Pinecrest Lake, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - High Sierra -

Also known as:  Pinecrest Reservoir, Strawberry Reservoir, Strawberry Flat, Edna Lake, Lake Edna

Surrounded by the stately pines of Stanislaus National Forest and rocky terrain of California’s High Sierras, Pinecrest Lake attracts well over 600,000 visitors to its shores each year. With Yosemite National Park found 20 miles to the southeast, Lake Tahoe 70 miles to the north and San Francisco 180 miles to the west, Pinecrest Lake provides all the ingredients for a perfect family vacation.

An impoundment of the South Fork of the Stanislaus River, Pinecrest Lake has grown in size and changed names several times over the decades. In the 1850s miners created a lake that became known as Lake Edna, or Edna Lake. Around the same time, Tuolumne Water Company was preparing a plan to create a chain of dams and reservoirs in the same area. In 1856 the first dam, named Upper or Big Dam, was built. It was followed by Middle Dam and finally Lower Dam which enlarged Lake Edna to form the new Strawberry Flat or Strawberry Lake. By 1912 Lower Dam was replaced by Main Strawberry Dam, a larger concrete dam designed to meet a growing need for hydropower. The new dam was completed in 1916 creating the larger 300-acre reservoir eventually named Pinecrest Lake. Attempts are made to try to balance water demands for recreational use and energy use. Visitors can expect to see Pinecrest Lake’s capacity vary from over 18,000 acre-feet in the summer to approximately 6,400 acre-feet in the winter. Today, Main Strawberry Dam and Pinecrest Lake are owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Pinecrest Reservoir and Pinecrest Recreation Area sit within Tuolumne County and the Summit Ranger District of Stanislaus National Forest. As early as the 1920s Stanislaus National Forest was a popular summer resort attraction. During those years construction of private cabins and recreational residences was permitted within the forest forming the small communities and subdivisions of Pinecrest, Strawberry, Cold Springs, Dymond’s Strawberry Ridge and Leland Meadows. The demand for vacation real estate properties grew until the policy was reversed in the 1950s. Today over 600 cabins remain within Stanislaus National Forest with approximately 450 year-round residents. Although numbers are small, vacation rentals can be found among the cabins near Pinecrest Lake.

Visitors desiring a close encounter with the great outdoors will enjoy camping in the Pinecrest Recreation Area. Developed campgrounds found at the southwestern end of Pinecrest Lake include running water, camp stoves and dump station. Campgrounds cannot accommodate large RVs. Electricity and sewer hook-ups are not available. The more adventuresome won’t want to miss backpacking into Emigrant, Carson-Iceberg and Mokelumne Wilderness areas.

Boating is one of the more popular pastimes at former Strawberry Lake. A marina and boat launch can be found at the south end of Pinecrest Lake. Motorboats are allowed although personal watercraft are prohibited. A 20 MPH speed limit has been set for boats on the open water with a 5 MPH limit near the marina and swim area. Canoes and kayaks give paddlers a closeup view of Pinecrest Reservoir’s 4-mile shore where ospreys, willow flycatchers, wood ducks, mergansers and mallards may be found.

Anglers will find a variety of fish in Pinecrest Lake. The reservoir is stocked with rainbow trout but anglers may also catch channel catfish, white bass and sunfish. There are 811 miles of rivers and streams within Stanislaus National Forest offering up rainbow trout, eastern brook trout, German brown trout and salmon.

Pinecrest Lake is located in California’s High Sierra Tourism Region. Within this region visitors will find some of the country’s most spectacular scenery. Yosemite National Park, a World Heritage Site, meets the southeastern border of Stanislaus National Forest. Over 800 miles of hiking trails take visitors past massive granite mountains and cliffs, roaring waterfalls, giant sequoias and two Wild & Scenic Rivers – Tuolumne and Merced. Almost 95% of the park’s 761,000 acres remain spectacular and unspoiled wilderness areas waiting to be explored.

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest meets the eastern border of Stanislaus National Forest. The forest’s 6.3 million acres spread from eastern California across Nevada making it the largest forest in the lower 48 states. Much like the forest surrounding Pinecrest Lake, recreational activities within Toiyabe Forest include hiking the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail; backpacking and camping in the high desert wilderness; fishing mountain streams and glacial lakes; hunting local wildlife, horseback riding, bird watching and photography.

Eldorado National Forest meets the northern boundary of Stanislaus National Forest and continues the spectacular mountain scenery found around Pinecrest Lake. Within the forest visitors will find 25 reservoirs, lakes, rivers and streams guaranteed to provide a trout or two. Well over 900 private recreation residences are found within Eldorado providing easy access to former Strawberry Flat to the south or Lake Tahoe to the northeast.

Pinecrest Lake and the High Sierras attract year-round visitors. When the mountain landscapes become draped in winter’s white, visitors arrive to enjoy alpine skiing at nearby resorts or planned winter activities within the national forests. Whether you snowmobile, snowshoe or cross-country ski, you will find endless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

Follow highway 108 west of Pinecrest Lake and you will find a touch of urban life within the historic city of Sonora. Quaint shops, a selection of wonderful restaurants and interesting museums provide a change of pace for Pinecrest Lake visitors. Along the 30-mile drive to Sonora you will find numerous small communities including Twain Harte, Mi Wuk Village, Long Barn, Dodge Ridge and Pinecrest itself. Close to Pinecrest Lake, the area offers an excellent choice of vacation rentals and real estate properties. Select a view of rivers, streams, lakes or forests and come prepared to enjoy the thrilling adventures and awe-inspiring scenery of the High Sierras.

Things to do at Pinecrest Lake CA

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • National Forest
  • Museum

Fish species found at Pinecrest Lake CA

  • Bass
  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • White Bass

Pinecrest Lake CA Photo Gallery

Pinecrest Lake CA Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Pacific Gas & Electric

Surface Area: 300 acres

Shoreline Length: 4 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 5,610 feet

Water Volume: 18,312 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1916

Lake Area-Population: 450

Drainage Area: 27 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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