Upon constantly scouring for new places to bird, I had come across the Villa Park Flood Dam Control as a hot spot in eBird as well as comments in various posters reports referring to the “Magic Basin”. With little reference online on how to get to this eBird Hot Spot in Orange County, I opted to try and find this place along with a friend Phil Thomas who grew up in the area. We initially chose to park in the Santiago Oaks Regional Parks main parking area and walk down to the Historic Dam trail. (There’s typically maps available or you can click here for the Santiago Oaks Regional Park map). This trail is easy to locate as you simply walk down below the parking lot to the lowest trail and bear right. Navigate over the creek via the large circular stepping stones. This will get you on the Historic Dam Trail. Follow this trail to the Santiago Creek Trail and then to the Pony Trail. Stay on the Pony Trail until you reach the dirt parking area. You’ll see this location on my map where it shows Sandberg Lane. (see image 1 and 2 below)
Walk through the dirt parking lot and bear right up the steep dirt trail. At the crest, you’ll see a locked gated fence, continue downward to the Egret Trail (see image 2 below)
Once on the Egret trail look for the single track dirt trail that heads toward the dam (see image 3). From this image you’ll see we took the second single track dirt trail highlighted in orange. This will lead you directly to the Magic Basin where (depending on day and time of year) various waterfowl can be found, Marsh Wrens can be heard and so on. Here’s a quick reference to the eBird Villa Park Flood Control Basin species list
If you are not up for this entire hike through Santiago Oaks Regional Park, you can alternatively take Sandberg Lane off East Santiago Canyon Road to the dirt parking lot and follow my maps below from there. (see Image 1.) I’ve also included a video below while on the single dirt trail to the Magic Basin (taken February 2016).