Sharon and Bob Wolf came from Ohio to manage the Turlock Lake State Park recreational area for contractor American Land and Leisure. As area managers this winter, they invested a lot of sweat equity to upgrade the facility, replacing split rail fences, pedestal barbecue pits and picnic tables and painting restrooms. They feared their efforts would be in vain with speculations that the lake would not be filled due to the drought. After all, the docks were out of the water and eight duck blinds were stuck in the mud over the winter for a lack of water.
However, their fears are being erased with assurances by Turlock Irrigation District that the lake will be just as full as it was last year. Water began filling the lake last week.
"We were told by TID that we will have 10 vertical feet of water so we will be full," said Sharon Wolf.
A number of special promotions are being planned to introduce the park in eastern Stanislaus County to newcomers.
"It's like a new park," said Sharon of the recently improvements.
A road race brought in hundreds on Saturday.
Residents of Hughson, Waterford, Atwater, Merced, Hilmar and Denair will be given free admission to the park (and thus not having to pay the $11 per carload day use fee) on April 12. A utility bill or driver's license is needed as proof of residency.
Ceres residents may visit and use the park for free on Saturday, May 10 with a proof of residency to get in free.
Turlock Lake is open 365 days per year but typically use is greatest in summer. The four-day Fourth of July weekend in 2013 saw 1,200 visitors to the park. The day use area around the lake includes two picnic grounds, a wide sandy beach, a mile of paved road for bicycling and boat docks for fishing and speed boats as well as jet skis. Last summer the Wolfs saw a 23-foot inboard motor boat on the lake.
Just to the north of the park is a 65-site campground nestled with the cottonwoods and oaks along the Tuolumne River. Camping is open year round and specific sites may be reserved through www.reserveamerica.com or by calling 1-888-444-7275, while six sites open on a first-come, first-served basis. The campground is full most of the weekends in summer.
While the park pay station is not manned until heavier seasons, visitors are on an honor system to use the "iron ranger" to pay the $11 fee.
To get to Turlock Lake on Highway 132 (Yosemite Boulevard,) head to Waterford eastbound about eight miles to Roberts Ferry Road. From there go to Lake Road and turn left. The lake will be on the right in less than a mile.