As one of the most-visited summer vacation spots, Yosemite National Park has still managed to stay somewhat pure. They don't tolerate litter, biking on trails, pets or motorized boats. So why would a family bother towing the boat anywhere near the park? It's because Don Pedro Lake is just an hour to the west.
After you've played Ansel Adams, you can really play in this winding 20-mile-long man-made boating oasis. It runs out of the Sierra Nevada foothills into old California cattle ranches, and boats of all types are welcome. Families who like to camp can claim a spot almost anywhere along the 160 miles of shore.
While Don Pedro has a remote feel far away from urban sprawl, it's near plenty of quaint towns offering wine tasting, antiquing and dining. That's if you can rip yourself out of the water for a day. Oh, and that Yosemite place isn't bad either.
Are they permitted? 3 Public, no private
Lake Don Pedro is a great fishing lake with opportunities to catch bass, trout, salmon, crappie, bluegill and catfish. The seasons and limits vary per fish. The bass fishing season is open all year on Lake Don Pedro with plenty of largemouth bass hidden in the coves.
The smallmouth bass are mostly found on the rocky points and islands throughout Lake Don Pedro and the lake consistently produces large numbers of salmon.
Boaters can get the full outdoor experience by overnighting at one of the two recreation areas with full-service marinas. There isn't necessarily a central focus for activities on the lake. It's a catchall.
In June the reservoir hosts a rainbow trout derby. The water skiing and wakeboarding are hot all season, and the local ski club has set up a slalom course for serious athletes. One of the more popular ways to live on the water is aboard a houseboat, with the recreational boat in tow. In the evenings, boaters are known to lounge in the rooftop whirlpools of the more replete houseboats. The rolling hills of oak trees and steep canyon faces serve as a backdrop.
A wealth of activities can turn into real riches. Some boaters venture up the Tuolumne River, Don Pedro's main feed, navigating around the sandbars in their 20-footers to go panning for gold. "Actually, it gets people because there's lots of fool's gold," says Lucy Allen of the Moccasin Point Marina.
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