La Jolla Indian Reservation Circa 1970’s & 80’s

Camping At LaJolla Indian Reservation

This was by far my #1 place to camp as a young adult.  I used to keep a packed milk crate containing camping supplies in the hall closet and would stop by the store

Photo of Christine floating on the river.
A very old shot of Christine floating on a small boat down the San Luis Rey River. Sometime in the 80’s.

on a Friday night for ice and other needs, gas up and head out at a moment’s notice.  Several of us would head to the campground with just a call from anyone saying let’s go!

Carrie and Wesley took different routes .





About an hour’s drive from San Diego we were lucky in those days as $5 would get you and your carload in.  We’d bring our own tubes or you could rent them and spend all hot summer day tubing along the San Luis Rey River located in the campground.

Teresa and Sarah return from tubing. Tom’s catching some rays.



Denise and Steve Cooking it up. I get the tongue from Denise.


One would take the long hot trek uphill from camp by the lower calm river to the higher starting point for the not too difficult rapids over rocks and tree parts.  Then the calmer water would float us down to our campsite where we’d stop to grab a beer or get food or pee and then head back up with tube in hand and do it all over again all day long.

Today the prices are higher and there is RV parking to boot.  In those days the ground was dirt everywhere with rocks and trees and river.  Your car would get you so far, pack it in if you want to go futher.  No assigned spots, we would camp where it fit our style.  I believe it was the late 1980’s when I discovered my old camping spots were now dedicated to the RV’s.  That trip something was going on and the loud speakers spoke where the wind said shut up.  I’ve never been back.  We plan to go during our California to Oregon and Beyond Trip and explore this and other old stomping grounds.    That is, unless pets are still banned of course.

If you have current information to add post to the comments and I’ll publish it here.

Back then there were plenty of places to hike into in the uphill section and even across the river on the green bank of tents.  Beautiful places to hike to in the lower river.  We were always next to our vehicle as well as the river with almost always friend or friends camped close.

Photo of secluded area of campground.
Exploring brings one to all kinds of great places where you or your group can get away from the crowds.

I used to be like many of the campers there, we’d bring pallets of wood and have huge campfires part of the night only winding down as we did.  It wasn’t until the 1980’s that Mark and Sioux taught me the value of conserving the size of the fire and emissions of same.  (Something I’ve practiced since I’d like them to know should they ever stumble upon this site.)

I remember one trip we camped up the hill and discovered a HUGE pile of dirty diapers, trash and toilet paper.  Someone must have been there a month or a whole tribe of people had stayed there a week.  We couldn’t leave it and cleaned it up.  Those grounds were sacred to some of us.

Summer weekends were insane with huge crowds of people decending upon the land.  I guess that’s why the prices have become what they have, to control the crowds and keep the foot traffic reasonable.

I remember one time driving past the office and they had a burnt picnic table on the lawn clearly facing out to the dirt road right next to it so anyone driving in or out could see it.  A big sign was painted and hung on it that said something to the effect of “They did this.  You should see what we did to them and they are the ones in jail.”  I guess someone forgot to bring firewood.  And their manners.

One time I camped with just me and my daughter, I think she was two at the time.  Ever the camper who brings it all, I had a ton of wood in the form of 2×2’s and other assorted shapes.  I made a table to use while camping.  I woke up the next morning and someone had taken it for their fire (most sites had no tables and the firepits were all rocks from the mountainous land we were camping on).  It was bring your own wood or purchase from the small campground store.

One of the fondest memories of my life was talking my parents into camping here with me and actually going on the tubes.  My dad was called “Archie Bunker” by my and my sister’s Burbank friends and yes, after the TV Archie.  My mom on the other hand had a story about having gunshot fired at her for stealing a watermelon in her Texas teens so it made more since that she was up for it.   They both came.

Times sure have changed through the years.  At one time there was a waterpark built above the campground area.  I can’t find any current information on that and it was built after I had camped there last. At one time the river water was diverted and I think the waterpark was built for that reason but it appears to no longer be there or perhaps someone else owns it or?  Today I went to their website listed below and it is for the campsite closed for the winter – but they will be taking reservations for group and RV sites.  So possibly campers can camp in the summer and there will be some means to pay, either by phone or perhaps at the gate.

I only got a recording when calling the campground.  I wanted to know if they still ban pets (see below taken from one of their old websites and I removed the waterpark number).

The La Jolla Indian Reservation is located along State Highway 76, ten miles west of Pauma Valley, and six miles east of Lake Henshaw.  This statement was found “The whole family is welcome — but no pets, please. It is wise to call first for updated information 760-742-1297 (campground).”  That phone number is not a correct number so for now the 2018 status of the campground is unknowns.  UPDATE 2/15/2018:  Clicking the above link takes you to a new and improved website from just when this article was written.  The new site looks great and I imagine shortly all the info you need will be there.








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