During the 209 region’s typically hottest months of July through September, everyone looks for the best ways to stay cool without breaking the bank in gas costs driving to the beach or paying those often expensive amusement park fees. Lake Don Pedro in Tuolumne County at 11500 Bonds Flat Road is a must-stop cool off spot for all residents throughout the Central Valley and beyond.
They offer fishing, camping, boating, hunting, hiking, houseboating, and biking. There are options for day passes for $20 a vehicle and $15 per boat and overnight passes for $30 for a normal tent set up.
Being in the midst of a drought for a third year now has put the water elevation of Don Pedro lower than the historical average. Usually, the reservoir’s maximum water elevation in July is 830 feet, currently it is sitting at around 760 feet, but still has plenty of water for boating, fishing, and other recreation.
The water temperature stays constant in the low 70s making it a perfect temperature to go swimming for the day with family and friends or take the boat out to get that misty wind on your face.
There are three main boat ramps to launch any type of water craft and those are at Fleming Meadows, Blue Oaks, and Moccasin Point.
All types of water crafts are welcome including canoes, kayaks, sailboats, motorboats, fishing boats, and houseboats.
If you do not own a boat, they offer rentals for small boats as well as houseboats and those pricing and reservation dates can be found by going to www.donpedrolake.com.
It is also a hot spot for all kinds of fishing; types of fish in the lake are rainbow trout, spotted bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and brown trout.
When filled to the brim, the lake spreads out to 160 miles of shoreline and 13,000 surface acres of water.
“Don Pedro Recreation Area offers many other recreational opportunities so that our customers can enjoy the great outdoors even in a low water scenario,” Don Pedro Recreational Department Manager Ryan Reis stated. “Outside of our typical boating opportunities, we still offer camping, a two-acre swimming lagoon, and various trails for biking and hiking.”
In 1923, the construction of the original Don Pedro Dam was completed by the Turlock and Modesto irrigation districts. A storage capacity of 289,000 acre-feet was obtained but it was barely able to accommodate the irrigation needs of a single season. After multiple dry winters, the districts made a decision to replace the original dam with a larger one in order to store the amount of water needed for multiple dry years.
The City and County of San Francisco joined the other two districts in constructing the New Don Pedro Project. Construction of the New Don Pedro Project began in 1967 and was completed four years later, costing a total of $105 million. It was built as a primary source to store irrigation water since the reservoir has a capacity of 2,030,000 acre-feet and also has many additional benefits such as power generation, flood control, and recreation.
The word ‘New’ was dropped from the name after the old dam was inundated by the waters of the larger reservoir. Today it is known by a few different designations: the Don Pedro Reservoir, Don Pedro Lake, or Lake Don Pedro.
The old dam is still in place 250 feet below the surface of the new reservoir.
If you go to californiasgreatestlakes.com/pedro it will take you to the website where all the information needed to know before going is posted including all the different boating sites and camp sites, where their exact address is, amenities offered, and how much the fees are for the normal and busy seasons. There is also a link on the same page to a PDF of all the pricing for all lake activities depending on the season. You can also call (209) 852-2396 with any questions.
The water is crisp and clean, and they enforce strict rules on speed limits around certain areas maintaining a safe, family-friendly environment for all to come and enjoy. Whether it is your first time or your thousandth time, Lake Don Pedro is open and ready to help cool away the stress of summer’s heat.