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Area lakes have a lot to offer

Area lakes have a lot to offer

From several Turlock Lake lookout points, visitors can view the surrounding savannas and some of the cattle ranches and orchards nearby.

POSTED May 30, 2013 10:59 a.m.

Turlock Lake

Bounded on the north by the Tuolumne River and on the south by Turlock Lake, the recreation area provides an ideal setting for water-oriented outdoor activities. The recreation area features the lake with its 26 miles of shoreline and the foothill country leased from the Turlock Irrigation District in 1950. Picnicking, day-use, and boat launch ramps are offered at the lake. Overnight visitors are welcome at the 66 site campground located on the shady south bank of the Tuolumne River about 1 mile from the lake. 

From several lookout point, visitors can view the surrounding savannas and some of the cattle ranches and orchards nearby. And from Lake Road which separates the campground from the day use area, an excellent perspective is shown of the campground, the river and sloughs, and miles of dredger tailing piles-the byproduct of a half century of gold mining. 

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Don Pedro Lake

The Turlock and Modesto irrigation districts completed construction of the original Don Pedro Dam in 1923. After numerous dry winters, the Districts decided to replace the original dam with a much larger one in order to store water necessary to bridge multiple dry years. The City and County of San Francisco joined with the two irrigation districts in constructing what at the time was known as the New Don Pedro Project. The ‘New’ was formally dropped from its name after the old dam was inundated by the waters of the larger reservoir. Today, it is known simply as the Don Pedro Reservoir, Don Pedro Lake or Lake Don Pedro.

With 160 miles of shoreline and nearly 13,000 acre-feet of surface area (at maximum lake level), visitors can enjoy boating, fishing, water sports, swimming and camping. One of the highlights of the year is the annual fireworks show over the lake celebrating the Fourth of July.

Don Pedro Recreation Agency offers campsites at three campgrounds: Fleming Meadows and Blue Oaks located on the west shore, and Moccasin Point located on the east shore.

There are three boat launch ramps: two off of Bonds Flat Road near Don Pedro Dam (Fleming Meadows and Blue Oaks) or one off of Highway 120/49 near the town of Moccasin (Moccasin Point). All launch ramps are located in developed recreation areas with multiple paved lanes and boarding floats. Restrooms are located along the shoreline in some areas and several floating restrooms are located on the water for boater’s comfort and convenience.

Fishing is allowed year round in the still waters of Don Pedro Lake. Tributary creeks that are east of highway 49 and flow into the lake are closed between November and April, per California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations.

The Don Pedro Recreation Agency has been stocking Florida strain Black Bass in the lake on an annual basis since the early 1980s. Bass weighing up to 18.5 lbs. have been caught in the reservoir in recent years

Although not as abundant, Smallmouth and Spotted bass are also among the fish to be caught at Don Pedro Lake.

Land-locked Kokanee and Chinook salmon are established in the reservoir and offer great excitement on the end of your fishing line. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife also stocks Rainbow trout and sometimes Brook and Brown trout between fall and spring.

Catfish, crappie, sunfish, blue gill and carp are among the other fish species found in Don Pedro Reservoir.

Day-use picnic areas are available at both Fleming Meadows and Moccasin Point recreation areas on a first-come, first-served basis.

While there are many informal pathways that lead between campsites, from the campsites to the lake’s edge and from road pull-outs to the lake’s edge, there are two developed trails for those who want to take a hike that will get them away from the hustle and bustle of the developed recreation facilities. 

The Blue Oaks Shoreline trail is currently 3.5 miles from beginning to end. The out and back round trip is nearly 7 miles in length. It is open to hiking and bicycling. While it can be accessed from various points in the Blue Oaks campground, it begins at the Blue Oaks Group Camp area and parallels the lake shore to the vicinity of Buzzard Cove.

The Moccasin Point Lake View Trail is a short hiking trail that runs from the entrance station area and overflow parking areas at Moccasin Point Recreation Area to the Launch Ramp parking area. It is relatively short, about 1 mile round trip, but offers a shady hike with views of the Moccasin Bay. Branching off of the trail and also accessed near the “A” and “B” camping area intersection is the short loop, “Manzanita Lookout Trail.” This short walk wraps around the hill through the twisted red trunks of Manzanita and shade offered by the live oak trees, with great views of Moccasin Bay. 

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Lake McSwain

Located approximately six miles downstream from New Exchequer, is McSwain Dam, built to serve as a regulating reservoir. The dam was built in 1967 and is named after long-time Merced Irrigation District chief engineer and general manager Kenneth L. McSwain.

The 7.5-mile crystal clear lake provides a paradise for fishing fans or anyone looking for a get-away-day. The lake gently winds through a canyon, with oak-studded hills surrounding both sides.

Regular stockings of trout provide a haven for anglers. Fishing is so good, that several annual fishing events are hosted at Lake McSwain, such as the Lake McSwain Trout Derby, the Skeeter Beaters and Mariposa Fish & Game Association.

The latest fishing information is always available from the Lake McSwain Marina. Fourteen-foot fishing boats are available for rent by the day, half-day or by the hour. Paddleboats can also be rented for the kids. Camping facilities, recreational vehicle amenities and picnicking facilities are also adjacent to the lake.

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Lake McClure

The construction of the concrete gravity arch dam, Exchequer Dam, in 1924-1926 created a 280,000-acre foot water storage reservoir behind the dam 14 miles long. For the first few years the lake was known as Exchequer Reservoir, but the name was changed to Lake McClure in 1926 to honor California State Engineer W.F. McClure. In 1968, the dam was raised to increase the storage capacity of the lake and was renamed New Exchequer Dam.

Lake McClure offers more than 80 miles of delightful shoreline. The sparkling clear water of the Merced River flows from Yosemite Park into the lake, which has a maximum elevation of 867 feet above sea level. The 26-mile lake has a surface area of over 7,000 acres, enough room for enthusiasts to enjoy his/her favorite water sport.

Wildlife flourishes along the scenic shoreline. You’ll often see deer, raccoon and foxes roaming the water’s edge, while eagles and hawks soar above. Heron and other aquatic birds drink from the lake’s crystal waters.

Lake McClure beckons its guests to enjoy themselves with fishing, camping, houseboating or just a relaxing day at the lake with the family.

McClure Point is one of the favorite spots for thousands of yearly visitors to the area. The Point overlooks the largest span of Lake McClure, offering nearly unlimited water sports and activities. There are two new boat ramps for a fast launch. Not far from New Exchequer Dam, McClure Point is located just seven miles off the Merced Falls Road.

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