Beardsley Lake, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - High Sierra -

Also known as:  Beardsley Reservior, Beardsley Lake Reservoir

Nearly 60 years ago, the effort to provide water to the orchards and farms in California’s Central Valley brought about the creation of beautiful Beardsley Lake. The artificial reservoir in the Stanislaus National Forest filled with water after construction of a dam across the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River. Water collected here from snow melting in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is diverted to irrigate fields in the Valley during the drier months. Originally dammed in 1957, the Beardsley Dam is one of several water control structures in the Tri-Dam Project of the San Joaquin Irrigation District.

Along with Donnells Dam upstream and Tulloch Dam downstream in Calaveras County, the precious water collected at Beardsley Lake plays a major part in keeping the Central Valley green and growing. About 117,500 acres growing almonds, grapes, walnuts, vegetable crops and pasture are irrigated by the conserved water. The ability to deliver hydroelectric power was added later. The many opportunities for outdoor recreation are an important part of the lovely lake, with camping, fishing, boating and nature viewing making Beardsley Lake a favorite weekend and vacation spot. Local visitors come from Sonoma, 40 miles to the west, and from San Francisco Bay area three hours away.

The setting is spectacular. Long, narrow Beardsley Lake nestles below the towering ridge of a deep canyon surrounded by thousands of acres of the Stanislaus National Forest. Nearly a million acres of rugged, forested peaks and rushing streams are tucked between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. The Summit Ranger District maintains the primitive campground and picnic areas, and provides maps and backcountry permits for backpackers and dispersed camping. The lake is open to fishing all year, but roads are likely not passable due to heavy shows in winter. The campground is usually open by late May, but this may vary due to weather. Prospective visitors should check the Forest Service webpage for road and camp conditions.

Besides the 16 primitive campsites located within sight of shore, a new Day Use area offers picnic tables, grills, a swimming area, flush toilets and boat ramp. Nearby, a nature trail encourages visitors to enjoy the pristine beauty of the national forest. Beardsley Lake’s north shore borders the Tuolumne State Game Refuge, encompassing over 100 square miles of natural habitat for native species, including deer, bear, mountain lion, bobcat and smaller mammals. The four-mile trail along the lakeshore provides for plenty of opportunity to enjoy the variety of trees and animal life in the area, with great places to fish from shore. Although the lake holds crappie, bluegill, smallmouth bass and channel catfish, the main fishing targets are rainbow trout and brown trout. About 35,000 brown and rainbow trout in the 12-14 inch range are stocked here each year, but older specimens are sometimes caught weighing over 10 pounds.

Although motorized boats and water sports are permitted, water levels are often quite low, particularly with the prolonged drought California is facing. The road to the lakeshore is downhill and somewhat steep, while the boat ramp can often open into rather shallow water. So, although fishing boats can usually manage to launch without problem, those with larger boats will want to check water levels before making the trip. Many fishermen use tube floats for fly fishing and canoes and kayaks to paddle the shallower waters. Below the dam, the Beardsley Reservoir Afterbay is also a popular spot for fishing, with nearly a mile of usually quiet water. A California fishing license is required for all fishermen with special fishing regulations applying to the Afterbay.

Beardsley Lake is ideally situated to provide plenty of recreation to outdoor lovers year round. The many trails within the Stanislaus National Forest are favorites for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter, while a number of small resorts and guest cabins in the area provide lodgings with far more amenities that the primitive campground. The nearby towns of Strawberry, Cold Springs and Pinecrest offer stores for provisions, bait shops, restaurants and organized outdoor adventure opportunities.

As this area was a bustling gold mining area in the past, many artifacts and relics remain of those exciting days. All historical features located within the National Forest are protected but usually open for viewing. The Columbia State Historic Park is located just over an hour away from Beardsley Lake; the park offers the chance to pan for gold and enjoy touring a restored Mother Lode town complete with stage coach, blacksmith shop and unique small shops and ice cream parlors. For those on a budget, Columbia State Historic Park is a bargain; admission and tours are free, as are many activities. Not far from Columbia, Railtown 1897 State Historical Park offers steam train excursions, a museum and lots of historical information about steam trains. The Museum offers special events of interest to photographers, sells reproduction railroad china and all sorts of train-related items including the modern favorite, Thomas The Tank Engine. Proceeds go to support the California State Railroad Museum.

Several ski areas are located in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Beardsley Lake. Camping is also offered at nearby Pinecrest, a resort community complete with marina, shops and several restaurants. Pinecrest is a very popular area in mid-summer and may be quite busy, but spring and fall are usually less hurried. There is no better place to enjoy the majestic scenery in the Sierra Nevada foothills than at Beardsley Lake. So, pack up the tent, load the kayaks and head on up.

Things to do at Beardsley Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • National Forest
  • Museum

Fish species found at Beardsley Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Trout
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout

Beardsley Lake Photo Gallery

Beardsley Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Oakdale and San Joaquin Irrigation District

Surface Area: 720 acres

Shoreline Length: 6 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 3,315 feet

Water Volume: 97,500 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1957

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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