the shallows.

The Santa Ana River reaches the Pacific Ocean

The Santa Ana River reaches the Pacific Ocean

Kids can wade in shallow water without waves overwhelming them. The river’s currents are strong, though, and can go out to sea or back toward land depending on the tides. Don’t let kids go too deep. This is a place for strong supervision.

Emily and Hunter Brave the RiverThe Santa Ana River is Southern California’s largest and most-used river and supplies water to millions of people living in the Santa Ana’s watershed, which extends from the Inland Empire to Orange County. Its headwaters are high in the San Bernardino Mountains, stretching from Mount Baldy to Big Bear. Snowmelt from these mountains and rain from around the watershed feed the Santa Ana and its many tributaries. One of the coolest things about this watershed is that most parts of it are within easy driving distance – you can ski in the mountains, drive through the desert, and play at the beach all in one day.

Ride the Waves

If you don’t know how to surf, you can still enjoy Huntington Beach’s legendary waves. Boogie boards are incredibly popular – the shallow surf is full of kids swimming out and riding back. If you don’t own boogie boards, they can be rented at the snack shops that dot the beaches. Emily and Hunter spent the better part of three hours in the water, fighting their way out and careening back to shore.

Emily Bougieboarding

Sand Sports

Now would be the time to dust off any footballs, volleyballs, or even badminton sets you have in the garage. Any kind of beach sport you can think of is more than welcome at Huntington. No one seems to mind if a ball goes flying towards another group’s setup – it’s almost expected.

Cookout

Bring your tailgating gear for a feast on the sand. One of the most clever setups we saw was a family that fit a giant cooler into one of those collapsible red wagons.

If cooking on the sand is not your style, bring drinks, snacks, and stop at the snack shops for what Emily and Hunter swear are the “best hotdogs EVER!”

Emily & Hunter say they serve "the best hotdogs EVER!!!"

Emily & Hunter say these snack shops serve “The best hotdogs EVER!!!”

Where to Find It:

Huntington State Beach is located where the Santa Ana River meets the Pacific Ocean.  The Santa Ana’s Headwaters start high in the mountains that surround the Inland Empire, including places like Big Bear. The snow we play in all winter eventually makes its way down to Surf City, where it runs into the Pacific.

The Beach is situated next to the Pacific Coast Highway, west of Magnolia Street in the City of Huntington Beach – click here for directions from the California Department of Parks & Recreation. Parking is $15 for the day during the summer and $10 a day from October 1st through March 31st. Come early for the best spots.

Huntington Beach is where the Santa Ana River meets the Pacific Ocean.

Huntington Beach is where the Santa Ana River meets the Pacific Ocean.

Kid-Approved Adventures

There are so many cool things to do with your kids in the Santa Ana Watershed, which extends from Big Bear to Huntington Beach, coving much of the Inland Empire and Orange County. One thing that these two regions share is a water supply – and if you live in the IE or the OC, most of your water comes from within this area.

DSCN0410The Santa Ana Watershed encompasses all of the best of SoCal living – the mountains, the desert, and the beach – and sightseeing locally is a great way to have fun with your kids without burning a ton of cash. We will visit many places in the IE and the OC together and all of it is “kid-approved” by them.

Want to explore more places in the watershed? Take a look at SAWPA’s map of things to do in the Santa Ana Watershed, which extends from Big Bear to the beach!

Did you know that 20% of the energy used in the State of California is used to move and treat water?

The San Onofre nuclear power plant has been shut down permanently. Photo Credit: Jason Hickey, Flickr Creative Commons

That more than just an interesting factoid. It actually has an impact our daily lives because energy is a kind of “hidden cost” in our water bills, so when you save water, you save energy and money.

Conservation is especially important this summer since the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant was shut down permanently due to unsafe conditions.  That means that in Southern California, we are entering our hot summer season with a less than normal power supply. Summer is the season we have the heaviest power use because it is the time we all crank up the A/C. To prevent rolling blackouts, energy companies are working with water agencies to reduce the amount of water used and to get the word out to customers about conservation.

How You Can $ave

A lush low-water garden. Photo Credit: M. Dolly, Flickr Creative Commons

A lush low-water garden. Photo Credit: M. Dolly, Flickr Creative Commons

Watering Outside

Chances are, between 50% and 70% of the water you buy goes to water your lawn and garden. While the most environmentally friendly thing to do is to replace turf grass with California Friendly plants, not everyone is quite ready to do that.

If you are ready rip out your lawn, the IE Garden Friendly website can help you pick out plants in a lush Mediterranean style – water conscious does not doom you to a yard full prickly cacti. Also, you can replace only parts of your lawn with California Friendly plants and leave the rest to appease the lawn-lover in your house.

If you love your lawn, there is still a lot you can do to save water. Many people unknowingly over-water their lawns. Dust off your sprinkler controller and take a look at the following things:

Lawns use a lot of water, which means small changes mean big savings. Photo credit: Gilberto Taccari, Flickr Creative Commons

Lawns use a lot of water, which means small changes mean big savings. Photo credit: Gilberto Taccari, Flickr Creative Commons

  • Set your sprinklers to water in the early morning – that way, less water is lost to evaporation. Also, doing so is better for your plants – watering during the day will cause water to stay on them while the sun beats down and actually harms the leaves.
  • Set your sprinklers to water for a few short intervals – this will allow your lawn to absorb water rather than having it run off into the street.
  • Cut back to two days a week – your lawn does not need to be watered every day, or even every other day. According to the Metropolitan Water District, watering two days a week instead of five can save 840 gallons of water a week!
  • Buy a Smart Irrigation Controller – it will receive local weather data and set your watering schedule accordingly.
  • Buy a WaterDex remote control for sprinklers – less expensive than a smart controller, it will work with your current sprinkler controller and let you set the limits from the comfort of your air conditioned living room.

Washing up outside

Photo Credit: Orin Zebest, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Orin Zebest, Flickr Creative Commons

  • Use a broom – cleaning your deck, driveway and sidewalks with a hose instead of a broom can waste up to 150 gallons of water.
  • Go to a professional carwash rather than washing your car at home. Most of them reuse their water, which leaves your car just a sparkling clean without the same amount of waste.

Indoor Use

Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth! Photo Credit: RebeccaLeeP, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Credit: RebeccaLeeP, Flickr Creative Commons

While the bulk of our water is used outside, there is still a lot we can do inside.

  • Use your dishwasher rather than washing by hand – make sure it is full first!
  • Take shorter showers. Five minutes is the ideal, but if you can’t quite make it there, try to shave a couple of minutes off of what you are currently doing. Get faster as you go. Remember: every minute cut off a morning shower is one more minute you can sleep in!
  • Shut off the water when brushing your teeth and washing your face. According to MSN Living, you can save up to 8 gallons of water a day by making that one painless change.

Get Paid to Save

See if you are eligible for rebates from your water agency by checking out their website, or go to SoCal Water Smart for rebates offered by the Metropolitan Water District and its 26 member agencies.

Photo Credit: 401(k)2013, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Credit: 401(k)2013, Flickr Creative Commons

Spread the Word

Share your ideas with us! Have you found a creative way to save water? Let us know about it on our Facebook Page at or on Twitter @SoCalTapWater.

Emily tests out the ice cold water of San Antonio Creek at Mt. Baldy.

Emily tests out the ice cold water of San Antonio Creek at Mt. Baldy.

If you’re looking for a quick way to escape rising temperatures, it’s tough to beat a day trip to Mt. Baldy. Have your kids “unplug” – there is no cell phone reception – and visit a different world from a simpler time. Easily accessible from the 210 Freeway (directions below), Mt. Baldy is where the Angeles National Forest meets the San Bernardino National Forest and it offers hiking trails, a cute village, a nature center, and a cool stream for hot summer days.

First Stop: The Mount Baldy Nature Center

DSCN1034 - Hunter and Emily meet Smokey Bear

Hunter & Emily meet Smokey Bear at the U.S. Forest Service’s nature center at Mt. Baldy.

You need a parking pass to park anywhere outside Baldy Village, so your first stop should be to the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center to pick one up ($5 for the day, Season Passes available). The Visitor Center is located in the Village’s original 1920’s schoolhouse, directly across Mt. Baldy Road from the Baldy Lodge – a local watering hole. Arrive early to park outside next to the road. Parking in the Visitor Center’s lot is limited to 20 minutes (they want to avoid people parking there for day-long hikes).

Inside the Visitor’s Center is a trail that shows you the flora and fauna to be found from the foothills to Mt. Baldy’s peak. Also on display are exhibits that show what life was like locally in the 1800s and early 1900s. Friendly rangers are on hand to help you pick out a hike that works best for you. They have maps of the different hikes available and mark them with your choices, along with directions on where to park.

Outside in the nature center is a reproduction of a Native American (Tongva-Gabrielino) village and a mining camp. Emily and Hunter loved exploring the buildings and tents beneath the shade of grand old trees.

Also, picnic tables and public toilets are available. Be sure to bring your own hand sanitizer, as there is no soap available.

Get Your Feet Wet

By far the most popular part of the day was playing in San Antonio Creek. Drive up Mt. Baldy Road, passing the Buckhorn Lodge on your left. As soon as you cross the bridge, pull in to the gravel parking area to your left. Follow the sounds of the water down to the San Antonio Creek. Beautiful trees shade the creek from the heat of the day and whisper as the wind blows through them.

San Antonio Creek at Mt. Baldy is part of a vast network of headwaters that delivers water to millions of people living downstream.

San Antonio Creek at Mt. Baldy is part of a vast network of headwaters that delivers water to millions of people living downstream.

This area is where you can truly unplug and enjoy nature the way people have for centuries – by dipping your feet in the shallows of a cool stream.  It is important to caution your kids to watch where they step – the rocks are slippery and there are spiders by the waters edge (this is nature, not a water park so it’s important to respect it and be aware of your surroundings).

Hunter didn't want to leave.

Hunter didn’t want to leave.

Use commons sense when approaching the stream. If it looks too full or fast than simply enjoy it from the banks. However, when we got there it was shallow and slow enough to wade in.

Emily and Hunter were reluctant at first to step in – it is COLD. The water comes from snowmelt. After a couple of minutes, though, they became absorbed with looking for bugs and splashing each other. In fact, when it was time to go I could barely pull them away.

One thing that they were completely shocked to learn is that much of their drinking water actually comes from this stream and others like it in the area. If you live in the Santa Ana River’s watershed, chances are most of your water comes from this stream as well – and it is thoroughly cleaned and rigorously tested for safety before reaching your tap.

Hiking Options

Emily, Hunter, and I at the entrance to Ice house Canyon Trail.

Emily, Hunter, and I at the entrance to Ice house Canyon Trail.

The rangers at the nature center are happy to recommend age-appropriate hikes. For older kids of Emily and Hunter’s age (tweens & early teens), they recommended the Ice House Canyon Trail, which is really a series of options that you can cater to your kids needs & experience. Rangers recommend that kids be at least 10 years old, although they have seen some as young as 8 tackle it. One recommendation is to simply go along it as far as they can handle and then turn back.

When you arrive at the Nature Center to buy your parking pass, the rangers will be happy to give you directions. If you go on a weekend, make sure to arrive at the trailhead early, as parking is limited.

The hike to San Antonio Falls is an easier option for smaller kids. The ranger we spoke to said that she sees people with strollers on it all the time, as it is really more of a paved road than a hiking trail. The trailhead and parking area is near Snowcrest Lodge and the campgrounds of Manker Flats. The distance from the parking area to the falls in 0.6 miles with an elevation gain of 240 feet.

Let’s Eat!

Picnic Under the Pines

The Mt. Baldy Nature Center is a great place for a picnic in the cool shade of pine trees.

The Mt. Baldy Nature Center is a great place for a picnic in the cool shade of pine trees.

There are picnic areas all over Mount Baldy, and the nature center is a great place to inquire. If you can’t wait though, it is also an excellent place for a picnic. Emily, Hunter, and I ate in under the shade a gorgeous coulter pine while some very bold blue jays begged from nearby trunks.

For an easy picnic, stop for sandwiches at Claro’s Italian Market in Upland before heading up the mountain. They have a make-your-own sandwich option that lets you choose three different meats and one cheese. Meats and cheeses are both imported and domestic, from at least four types of turkey to hot capicola, the choices seem endless.

Mt. Baldy Lodge

Mt. Baldy LodgeFor a bit of rustic charm, visit the Mt. Baldy Lodge across the street from the nature center. Built sometime before the 1940s (no one really knows for sure) the little complex boasts a restaurant, bar, pool tables, and even cabins behind. Walk through the restaurant to find a cute patio garden for sunny days. While there is no kids menu, they have a kid-friendly selection and a staff willing to accommodate even the pickiest of eaters.

Buckhorn Lodge

Buckhorn LodgeSurrounded by vaulting mountains faces, the Buckhorn Lodge has opened its patio to Summer Outdoor Bar-B-Ques (weather dependent), complete with hamburgers, chicken, and giant hot dogs. Enjoy mountain views and the sound of San Antonio Creek as it passes by the building.

How to Get There

From the 210 Freeway, exit mountain Avenue in Upland and head north, toward the mountains. Follow Mountain Avenue as it curves toward the foothills. When you reach a T-intersection at the base of the foothills (with Euclid Avenue) turn left. Continue up the hill, passing a fire station until you reach another T-intersection, this time with Mt. Baldy Road – turn right and drive up the mountain until you reach Baldy Village. The Nature Center will be on you left.

Map Data: Google, County of San Bernardino, Digital Globe, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Farm Service Agency

Map Data: Google, County of San Bernardino, Digital Globe, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Farm Service Agency

About Kid-Approved Adventures

There are so many cool things to do with your kids in the Santa Ana Watershed, which extends from Big Bear to Huntington Beach, coving much of the Inland Empire and Orange County. One thing that these two regions share is a water supply – and if you live in the IE or the OC, most of your water comes from within this area.

Hunter, Emily, and I at a local park.

Hunter, Emily, and I at a local park.

The Santa Ana Watershed encompasses all of the best of SoCal living – the mountains, the desert, and the beach – and sightseeing locally is a great way to have fun with your kids without burning a ton of cash. We will visit many places in the IE and the OC together and all of it is “kid-approved” by them.

Mt. Baldy is part of the headwaters of the Santa Ana Watershed.

Mt. Baldy is part of the headwaters of the Santa Ana Watershed.

The Santa Ana River Trail was called the “longest and best” off-road cycling path in the Los Angeles area by LABikePaths.com. It winds for 40 miles along the Santa Ana River from Green River Canyon, where the river emerges from the San Bernardino Mountains to the ocean, between Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa. The Santa Ana River is the backbone of the Santa Ana Watershed, which encompasses much of the Inland Empire and Orange County and provides water to millions of people.

Hunter, Emily, and I pose for a picture on a bridge over a stream leading to the Santa Ana River (helmets are off for all stationary shots).

Hunter, Emily, and I pose for a picture on a bridge over a stream leading to the Santa Ana River (helmets are off for all stationary shots).

There are plenty of stretches of bike path to explore. We chose Riverside because there is a very long section with natural areas adjoining it. To learn more about the trail, how it came to be, and different access points, visit the Santa Ana River Trail’s website.

The Ride

DSCN0473

The bike trail follows the Santa Ana River.

Emily, Hunter, and I started our adventure in Riverside (named because the city sits next to the Santa Ana River), at the Carlson Bark Park, which is one of the easiest access points to the river trail in the area. It is a delightful dog park with plenty of parking at the foot of Mt. Rubidoux.

We cycled south, toward the ocean. The river itself is not easily spotted along this stretch. Instead, it feels more like we were biking next to a strip of grassland with plenty of beautiful, old trees.

The area in the riverbed is lush and green.

The area in the riverbed is lush and green.

Riverside itself is fairly dry, but the stretch near the river is a lush green landscape full of wildlife – chipmunks, squirrels, ducks, and other birds. The kids loved pulling over to see if they could spot animals in the grassland and wooded areas. We saw a couple of chipmunks and a pair of Mallard ducks in one of the small tributaries into the river. One thing that I learned on this outing is that kids don’t really need a lot of expensive stuff. They just want to go on an adventure and were both really excited to explore nature. This trip is a great way to bond with kids while keeping an eye on your pocketbook.

DSCN0456

Emily and Hunter were excited to spot plenty of wildlife.

Mt. Rubidoux is an excellent landmark on the way back. It is a granite hill that was named after wealthy landowner Louis Rubidoux and was developed in 1906 by Frank Miller, owner of the Mission Inn. At the top is an American flag and a cross dedicated to Father Serra (incidentally, the riverbed is awash with mustard plants attributed to Father Serra’s travels between missions as the Spanish settled California – making for an excellent chance to teach kids about California history). Roads leading up to the summit of Mt. Rubidoux were originally meant for cars, but the mountain was closed to vehicles in 1992 and now is a great place for hiking and biking with a view.

Lunch

There are many options for lunch in the area, but nothing beats a picnic in a park.

Rancho Jurupa Park

DSCN0405

Rancho Jurupa Park is great for a picnic and a chance to rest while the kids play.

Rancho Jurupa Park, just on the other side of the river from Carlson Bark Park, is an excellent choice. They do have a nominal charge for admission, but the park is packed full of amenities (such as bathrooms, barbeque pits, picnic tables, and playgrounds). If you and the kids need to cool off after a hot ride, there is a mini water park right next to the visitor’s center. The visitor’s center conveniently sells ice cream, snack foods, cold drinks…and fish bait! Also, if you still need to run off more energy, there is miniature golf and Frisbee golf for the family to enjoy.

For a More Comfortable Ride

As the weather heats up, the sun can be relentless. I would suggest going as early as you can all happily get out the door, and bring plenty of sunscreen. Also, water is a must, and you can fill a BPA-free reusable bottle full of ice and add tap water. The ice will melt as you ride, giving you plenty of cool water for the “road.”

Getting There

Carlson Park is near where the 60 Freeway meets the 91 Freeway. It is on Mission Inn Avenue and Scout Lane (which is really just the parking lot).

Riding Bikes in Riverside Map

Map Data: Google, County of San Bernardino, Data CSUMB SFML, CA OPC, Digital Globe, Landsat, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Farm Service Agency

Kid-Approved Adventures

There are so many cool things to do with your kids in the Santa Ana Watershed, which extends from Big Bear to Huntington Beach, coving much of the Inland Empire and Orange County. One thing that these two regions share is a water supply – and if you live in the IE or the OC, most of your water comes from within this area.

DSCN0410The Santa Ana Watershed encompasses all of the best of SoCal living – the mountains, the desert, and the beach – and sightseeing locally is a great way to have fun with your kids without burning a ton of cash. We will visit many places in the IE and the OC together and all of it is “kid-approved” by them.

Want to explore more places in the watershed? Take a look at SAWPA’s map of things to do in the Santa Ana Watershed, which extends from Big Bear to the beach!

Recently, some interests have alleged that drinking water in different parts of the country contains unsafe levels of disinfection byproducts. Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) are compounds that can result from cleaning tap water and killing the bacteria and viruses that cause illnesses like typhoid and cholera.

Testing and disinfecting water has been credited as one of the major health advancements of the last century - leading to longer lifespans and lower child mortality rates. Photo credit: Ben Husmann

Testing and disinfecting water has been credited as one of the major health advancements of the last century – leading to longer lifespans and lower child mortality rates. Photo credit: Ben Husmann

Disinfecting water is critical to our health – it is partly responsible for our longer lifespans and for the decrease in child mortality in America over the past century. One hundred years ago, outbreaks of cholera, dysentery, and typhoid were common in U.S. cities, and disinfection technology was a major factor in eliminating them.[1] The World Health Organization and the U.S. Center for Disease Control credit water filtration and disinfection as one of the major advancements of the last century and people have been drinking water with disinfection byproducts for the past 90 years. DBPs are carefully monitored and limited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Modern water disinfection has played a large role in virtually eliminating epidemics of diseases like typhoid and cholera, which were once common in American cities and still occur in some areas of the developing world.

Modern water disinfection has played a large role in virtually eliminating epidemics of diseases like typhoid and cholera, which were once common in American cities and still occur in some areas of the developing world.

While these interests allege that levels of disinfection byproducts are unsafe, the EPA sets strict limits on the amount of these compounds that water agencies are allowed to use. Every water agency, including our own local water agencies, must follow these rules. In fact, the EPA tightened those rules in recent years, and water agencies that serve our drinking water to our region meet those limits. All water agencies are required to test their water and report the results in an annual Consumer Confidence Report. The EPA posts links to all local Consumer Confidence Reports here.

A water agency’s first priority is the health and safety of everyone who drinks its water.

A water agency’s first priority is the health and safety of everyone who drinks its water.

Chlorine-based disinfection is particularly important because it protects water as it moves through pipes into our homes. While methods like UV light and ozonation effectively kill dangerous microbes and are often used for treatment of source water, chlorine-based disinfection is still widely used for its reliance in protecting water after it leaves the treatment plant from the local utility.[2]

Some organizations have asserted that better protecting source water would reduce the need to use chemicals like chlorine and chloramine to clean tap water. We support efforts to clean source water because it benefits us all. However, even the cleanest source water should be put through a treatment process to ensure that it is safe for us to drink. The filtration and disinfection processes that we use today have contributed greatly to eliminating epidemics like cholera and typhoid from the developed world. They have contributed to us all living longer and healthier lives.

If you would like to learn more about this issue in-depth, the folks at DrinkTap.org have an excellent article explaining the science involved.

Tap water is subjected to more rules and scrutiny than bottled water. All our local agencies meet EPA limits on disinfection byproducts. Photo Credit: Michael Pollak

Tap water is subjected to more rules and scrutiny than bottled water. All our local agencies meet EPA limits on disinfection byproducts. Photo Credit: Michael Pollak