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The California Lakes of Madera County
Blog Take a Dip into the California Lakes of Madera County
Alex Silgalis | 04/26/2021Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Nature, Photography, Road Trip, RV Parks & Facilities, Sierra National Forest Campsites, Social Distancing, Water Activities, Wildflowers, Wildlife |   

The old saying, “Life is better at the lake” couldn’t ring truer. They provide visitors and residents alike a break from the daily stresses. Via water sports, boating, fishing, and of course just some relaxation, each one is a slice of heaven in its own way. Instead of rushing up to Yosemite or other final destination, extend that trip a few days by checking out what we think are some of the best California lakes of Madera County. You can explore the map below to see where there's lakes are.

Bass Lake

Canoeing around Bass LakeHow could we start this list without listing the “star” of freshwater goodness in the region – Bass Lake. Originally called Crane Valley Reservoir, its name was later changed to Bass Lake after the reservoir had to be restocked with fish following a poisoning of the waters by a local lumber company.  They restocked it with Bass, hence the new name. This pine trimmed lake with emerald-green waters and sandy shores is considered by many to be smaller version of Lake Tahoe. Nearly three thousand feet lower than its bigger cousin, the waters are much warmer in summer (reaching near 80 degrees) making it well suited for watersports like swimming and boating. If you feel like staying at the lake (an option we think you will really like) you have many options to choose from.  These include several campgrounds, numerous cabins and vacation rentals, an RV park, and three resorts: The Forks Resort, Millers Landing Resort, and The Pines Resort.  Click here to find out more.

Mammoth Pool

Mammoth Pools ReservoirEqual in length to Bass Lake, Mammoth Pool is a quieter California Lake. There are no permanent accommodations, but if you enjoy seclusion, there are camping opportunities such as Mammoth Pool Camp ground and the Wagner’s Mammoth Pool Resort. It’s also a great, though admittedly a somewhat lengthy pit stop if you’re exploring the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway. Surrounded entirely by the Sierra Nevada Mountains within a steep granite walled valley, it provides fantastic fishing opportunities during its season.

Note: Due to the Creek Fire, the Mammoth Pool region is focused on recovery and rebuilding. Target re-opening is Summer 2022.

Annually, from May 1 through June 15, the reservoir is closed to allow deer migration.

Redinger Lake

Tucked in the Sierra foothills, you’ll find Redinger Lake. Another reservoir on the mighty San Joaquin River. Just shy of 500 acres, it’s a great body of water to visit any time of year due to its low elevation. In addition to all the fun water sporting that’s available here, spring is one of the best times to visit. This is due to the cooler temperatures and the blooming of wildflowers surrounding it. With its easy access, it’s a good addition to any road trip if you’re checking out the geographical center of California or the town of North Fork.

Note: Due to its low elevation and high risk for forest fires, no campfires are permitted around this lake ANY TIME of year.

Manzanita Lake

Another body of water near the town of North Fork is Manzanita Lake. This smaller lake is a perfect option for families that want to have a picnic, go for a short hike, or even do some fishing. In the fall or winter, expect to see birds like Hooded Mergansers, Canada Geese, or even a lone Bald Eagle catching a fish. In the summer, the cool pools of water provide a great respite from the heat.

Hensley Lake

Dog Friendly Hensley LakeCovering over twenty miles of shoreline, Hensley Lake is a bog one on the list of California lakes of Madera County. Oak Woodlands, grasses, and granite outcroppings dot the scenery around this gorgeous lake. Due to its low elevation of 545 feet above sea level, it’s a perfect winter getaway for those wanting some sun and warmth. Named after local cattle rancher John Jackson Hensley, the Buck Ridge Recreation Area on one side of the lake is a great place for birdwatching and to go for a hike. In addition to all the normal water-focused activities, hunting for game is also permitted within designated areas in the park.

Eastman Lake

Photo by: Debbie SebastianNortheast of the town of Chowchilla in the Sierra Nevada foothills you’ll find Eastman Lake. This reservoir on the Chowchilla River is surrounded by rolling oak-covered hills that provide a scenic and restful setting for wayward travelers. Fishing enthusiasts come from afar to attempt to catch the trophy-sized Bass that lurk in its waters. Birding fans will adore the shoreline due to over 45 bird species calling the Army Corp Of Engineers Park situated here home. And if you’re a disc golfer, be sure to bring your gear. Monument Ridge has a disc golf course constructed out of all-natural terrain featuring rocky structures with large oaks and low hills.

From winter diversions to summer getaways, the California lakes of Madera County are many and provide a vast variety of activities depending on what type of fun you’re looking for. So, shove off and get away from it all by visiting one of these “diamonds” of Madera.


Like what you see? Save any of these pins (or possibly all of them) to your travel planning board(s) to give you an easy way to find your way back here!  Also check out our other blog posts as well as itineraries for more ideas and pins!

Alex Silgalis

Alex founded localfreshies.com® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

Our annual Visit Yosemite | Madera County Visitors Guide can answer all your questions about visiting California's Gateway to Yosemite. From the park itself to the museums, wineries, art galleries and more throughout Madera County, our guide can help you plan the perfect vacation. Please note that we mail to the USA only, but anyone can download the guide.
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