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209 lakes offer swimming, boating, fishing and more
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With summer now in full swing,  a quick getaway to the lake is one way to escape the heat. Fortunately, there’s no need to travel far. The 209 has quite a few bodies of water for swimming, fishing, boating or a leisurely float.
Turlock Lake
Bounded on the north by the Tuolumne River and south by Turlock Lake, the recreation area provides an ideal setting for water-oriented outdoor activities. The lake is surrounded by 26 miles of shoreline and foothill country leased from the Turlock Irrigation District in 1950. Picnicking, day-use, and boat launch ramps are offered at the lake.
“Turlock Lake is the perfect location to get the families together,” said Turlock resident Fabiola Gonzales. “During the summer our families visit the area and camp overnight.”
Overnight visitors are welcome at the 66-site campground located on the shady south bank of the Tuolumne River about one mile from the lake.
From several lookout points, visitors can view the surrounding savannas and some of the cattle ranches and orchards nearby.
For more information, visit
Don Pedro Lake
Although a further drive, Don Pedro Lake is a destination worth visiting. With 160 miles of shoreline and nearly 13,000 acre-feet of surface area, visitors can enjoy boating, fishing, water sports, swimming and camping. One of the highlights of the year is the annual fireworks show over the lake celebrating the Fourth of July.
“Every year our families make it a tradition to visit Don Pedro during the Fourth of July,” said Turlock resident Joel Barriga. “The fireworks are spectacular and the atmosphere is amazing. The best part of the lake is the clear water.”
Don Pedro Recreation Agency offers campsites at three campgrounds: Fleming Meadows and Blue Oakes located on the west shore, and Moccasin Point located on the east shore.
Fishing is allowed year-round in the still waters of Don Pedro Lake. Tributary creeks that are east of highway 49 and flow into the lake are closed between November and April.
“Bass is one of the main fishes found at the lake,” said Barriga. “One summer I caught a bass weighing almost 15 pounds.”
Day-use picnics areas are available at both Fleming Meadows and Moccasin Point recreation areas on first-come, first-served basis.
While there are many informal pathways that lead between campsites, there are two developed trails for those who want to take a hike.
For more information, visit
Lake McSwain
Whether you like to fish, boat, swim, camp or just want to enjoy a day in open waters, Snelling offers some of California’s best water recreation activities in the 209.
Located approximately six miles downstream from New Exchequer, is McSwain Dam, built to serve as a regulating reservoir.
“Whether you enjoy fishing, swimming, hiking or just relaxing under a tree, there are many good things you can do at the lake,” said Snelling resident Maribel Sanchotena.  “The number of visitors increases in Snelling during the summer, especially Labor Day or Fourth of July weekend.”
Lake McSwain is renowned for its bass, trout, salmon and panfish fishing, offering excellent opportunities to catch daily bag limits and large trophy fish.
“Fishing is extremely popular,” added Sanchotena.  “Our lakes and rivers offer reliable good fishing most of the year.”
Camping cannot be complete without the nightly campfires at McSwain Park.  It is the perfect venue for s’mores, storytelling and quality time with friends and family.
For more information, visit
Lake McClure
Lake McClure offers more than 80 miles of shoreline. The sparkling clear water of the Merced River flows from Yosemite Park into the lake, which has a maximum elevation of 867 feet above sea level.
Lake McClure is also known as a water sport enthusiast’s paradise. McClure provides runs that are both smooth and picturesque. Ski boats, wave runners, kayaks, paddle boats, patio boats, and fishing boats are all available to rent by the day or by the hour at the Barrett Cove Marina.
Boating on Lake McClure is fun and convenient. Large concrete boat ramps equipped with boarding floats at each docking area make for a quick and easy launch onto the lake. Each recreation area offers plenty of parking for cars and trailers.
“Boating has been wonderful to our family and friends,” said Sanchotena.  “It’s the perfect setting that offers different activities to every age group.  The lake staff is also really great and helpful.  It’s one of the greatest lakes in the area.”
For more information, visit
— NANCY ANGEL /  The 209