Eyes shut tight to ward off the stinging spray, wet hair plastered to your head, you hurtle blindly on a straight trajectory toward a sinus-filling finale. Flat on your back, you slip through roller-coasterlike curves and curlicues that spit you, dizzy and disoriented, into a churning pool of cold water. These and other less jarring experiences can be had at San Diego County's smallest and most remote water park, situated at the foot of Palomar Mountain on the La Jolla Indian Reservation.
At Sengme Oaks Water Park, filtered well water greases several small and large waterslides and fills a spacious, 18-inch-deep pool perfect for kids of pre-swimming age. The water temperature, currently in a distinctly chilly register, should climb into the 70s later this summer.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays through Labor Day. Admission, which includes unlimited use of the slides and picnic sites, is $12 for adults and $8 for kids on the weekends. Fridays feature discounted admission.
Down below the water park, the popular La Jolla Reservation campground spreads along the banks of the San Luis Rey River. Camping sites are undesignated, rustic bordering on hardscrabble, and there are amenities such as a sports bar, horseback riding, and a slot-machine arcade. Camping fees for up to four people are $18 per vehicle per night. RV sites with water and electric hookups are available for $25 per night.
On hot days some campers practice the art of "tubing" down the river, which depends on the amount of water being released from the Lake Henshaw dam upstream. You can bring your own, or rent, the giant inner tubes necessary for this. Hikers and tubing enthusiasts have forged a path along the river bank, good for a bit of pleasant hiking as long as you can avoid the poison oak.
The La Jolla Indian Reservation is located along State Highway 76, ten miles west of Pauma Valley, and six miles east of Lake Henshaw. The whole family is welcome -- but no pets, please. It is wise to call first for updated information, particularly for the water park. Call 760-742-1921 (water park), 760-742-1297 (campground).