Quarry Lakes, California, USA

Also known as:  Horseshoe Lake, Rainbow Lake, Lago Los Osos

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Quarry Lakes.

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Quarry Lakes visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - West - California - Bay Area -

In an amazing display of landscape renovation, California’s Bay Area created a much-loved recreational area featuring the Quarry Lakes. Horseshoe, Rainbow and Lago Los Osos Lakes are the centerpiece of this 471-acre suburban park. As the name indicates, the three lakes were once gravel quarries along the Alameda Creek where gravel was mined to build the western leg of the transcontinental railroad in the mid-1800s. The Alameda County Water District formerly used the resulting pits for groundwater recharge by pumping water from the creek into the pits, creating three lakes. Desiring to do something unique with the lakes area, the Alameda County Water District and the East Bay Regional Park District spent many years in planning and land acquisition to eventually form the park. The result was Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area. Although the size of the three lakes isn’t listed, over 350 acres of the park’s surface is now covered with water.

The three Quarry Lakes are designated for different uses. Horseshoe Lake now maintains a swimming beach with picnic areas. Rainbow Lake is a part of the recreational portion, hosting more picnic areas, volleyball courts and walking trails. A boat launch ramp allows private, non-gasoline-powered boats to launch for a small fee. A fishing pier permits fishing access to the disabled and children. From this area, trails reach out in every direction around the lakes, through natural areas and groves of specialty plantings. Fishermen particularly enjoy fishing for the regularly-stocked trout the lakes offer, but often find themselves trying to land a good-sized largemouth bass instead. The lakes also hold catfish, smallmouth bass and bluegill. Anglers must have a valid fishing license and should be aware that lead fishing weights are not allowed. Catch and release is encouraged but not required at this time. Fishermen should note that gasoline motors are not allowed entry into the park, even if the owner doesn’t intend to use them.

Pathways are open to hiking, biking and in some areas, dog-walking. Additional paths along Alameda Creek on the southwest perimeter of the park are paved on one side of the creek for hiking and biking, and unpaved on the other where horseback riding is permitted. Since the recreation area opened in 2000, Quarry Lakes have become the ideal place to engage in competitive running, with half-marathons often utilizing the perimeter path. The Bay Area Paddlefest each year highlights such watercraft as canoes, kayaks and standing paddleboards. Exhibitors allow the public to see their wares in action and try them out. Dragon boat races occur here at least once a year. Locals find the park’s proximity to the city a great place to take a picnic lunch or engage in a little quiet contemplation in the midst of the work day. Several other Water District-owned ponds have limited public availability and are not a part of the park itself.

Lago Los Osos at the south end of the park is off-limits to fishing: it has been developed into a wildlife paradise, with optimized habitat for birds, waterfowl and fish. A portion called Willow Slough has been turned into a marsh area and provides breeding grounds for ducks and water-loving birds. Visitors use the area to hike, bike and observe wildlife. Some of the fauna seen at the park include wood ducks, mallards, great blue heron, western grebe, snowy egret, tree swallows, northern flicker and a variety of song birds. Two threatened bird species often seen at Quarry Lakes are the salt marsh yellowthroat and the Alameda song sparrow. Interpretive signage explains the significance of the different areas of the habitat.

The Fremont area offers visitors plenty of activities even when they aren’t enjoying Quarry Lakes. Just a short distance away, the Niles Historic Main Street delights visitors with unique shops, architecture and activities. Not only is the Niles District famous for quaint shops and antiques, one can buy tickets on the Niles Canyon Railway to enjoy a scenic steam engine-drawn rail excursion. Niles hosts a full schedule of festivals and events sure to attract special-interest visitors. One of the most famous is the Niles Essanay Silent Film Festival and Museum, with memorabilia collected from the age when the great silent film stars entertained the masses. There are also an annual Antique Fair and a Wildflower Festival among other scheduled celebrations.

The Fremont area holds a wealth of attractions to please any visitor. Less than 10 miles from Quarry Lakes, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge encompasses over 30,000 acres at the foot of the Dumbarton Bridge. The San Francisco Bay and Peninsula area is dotted with multiple wildlife refuges and parks for the enjoyment of outdoors fans. Sightseeing, historical sites and nightlife are plentiful in San Francisco. The Bay and the Pacific Coast can be accessed in several areas within short proximity. To the east, the hills hold vineyards, wilderness areas and the popular Mission Peak Regional Preserve. The Preserve is a favorite among strenuous hikers, backpack campers, paragliders and hang gliders. Hikers who make it to the top of Mission Peak are rewarded with spectacular views of the Valley below and share their view with hawks and vultures soaring the thermal currents.

There is no form of lodgings directly on Quarry Lakes. The City of Fremont and the surrounding areas hold all sorts of lodgings from conventional hotels to private rentals. Bed-and-breakfasts are easily found near the wineries in the hills nearby. Real estate near San Francisco is higher-priced than that found near the small cities east of the Bay, and there is nearly always some real estate to be found near Quarry Lakes; some even have views of the lakes from the deck. If you intend to spend some time near San Francisco Bay on your next vacation, or if you are already there and looking for outdoor recreation, Quarry Lakes is one of the most pleasant suburban recreation areas around. Pack up the tackle box, the kids and a picnic lunch. Beautiful Quarry Lakes has something for everybody.Wont you come visit soon?

*The combined shoreline for all three lakes is listed. Unfortunately, depths and acreage for individual lakes is not available.

Custom Quarry Lakes house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Quarry Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • Museum
  • Antiquing

Fish species found at Quarry Lakes

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Quarry Lakes

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Quarry Lakes photo gallery

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Quarry Lakes statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Alameda County Water District

Surface Area: 350 acres

Shoreline Length: 4 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 33 feet

Completion Year: 2000

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