Cherry Lake, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - High Sierra -

Also known as:  Cherry Creek Reservoir

Creation of Cherry Lake and the Tuolumne River watershed was a cooperative effort among the city and county of San Francisco, the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. San Francisco’s search for additional water supplies dates back to 1882, when the Hetch Hetchy Valley was considered a possible location for a reservoir. (Hetch Hetchy is a Native American term for a grass with edible seeds that grows in the valley.) During the 1920’s, irrigation districts were formed to meet the needs of an irrigation-dependent agricultural economy in the valley. In addition, the Army Corps of Engineers wanted to control valley flooding during heavy rains. Thus, a partnership among local and federal agencies led to a series of reservoirs along the Tuolumne River and its tributaries, including Cherry Creek.

The Cherry Lake project was completed in 1956. Spanning out over almost 1,800 acres, Cherry Lake is located in the Stanislaus National Forest, just outside the northwestern border of Yosemite National Park. Water from the lake, or Cherry Creek Reservoir, produces hydroelectric power, provides drinking water for San Francisco, and supplies irrigation water for the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts. Cherry Lake has since evolved into a recreational destination known for its blue skies, sparkling waters, and a wide variety of activities that include fishing, boating, jet skiing, swimming, waterskiing, sailboarding, camping, and hiking.

Anglers flock to Cherry Lake every year, plotting their next catch of eastern brook trout, German brown trout, Kokanee salmon, and rainbow trout. Launch your boat from the boat launch ramp off Cherry Valley Road and patrol the lake’s expansive acres, with your hook baited and your eyes on the lookout for the beauty that surrounds you. As always, make sure you have a valid California fishing license before you arrive. Water levels fluctuate, dropping from mid-July to September as water is drawn for irrigation. The boat launch ramp may be unusable when water levels are low.

Boat traffic on Cherry Lake is lighter than other regional lakes because of the longer driving time to reach the lake, but it is time well spent. Refreshing waters tempt and entice on a warm summer day. Take a leisurely boat ride and explore hidden coves, feel the wind in your hair as you rush along the reservoir’s surface, and stop for a picnic in the middle of the lake. Hop into the water behind your boat for an adrenaline-pumping ride on water skis or a quick, cooling swim. Cherry Lake’s eastern shoreline, accessible only by boat, provides a sandy stretch that is perfect for swimming. Swimming is also popular near the boat ramp, but the beach is rocky.

The Cherry Valley Campground, open from late April through October, is located near the boat launch ramp. The campground provides drinking water, vault toilets, grills, and tables. Boat-in camping is also permitted on the lake’s eastern shoreline. Supplies are available in Groveland. During periods of campfire restrictions, campfires are permitted only in the campground.

Cherry Creek Lake is the largest lake in the Stanislaus National Forest, a 898,099-acre forest snuggled into the Sierra Nevada mountain range. One of the nation’s oldest national forests, it holds within its boundaries 78 lakes, 811 miles of rivers and streams, 1100 miles of trails, and 2859 miles of roads. Granite and rock formations grow out of the earth, grazing cattle dot the landscape, and first class whitewater rafting awaits you.

Cherry Lake is also just a few miles from the northwestern border of the famous Yosemite National Park, covering 761,266 acres and hosting an incredible 3.5 million visitors every year. As a World Heritage Site, Yosemite basks in international recognition of its towering Giant Sequoias, intense biodiversity, great tumbling waterfalls, and spectacular, graceful granite cliffs. As you hike the park’s trails, drive along scenic parkways, bike a mountain path, or take a guided tour, you’ll discover the spectacular natural beauty of Yosemite. The Giant Sequoias are almost too large to be believed, 150 species of birds pass through the park each year, and mountaintop vantage points are breathtaking. A trail at the Cherry Lake dam routes hikers north into the Emigrant Wilderness or east to Lake Eleanor within Yosemite. Visitors should obtain Wilderness Permit before entering Yosemite.

In winter, the Cherry Lake area is alive with activity as snowmobiles roar along trails, snow lovers traipse across the countryside on snow shoes and cross country skis, and the young (and young at heart) launch snowball wars, build snowmen, and create artistic snow angels in the powdery whiteness.

Cherry Lake is a true getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, inviting you to enjoy the tranquility of a mountain lake (elevation 4700 feet above sea level), visit national forests, and catch your supper. The reservoir provides year-round fun for everyone.

Things to do at Cherry Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Waterfall
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Cherry Lake

  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Cherry Lake Photo Gallery

Cherry Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: San Francisco City & County

Surface Area: 1,791 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 4,703 feet

Average Depth: 152 feet

Water Volume: 273,500 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1956

Drainage Area: 117 sq. miles

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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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