In less than an hour from Lodi, you can enjoy fishing, hiking, boating and camping at two somewhat remote lakes on the Mokelumne River.
Lake Camanche, at an elevation of 235 feet, is on both sides of the Calaveras-Amador county line between Clements and the Highway 49 Gold Rush towns. You can choose which shoreline you want to visit — one’s in each county.
Pardee Lake is a short distance east of Camanche. It has an elevation of 568 feet.
“They have friendly people, the weather’s nice and it’s clean,” Lodi resident David Almarez said, after catching his limit one day at Camanche’s stocked fish pond on the south side.
Meanwhile, Mike Panko, of Lodi, and former Stockton resident Dan Harrison, who now lives in Roseville, prefer the greener scenery at Pardee.
“The best thing about Pardee is they plant fish — trout,” Harrison said.
Panko added, “You have an established hiking trail where you can find (hidden) fishing spots.”
But the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which operates both lakes, warns of rattlesnakes at Pardee.
- Campgrounds for tents and RVs on north and south shores, though RV hook-up sites are provided only on the south shore. Includes barbecues, tables, water, hot showers, restrooms and laundry. To make a campground reservation, call 866-763-5121 or visit www.tinyurl.com/4sxaz8o.
- Cottage and motel units for those who enjoy the outdoors but don’t necessarily want to “rough it.” They include kitchens, barbecues, air conditioning and TVs. Single-room units are available at the south shore, while north shore units offer adjoining rooms.
- Marinas are located on the north and south shores with eight-lane launch ramps, berthing, storage and rental boats. Covered slips are available on a short-term and annual basis. On-water gasoline pumps are available at both shores.
- The trout pond, where 80,000 pounds of trout are stocked between October and June, each weighing more than 1 pound. A Florida-strain large-mouth bass is planted as well. You can also fish along the lake, where you can find rainbow trout, large- and small-mouth and spotted bass, catfish, kokanee, crappie, bluegill and sunfish. A $4 fishing access fee is charged per angler, per day. The fee is used to fund the stocking program and improve the lake’s overall fishery.
- Wakeboarding, water skiing and personal watercraft. There are no lifeguards on duty.
- Scenic hiking and equestrian trails around the north and south shores. Each trail will take you along rolling hills through several oak groves that offer intermittent shade. A trail use permit is required and may be purchased at either gate.
- Tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, and children’s playgrounds on both shores.
- A general store on each shore with bait and tackle, groceries, beverages, fishing and camping supplies.
“It’s a beautiful lake, very friendly, great fishing,” Valley Springs resident Andrew Kulpinsky said. “It’s a beautiful place to take your kids. We never leave with a frown on our face.”
Pardee Reservoir Recreation Area opened to the public in 1958 and is open daily from Presidents Day weekend through the last Sunday in November each.
Unlike Camanche, water skiing, jet skis and lake swimming aren’t allowed. Fishing, boating, camping, picnicking and swimming in the two pools are the primary recreational activities at Pardee.
Be sure to see the view from “observation point” off Pardee Dam Road south of the recreation area entrance. You can look down to Pardee Lake and the Mokelumne River, plus Pardee Dam, the adjacent spillway and even a waterfall. On a clear day, you can see Lake Camanche off in the distance to the west.
Pardee Dam Road gets very narrow in two spots south of the recreation area. It narrows to one lane as you cross the dam itself, and it’s a narrow two-lane road as you cross the spillway.
You can also see such wildlife as deer, turkeys, geese and other migratory birds, squirrels, rabbits and quail.
- Fishing for rainbow trout, kokanee salmon, small- and large-mouth bass, catfish and various species of sunfish. There’s also a state-of-the-art fish-cleaning station. A fishing license is required except for July 2 and Sept. 3, 2011, which are designated as free fishing days in California. Free fishing days vary from year to year.
- Boating with full-service marina and 10-lane boat launch ramp. Boats may be rented as well.
- Two campgrounds.
- Two swimming pools.
- Horseshoe pits and a bocce ball court.
- RV sites with full hookups, laundry, hot showers and restrooms.
- Coffee shop, store, gas station.
For more information, call 209-772-1472 or visit www.pardeelakerecreation.com.
How to get there
To Lake Camanche south shore: From Lodi, go east on Highway 12 across the Calaveras County line. Once you arrive in Burson, turn left onto South Camanche Parkway and follow the signs to the lake.
To Lake Camanche north shore: From Lodi, go east on Highway 12/88. Stay on Highway 88 by making a left turn east of Clements. Turn right on Liberty Road/Camanche Parkway Road to the lake.
To Pardee Lake: Take Highway 12/88 east of Clements and turn left on Highway 88. Turn right on Ione-Buena Vista Road, turn left to stay on Buena Vista Road and left on Stoney Creek Road to the lake. You can also get there from Camanche Lake’s south shore.