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Trilogy of water fountains.
Trilogy of water fountains.

Water Museum - Vista del Lago

Field review by the editors.

Lebec, California

Whether in the middle of a drought or wetter times, California is ruled by the complex politics of water rights, water management and infrastructure needs. Northern and mountain community Californians get mad about "their" water being funneled south to the alleged squandering counties of the south. Central Valley farmers watch canals of water flow south past their thirsty crops. City dwellers wonder why so much water diverts to agriculture that is harvested and exported to non-Californians. Everyone sees depressing news reports as the Sierra snowpack scientist shakes his head, shoulders his unused measuring pole, and heads home.

The water-greedy cheeseburger.
The water-greedy cheeseburger.

All this means it's time to drop in at the Vista del Lago Visitors Center!

Miniature diorama of Egyptian water practices.
Miniature diorama of Egyptian water practices.

The California Department of Water Resources operates this free "water museum" in the mountains north of Los Angeles. The lavish facility is perched above picturesque Pyramid Lake reservoir. We can't help but stop in whenever we're driving on the Grapevine.

Start your experience at the Center by re-hydrating at the exhibit entrance water fountains.

Miniature dioramas in the Ancient Water section depict transport techniques of Egypt, China, India and the Romans. Colorful interactive displays are geared to students. Water's Magical Travels illustrates its three physical states -- vapor, solid, and liquid. A cartoon hobo raindrop is shown plotting his travels. Kids push a button to fire ping pong balls up a clear tube to see where a water molecule goes.

Some exhibits in the museum change over time, and one of our favorites was the giant cloth cheeseburger visitors could page through to see the water content of each ingredient. Didn't notice it there in 2015 -- perhaps it wore out, or made too many kids feel guilty about eating cheeseburgers. And just too touchable in the Pandemic Years.

Water projects.
Water projects.

California water.

It's not all fun though. A Threats exhibit shows ways water can be ruined by earthquakes, human activity, invasive species, climate change... The Timeline of California's Water History chronicles huge water projects that have transformed the region, from mountain snow melt in the Sierras to bathtubs in Compton. It's a big job, transporting and storing water.

The museum continues on, through a large round portal that's the same diameter as one of the system's mighty pipes. The Visitors Center details each dam, canal and aqueduct of relevance to southern California and Los Angeles (because the facility was funded by the Metropolitan Water District).

The museum makes us smarter, more considerate, about water -- though it doesn't answer every question (such as: "I conserved over 40% this year -- how come my water bill didn't go down?").

The men's lavatory features "No Flush" urinals, and we exit feeling we've done our part.

Also see: Water: Wonder Temples and Miracle Springs

Water Museum - Vista del Lago

Vista del Lago Visitors Center

Vista Del Lago Rd, Lebec, CA
20 mi. north of Valencia, I-5 exit 191 for Pyramid Lake.
Daily 9-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Save to My Sights

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