Los Vaqueros Reservoir, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - Bay Area -

Also known as:  Los Vaqueros Lake

The Los Vaqueros Reservoir in the San Francisco Bay area is being remodeled! Soon to be re-opened, Los Vaqueros Lake is going to be even bigger and better. The dam is complete, the fish are stocked, the marina moved, and new fishing docks being built. The reservoir is being refilled now and is expected to be full by spring with an additional 340 acres of surface area and an additional 60,000 acre-feet of water storage. It may seem unusual to completely remodel a relatively new reservoir, but the new Los Vaqueros Lake solves several problems simultaneously in the Contra Costa-Delta area. Located due east of Oakland, the enlarged reservoir allows the Contra Costa Water District to store additional water during the period of least salinity in the Delta while still providing adequate water for the endangered fish in the tributaries feeding San Francisco Bay. In addition to regular expected customer usage of the water supply, the enlarged reservoir holds an emergency water supply that can be transferred quickly to the populous Bay area should their regular water supply system be disrupted by earthquake or levee failure.

California’s water supply problems, particularly in the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay area, have been the subject of much media reporting for several years. The struggle has focused on simultaneously providing adequate drinking water to rapidly growing population centers while still providing enough water in the tributaries and feeder creeks emptying into the San Joaquin River Delta for both irrigation and aquatic life. Long the subject of court battles, environmental issues and ever-growing demand, Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion offers at least a partial solution to more available water in a land of little rainfall.

Although the San Joaquin River has plenty of water at some times of the year, the flow is greatly reduced at other times, and the salinity increases. Los Vaqueros Reservoir solved the problem initially by pumping water into the reservoir from a tributary during periods of low salinity and plentiful water to be released to over 500,000 homes throughout the year. Because the plan solved the immediate problem so handily, an expansion of Los Vaqueros was the chosen solution to beginning to solve the long-term problem of a degraded San Joaquin Delta. Intake pipes will pump in water from several different locations to avoid over-draining resources. Improved fish screens are in use to protect fish in the pumping areas.

Already known as an excellent fishery, the new, improved Los Vaqueros is slated to become even more productive. The California Department of Fish and Game has planted 40,000 chinook salmon fingerlings and 20,000 kokanee in the expanding reservoir where they join rainbow trout, largemouth black bass, brown bullhead, channel catfish, white catfish, bluegill, redear sunfish, green sunfish, white crappie, Sacramento perch, striped bass and bullhead. The southwest end of the reservoir away from the dam construction has been reopened, although water levels are still low. Because private boats are not allowed, fishing is currently from shore only. Once the new marina is open in its new location, it will again be renting electric boats for use on the reservoir. New fishing docks will facilitate shore fishing. Because Los Vaqueros is a drinking water reservoir, no swimming or water contact sports are allowed, not even wading. Personal watercraft are forbidden, as are dogs.The reservoir also offers picnic areas and restrooms but no camping facilities. Los Vaqueros Interpretive Center, located near the dam, offers trail maps and information about the natural area surrounding the reservoir.

In keeping with the desire to improve habitat for wildlife, the new Los Vaqueros expansion will add additional acreage to the existing 19,300 acres now set aside for natural habitat. A full 55 miles of trails for hiking and nature exploration already exist on reservoir lands, mostly on the south and west sides of the reservoir. A large portion of the east side is reserved as wildlife corridor with no public access. Some trails are necessarily being relocated. A number of them will be available to horseback riding when reopened.

The watershed is currently home to many rare, threatened and endangered species including fairy shrimp, bald and golden eagles, Alameda whipsnake, western pond turtle, California tiger salamander, California red-legged frog, San Joaquin kit fox, and the San Francisco dusky-footed wood rat. Golden eagles hunt in the foothills and nest in the oak trees in winter and spring, providing for spectacular wildlife sightings. The area’s large population of ground squirrels provides excellent prey for eagles and other raptors. Red-tailed hawks, prairie falcons and barn owls are the most common. Regular visitors to the reservoir often see deer, coyote, fox and bobcat. Nearly 100 small ponds on the watershed are home to mallards, cinnamon teal, greater yellowlegs and killdeer. Ospreys, terns, grebes, mergansers, cormorants, herons and pelicans fish the reservoir regularly, while tens of thousands of migratory birds stop temporarily during migration. Local Audubon groups perform an annual bird count and are amazed at the wide variety of birds sighted.

There are no lodgings available at Los Vaqueros Reservoir, but both Livermore to the south and Brentwood to the north offer hotels, small motels, resorts and local rentals. The reservoir is within 50 miles of Oakland, Stockton and Tracy. Nearby Mount Diablo State Park offers camping facilities, and there are a number of bed-and-breakfast facilities along the main roads in the area. The reservoir is close enough to the South Bay area to be convenient for an afternoon of hiking or fishing. Some real estate is available nearby but not on the reservoir itself. So come see the newly remodeled Los Vaqueros Reservoir the next time you visit the Bay area. Bring the bird book, the binoculars and the hiking boots. You’re in for an unexpected treat!

* Statistics for the newly-enlarged reservoir are not all available, so most numbers listed reflect historical statistics.

Things to do at Los Vaqueros Reservoir

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park

Fish species found at Los Vaqueros Reservoir

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Bullhead
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Chinook Salmon
  • Crappie
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Redear Sunfish (Shellcracker)
  • Sacramento Perch
  • Salmon
  • Striped Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • White Catfish
  • White Crappie

Los Vaqueros Reservoir Photo Gallery

Los Vaqueros Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Not Known

Water Level Control: Contra Costa Water District

Surface Area: 1,480 acres

Shoreline Length: 13 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 466 feet

Maximum Depth: 170 feet

Water Volume: 100,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1997

Drainage Area: 19,300 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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