15 Incredible Recreational Lakes near Sacramento, CA (+ Map)

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A variety of recreational lakes in the greater Sacramento area offers residents of California’s capital city – along with tourists visiting the area – a chance to appreciate the outdoor environment and enjoy great fishing opportunities. 

Most of the lakes on the list trace their origins as creeks, streams, rivers, or tributaries impeded by dams that created artificial reservoirs. These lakes serve as sources for irrigation, potable water, and recreational activities. 

Visitors who go to these sites usually must pay an admission fee for day-use access. Additional charges cover the cost of camping and other amenities. 

Guests wishing to visit any of these lakes should investigate fishing license requirements or other regulations that would apply to specific places of interest. 

Check out what Sacramento has to offer!

Lakes near Sacramento:

  1. Lake Natoma
  2. Folsom Lake
  3. Mather Lake
  4. Camanche Reservoir
  5. Rancho Seco Lake
  6. Lake Amador
  7. Pardee Reservoir
  8. New Hogan Lake
  9. Lake Berryessa
  10. Camp Far West Reservoir
  11. Lake Clementine
  12. Jenkinson Lake 
  13. Ice House Reservoir
  14. Union Valley Reservoir
  15. Slab Creek Reservoir
Lakes near Sacramento California Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Lake Natoma

Lake Natoma in Sacramento
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Lake Natoma
  • Distance from Sacramento: 19 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Paddleboarding, Sailing

Located 19 miles northeast of downtown, Lake Natoma came into existence in the late 1950s. 

This spot for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, rowing, and swimming first took shape after the construction of the Nimbus Dam and Folsom Dam along the lower section of the American River. 

The Central Valley Project Authority built this four-mile-long reservoir. The Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park, along Lake Natoma’s south bank, preserves Sacramento’s first electric plant, one that opened in 1895.

Almost 500 acres in size, Lake Natoma has bass, carp, bluegill, catfish, and green sunfish. Evidence of mercury in some fish has raised concerns. 

The Willow Creek Recreation Area, a unit of Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, provides for a variety of water and land activities. The Sacramento State Aquatic Center offers boating safety courses and rental equipment. 

2. Folsom Lake

Folsom Lake California
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Folsom Lake
  • Distance from Sacramento: 25 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Paddleboarding

Located 25 miles northeast of downtown, Folsom Lake formed after the completion of the Folson Dam along the American River in 1955. 

The reservoir and the surrounding Folsom Lake State Recreation Area have become some of the most popular destinations within the state’s park system. The dam provides water for drinking and irrigation, hydroelectric power, and flood control. 

The 11,500-acre lake offers a great destination to cast a line for bass, catfish, carp, squawfish, sunfish, and rainbow trout. The presence of mercury in the water has been a concern for years, with officials regularly monitoring the water quality.

An important historical site rests below the water’s surface. The town of Mormon Island – established during the early years of California’s gold rush – had a population of over 2,500 in 1853. 

Abandoned after a fire in 1856, this site now sits under Folsom Lake. The 2013 drought briefly exposed a few stone walls of this former town, now once again submerged. 

3. Mather Lake

mather lake california
Source: flickr/public domain
  • Website: Mather Lake
  • Distance from Sacramento: 17 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking

Mather Lake first appeared in the 1950s when workers curtailed the flow of Morrison Creek with earthen embankments along the eastern boundary of Mather Air Force Base, a site that began as a military aviation school in 1918. 

After the decommissioning of this base in 1993, the lake, a short drive east of Sacramento, became a popular recreational destination. 

The original base includes the present-day Sacramento Mather Airport, a couple of miles west of the lake. The 1,600-acre Mather Regional Park opened on sections of land surrounding the lake, offering a popular gathering place to fish and watch migrating birds. 

Locals consider Mather Lake a great fishing hole stocked with trout and bass at different times of the year. Just bring a valid California Fishing License. 

4. Camanche Reservoir

Camanche Reservoir California
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Camanche Reservoir
  • Distance from Sacramento: 50 miles (1h)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Paddleboarding

A 50-mile drive from Sacramento, the Camanche Reservoir represents a portion of the Mokelumne River resting above the Camanche Dam that began service in 1964. 

Flooding occasionally occurred along the lower sections of the Mokelumne River before the construction of this dam, one managed by the East Bay Municipal Utilities District.

The 7,700-acre reservoir has grown into a popular fishing, recreation, lodging, and camping destination. 

Anglers commonly see crappie, catfish, sunfish, bluegill, kokanee, and varieties of bass. A private entity under contract with the National Park Service manages concession operations. 

The former town of Camanche existed along some of the areas now submerged under the reservoir. As construction began in 1962, nearly 50 families abandoned the former town. 

5. Rancho Seco Lake

Rancho Seco Lake California
Source: wikimedia/CC BY 3.0
  • Website: Rancho Seco
  • Distance from Sacramento: 37 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Paddleboarding

Rancho Seco Lake serves both a utilitarian and recreational purpose. Once just a small pond, Rancho Seco Lake was expanded into a lake in the early 1970s to serve as a backup water supply to cool the nearby Racho Seco Nuclear Power Station operated by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD).

Located southeast of the city, the 160-acre lake and accompanying 400-acre Rancho Seco Recreational Area offer many outdoor experiences. 

In addition to camping and wildlife viewing, this year-round getaway serves as a great location to catch crappie, bluegill, and largemouth bass. 

SMUD has operated the park since 1992 and began to offer a popular annual trout fishing competition – known as a “Trout Derby” – a year later. 

Boats sailing on Rancho Seco Lake must use electric outboard motors to maintain the water quality. 

6. Lake Amador

  • Website: Lake Amador Resort
  • Distance from Sacramento: 46 miles (1h 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Paddleboarding

An hour-long drive southeast of the city, Lake Amador came into existence after the 193-foot high earth-and-rock Jackson Creek Dam was built in the mid-1960s.

Converting Jackson Creek into a reservoir became an important conservation project for the Jackson Valley Irrigation District

The privately-operated Lake Amador Resort manages the visitor experience for those who come to Lake Amador. 

Established in 1972, this family-owned enterprise offers fee-based public access for camping, disc golf, swimming, and fishing opportunities in and around the lake. 

Trout, brim, crappie, carp, shad minnows, and largemouth bass are commonly caught in the lake. The Lake Amador Resort claims to add upwards of 50,000 trout to the lake each year. 

7. Pardee Reservoir

Pardee Reservoir California
Source: pixabay
  • Website: Pardee Reservoir
  • Distance from Sacramento: 55 miles (1h)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Paddleboarding

A 50-mile drive southeast of downtown, Pardee Reservoir sits in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Between 1927 and 1929, crews built the 345-foot-high Pardee Dam that created this reservoir to store water from the down-mountain flow of the Mokelumne River. 

The East Bay Municipal Utility District collects water from the Pardee Reservoir to serve the San Francisco Bay region. 

As a source of drinking water, the Pardee Reservoir cannot be used by swimmers, jet skiers, or water skiers. 

Although body contact with water is prohibited, fishing may occur along the 37-mile shoreline and aboard vessels launched into the reservoir at the Pardee Recreation Area

Boat rentals are available. Day-use facilities include picnic areas and hiking trails. Visitors may reserve overnight camping sites.

Most guests fish for trout. Other common species found in the Pardee Reservoir include catfish, black bass, bluegill, crappie, and kokanee salmon. 

8. New Hogan Lake

New Hogan Lake in California
Source: flickr/public domain
  • Website: New Hogan Lake
  • Distance from Sacramento: 60 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Paddleboarding

New Hogan Lake became a reservoir for the forks of the Calaveras River after the New Hogan Dam came into service in 1964. 

Approximately 4,400 acres in size, this lake southeast of Sacramento collects water for drinking, irrigation, and hydroelectric power. 

Vistas along the southern shore offer locations to spot grey foxes, turkeys, and mule deer, as well as the occasional eagle, bobcat, and mountain lion.

Along with a number of land-based activities, year-round fishing opportunities exist at Hogan Lake. Fishers commonly spot bass, bluegill, stripers, and catfish. Guides recommend casting a line in shallow water for some of the best catches.

Warm summertimes amidst the hills make this a popular spot for swimming as temperatures get into the 90s. The Acorn Campground offers a place to stay overnight. Seasonal hunting is permitted in some areas.

9. Lake Berryessa

Lake Berryessa California
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Lake Berryessa
  • Distance from Sacramento: 67 miles (1h 25min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Paddleboarding

Located in the Vaca Mountains, Lake Berryessa offers an important source of water and hydroelectric power to residents of the San Francisco North Bay region. 

A drive west of Sacramento, this reservoir came into existence after workers finished building the Monticello Dam on Putah Creek in the 1950s.

The largest lake in Napa County, this reservoir can cover more than 20,000 acres when at full capacity. 

Although recreational opportunities along Lake Berryessa were originally limited, they now include year-round fishing that features spotted bass, largemouth bass, channel catfish, bullhead catfish, rainbow trout, and some salmon species. Many species introduced since the creation of the lake now flourish. 

The US Bureau of Reclamation manages much of the area, including the famous “Glory Hole” spillway where the water goes through the dam. 

The 673-acre Putah Creek Wildlife Area sits along the southeast portion of the lake. 

10. Camp Far West Reservoir

  • Website: Camp Far West Reservoir
  • Distance from Sacramento: 52 miles (1h)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Paddleboarding

A 45-mile drive north of Sacramento, Camp Far West Reservoir appeared after a 185-foot dam began to impound water from Rock Creek and Bear River when completed in 1963. 

Built for irrigation and flood control, the reservoir has a positive reputation among anglers and recreational boaters. 

Managed and owned by the South Sutter Water District, the dam has created a vibrant reservoir with 2,000 acres of surface area along 29 miles of shoreline. 

Boat launches along the South Shore and North Shore provide ample opportunities for catching green and redear sunfish, steelhead, American shad, bass, brown and black bullhead, black crappie, and sturgeon. 

Visitors can enjoy swimming and a variety of land activities. Trails along the water and rolling hills provide an escape from the urban environment. 

Hiking, horseback riding, and biking are popular activities. Campsites are in both the South and North Shore areas.

11. Lake Clementine

Lake Clementine California
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Lake Clementine
  • Distance from Sacramento: 40 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Paddleboarding

Sometimes known as North Fork Lake, the 280-acre reservoir of Lake Clementine formed in 1939 with the completion of the 155-foot-high North Fork Dam along the American River. 

Located 40 miles northeast of downtown, the dam at this site prevents debris from gold-mining activities from heading downriver. 

The upper lake portion allows for day-use access between mid-April and mid-October, but no motorized vessels are permitted in this area. 

The lower lake area includes a marina and boat launch with day-use access throughout the year. The 3.5-mile-long reservoir is surrounded by steep canyon walls and is noted for its scenic beauty. 

Popular activities on the lake include swimming, kayaking, boat-in camping, and fishing. Bass, trout, carp, sunfish, bluegill, and the Sacramento pikeminnow can be found in the waters.

The Auburn State Recreation Area sits along the Middle and North forks of the American River, an area once popular with gold miners. 

The state manages much of the federal land that sits along Lake Clementine. Whitewater recreational opportunities exist along portions of these rivers. 

Another activity allowed at Auburn SRA that is rarely permitted on public lands is panning for gold, as long as it is done with pan and hands and carefully following the regulations. 

12. Jenkinson Lake 

Jenkinson Lake  California
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Jenkinson Lake
  • Distance from Sacramento: 63 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Paddleboarding

63 miles east of downtown, Jenkinson Lake started to form after the Sly Park Dam impounded Hazel Creek and Sly Park Creek in the mid-1950s. 

Part of the Central Valley Project to manage water, this dam created the 650-acre lake that presently serves recreation, irrigation, and as an important water supply. 

Swimming, water skiing, paddling, boating, and other recreation opportunities fall under the purview of the El Dorado Irrigation District. Common fish in Jenkinson Lake include spotted bass, smallmouth bass, and rainbow trout. 

Those wishing to explore the lands around the lake will enjoy trails for hiking and horseback riding through open meadows, thick forests, and along the extensive lakeshore. 

Campsites may be reserved for guests wishing to stay overnight. 

13. Ice House Reservoir

  • Website: Ice House Reservoir
  • Distance from Sacramento: 77 miles (1h 30min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Paddleboarding

75-mile drive northeast of Sacramento offers an escape to the higher elevations of the Eldorado National Forest. 

Ice House Reservoir is a popular alpine destination for those traveling through the oak foothills into the ponderosa pine forests and higher elevations. 

At 5,400 feet above sea level, the reservoir offers year-round fishing opportunities, as road conditions permit. 

Fish commonly found in Ice House Reservoir include trout added during summer months by the California Department of Fish and Game, as well as kokanee salmon and golden shiners. 

A boat ramp offers easy access to this reservoir that was formed after the Ice House Dam opened in the late 1950s. 

Day-use activities include hiking and biking along trails that follow slopes and offer great views of the reservoir. 

Forest Service campgrounds stay open during the summer season, though renovations have closed these sites in 2022 for upgrades.

14. Union Valley Reservoir

Union Valley Reservoir California
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Website: Union Valley Reservoir
  • Distance from Sacramento: 82 miles (1h 35min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Paddleboarding

80 miles northeast of downtown and less than eight miles from Ice House Reservoir, the Union Valley Reservoir offers a great place in the Sierra Nevada to retreat from the summer heat. 

Located in Eldorado National Forest, this body of water sits at 4,870 feet above sea level. 

The Union Valley Dam impounded the Silver Creek tributary of the American River after its completion in 1963. 

The powerhouse at the dam generates hydroelectric power for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, with Sacramento also retaining rights to the potable water held within this waterway.

Swimming, kayaking, boating, and fishing offer popular recreation options for visitors during the summer months. 

Anglers visiting the lake regularly spot trout, kokanee salmon, and mackinaw. Summertime camping options are available. 

15. Slab Creek Reservoir

  • Website: Slab Creek Reservoir
  • Distance from Sacramento: 53 miles (1h 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics

Located 53 miles northeast of downtown Sacramento, Slab Creek Reservoir exists as an impounded section of the South Fork of the American River. 

Created after the Slab Creek Dam began operations in the 1960s, this 249-acre reservoir is managed by SMUD. 

The most popular activity at this reservoir is kayaking and canoeing. In fact, this is one of the coolest paddling adventures near Sacramento. Brown and rainbow trout are the typical catches here, but this is it when it comes to recreation. 

The attractive hills and forests in the area provide a comfortable escape during the warmer summer months. 

Wintertime snow in the nearby hills and valleys of the Sierra Nevada provides much of the water that fills the reservoir after it melts. 

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