Lake Piru: Calm but Deadly?

VENTURA COUNTY—Lake Piru, a sleepy waterway nestled in the Los Padres National Forest and Topatopa Mountains (and in between Santa Clarita and Fillmore), is a destination for Southern California anglers, boaters and waders. The lake also made headlines in July after Naya Rivera, the 33-year-old actor known for her work in Glee, died there. She reportedly went for a swim and never returned to her boat.

Us Weekly quoted a Ventura County Sheriff’s deputy in explaining how Rivera, who visited Lake Piru for a boating excursion with her 4-year-old son, died. The deputy stated she could have drowned from exhaustion. She was not wearing a personal flotation device, according to authorities and news reports.

Lake Piru is no stranger to drownings. A Los Angeles Times report, published on July 16, 1997, stated a Glendale man died after he drowned “in the relative calm of Lake Piru” on July 4, 1997.

“Strong winds on Lake Piru often whip up waves that can rock a small boat enough to tip an unsteady fisherman into the water,” the Los Angeles Times report said. “The lake also holds deep columns of chilly water that can overwhelm people.”

At least one dozen deaths have been reported at Lake Piru since the 1990s.

Rivera, for the record, was aboard a pontoon boat with her son.

Lake Piru was created in 1955, when the Santa Felicia Dam was built on Piru Creek; the creek is a tributary to the Santa Clara River, which runs from Santa Clarita to Ventura/Oxnard.

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