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Iconic, but little known lake in Santa Monica Mountains celebrating 100th anniversary

Malibou Lake, between Agoura Hills and Malibu, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this weekend with a community celebration which is open to the public.
Malibou Lake, between Agoura Hills and Malibu, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this weekend with a community celebration which is open to the public.

Malibou Lake is a gated community, but opening its doors to the public this weekend for anniversary celebration.

We just climbed into a boat which left a little dock at Malibou Lake. As we slowly cruise across the lake… you might be saying what? Malibou Lake? It might be one of the best kept secrets around. But, it shouldn’t be.

It’s a more than 350 acre lake in the Santa Monica Mountains that’s just a few minutes off of Highway 101 in the Conejo Valley. It’s on a back road between Agoura Hills and Malibu.

"Malibou Lake Mountain Club is a private lake and community founded in 1922 that still exists today," said Shannon Ggem, who lives in the tiny Malibu Lake community. "There are 100 homes which share in use of the lake, and the grounds they are on."

Even though you may have never heard of the lake, you may have seen it in movies, or on TV. Because it’s less than 30 miles from Hollywood, it’s been a favorite for location shoots.

"We have been a filming location for many, many movies over many years," said Ggem. "We had a famous cinematographer living here in the early days of Hollywood... Arthur Edison... the father of American cinematography."

Boris Karloff shot some classic scenes from Frankenstein at the lake, and more recently it appeared in shows like "The Office."

The lake is surrounded by mountains. Its edges are dotted by homes and docks. It looks like something you'd see in the Midwest, and not Southern California.

For residents it’s like living in a small town, even though many of them work in the big city. JC Chancellor has lived here for about a decade.

"It's like a vacation... it's like a permanent vacation," said Chancellor.

As you walk around the community, and see people chatting, it feels like everyone knows everyone. Rick Chancellor says that was especially important during the 2018 Woolsey Fire. The community had 135 homes, but lost about a quarter of them to the inferno.

"We thought our house was gone. Thankfully, our house was not burned, but we got together with neighbors and put out spot fires all night," said Chancellor.

Andrew Ggem says despite the fire, and the commute to LA, where he works as a contractor, living at Malibou Lake is a gift.

"I've always been a city person, but finding this place, and coming out here changed my perspective," said Ggem.

While the lake is privately owned, it’s celebrating it’s 100th anniversary by inviting people to come visit. On Saturday, there will be a free public event with food, live bands, children's activities and more.

Opening its doors to the public is a bid deal for a community which has a history of intentionally being off the radar. In fact, urban legend has it that decades ago when Caltrans put up directional signs to Malibou lake, they mysteriously disappeared. But Saturday, it will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with $15 parking at the nearby Paramount Ranch.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.