Nestled between Governor’s Corner and Florence Moore Hall is Lake Lagunita, the “lake” that is a misnomer for roughly three quarters of the year. “Lake Lag,” as it is commonly called, is actually not much of a lake at all.
Lake Lag only rises naturally during the rainy season, normally occurring during winter quarter, but the University fills it with water when necessary to support the California tiger salamander population that resides in the lakebed. This decision was made due to the plight of these native amphibians, according to University archeologist Laura Jones. The salamander’s “vulnerable” classification by the International Union for Conservation of Nature was enough to guarantee that measures were taken to allow for their survival.
These precautions include monitoring the water level of the lake to ensure that it’s high enough to support salamander reproduction. Regardless of this cautionary measure and the natural runoff of water from the foothills, the lake depth only ever reaches about three feet. According to Jones, in addition to salamanders, the lake also hosts a variety of wildlife, including mallards, herons, egrets, garden snakes and tree frogs.
These days, the lake doesn’t attract much attention from anyone besides the native wildlife, especially after the Big Game Bonfire, a tradition that preceded the Big Game every year, was banned in 1997 after scientists from the Center for Conversation Biology concluded that it would pose a threat to the salamanders.
Nowadays, students don’t hold school-wide events at the lake. Instead, it’s often the location for small club gatherings, late-night strolls on its surrounding trail and sunbathing during the warmer months of the year.