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Cherry Valley Reservoir: Off the beaten path

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Cherry Valley Reservoir: Off the beaten path

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POSTED April 6, 2012 8:08 p.m.

GROVELAND - Cherry Valley Reservoir is a gem of a lake that sits at 4,700 feet between Dodge Ridge and Yosemite in the Stanislaus National Forest.

Although it is isolated by only one road in and out it makes a perfect day trip for Northern San Joaquin Valley residents because of its relatively close proximity. It is also a source of irrigation water for both the Turlock Irrigation District and the Modesto irrigation District that holds 373,500 acre feet of water being a 315-foot high earth dam.

The trip takes two hours or less to complete.

Cherry Valley can be reached in two ways.

One way is through Sonora and Highway 108. Taking a right at Tuolumne Road you will travel through Tuolumne City before the road to Cherry Valley narrows and begins winding through the mountains.

From Tuolumne City the drive to the lake takes approximately one and a half hours.

Beautiful vistas that span for hundreds of miles await drivers around every corner. Don’t get caught staring at them too long because the road also runs through a cattle range, so the occasional steer waiting around a blind curve is not uncommon.

As you progress, the road crosses a bridge that towers above the mighty Clavey River. The Clavey is famous for being one of the last free-flowing and unimpeded rivers in California.

Once you leave the river you climb in elevation before eventually reaching the final destination.

The alternative route to the lake is through Highway 120 and the town of Groveland. After passing through Groveland you will take a left at Cherry Oil Road and travel approximately 27 miles to the lake.

Both roads have plenty of twists and turns and might not be suited for those with a weak stomach.

Before you reach the lake coming from Sonora you pass by Cherry Valley Campground. To stay there for one night it will cost you $19 and it is the only campground at the lake. Boats and third wheels are allowed at the campground which has approximately double and single stalls. Pets are also OK if they are kept on a leash.

There are vault toilets and running water but there are no showers.

Firewood is available for sale by the bundle from the camp hosts who live on site. Barbecue and fire pits are located in each stall.

Cherry Valley is an ideal place for a multitude of outdoor activities.

For hikers, the southernmost trailhead leading into the Yosemite backcountry and the Emigrant Wilderness starts there. Mountain biking and off-road vehicles will also find plenty of trails to ride on.

Animal lovers will also enjoy themselves. Deer can often be seen walking through the morning mist while looking for food. Eagles can also be spotted around the lake as they dive down for a quick fish meal. The area around Cherry Valley is even bear country. Although spotting one is rare visitors are warned to not leave food out.

On the lake itself, boaters use the one boat ramp located near the dam to launch mostly aluminum fishing boats. Trolling flashers with assorted lures seems to be the best bet from a boat.

The fishing in the lake is primarily limited to rainbow and brook trout. The Department of Fish and Game at Moccasin Creek stocks the lake starting in mid-April with over 36,000 rainbows in the 10- 12-inch class.

Fishing from the shore is also possible, with the easiest spot to walk to located next to the dam. Throwing in power bait, a spinner or a nightcrawler is a sure way to get at least a bite.

An essential thing to remember when leaving for a trip to Cherry Valley is that there are no stores within an hour of the lake to buy supplies.

Whatever you bring has to be planned ahead and purchased in advance.

Weather at the lake is usually warm during the summer with the nights a little breezy and sometimes darn right cold.

The lake is open year-round, weather and road conditions permitting. The campground opens in the last weekend of April and stays open until October.

For more information about Cherry Valley Reservoir surrounding areas call the Stanislaus National Forest at (209) 962-7825.

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