State Recreation Area
The mission of the California Department of
Parks and Recreation is to provide for the
health, inspiration and education of the
people of California by helping to preserve
the state’s extraordinary biological diversity,
protecting its most valued natural and
cultural resources, and creating opportunities
for high-quality outdoor recreation.
California State Parks does not discriminate
against individuals with disabilities. Prior to
arrival, visitors with disabilities who need
assistance should contact the park at the phone
number below. To receive this publication in an
alternate format, write to the Communications
Office at the following address.
CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS
P. O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296-0001
For information call: (800) 777-0369
(916) 653-6995, outside the U.S.
711, TTY relay service
Turlock Lake State Recreation Area
22600 Lake Road
La Grange, CA 95329
© 2005 California State Parks
Printed on Recycled Paper
With the river and
lake environments so
close to each other, this
recreation area provides
an ideal setting for
estled in a narrow, woodsy pocket
between the Tuolumne River and Turlock
Lake in the rolling foothills of eastern
Stanislaus County, Turlock Lake State Recreation Area (SRA) lures those seeking relaxation and clean country air. Open all year with
camping, picnicking, fishing, swimming,
boating and water skiing, this area offers
visitors an opportunity to see the variety of
native plant life that once flourished along the
rivers of the San Joaquin Valley.
A warm, dry climate prevails in the Central
Valley, with nighttime temperatures usually
dropping to the high 60s. Precipitation falls
mainly from October through April. Summer
temperatures above 100 degrees are normal.
Winter temperatures are well below freezing,
but snow is very rare.
Turlock Lake Miwoks
For thousands of years, the Central Sierra
Miwok hunter-gatherers who supplemented
their main dietary staple of acorns with other
seeds, edible plants, fish, and large and small
game, built seasonal villages of bark or tule
reeds along the banks of rivers and streams.
With the coming of Europeans, the essence of
their existence—the vitality of the land, family
life, the seasonal cycle, ritual and social
interaction—was soon destroyed, along with
large numbers of Miwok who had no immunity
to the diseases introduced by the Europeans.
Despite these drastic changes, descendents
of the Central Sierra Miwok
still live in the area, practicing ancient cultural
traditions and passing them on to the next
the Turlock Irrigation District built a 3,500-acre
reservoir between La Grange and Waterford
that became known as Turlock Lake.
Gold was found along the Tuolumne River in
Stanislaus County by French sailors in 1849.
Their camp quickly grew into a settlement
known as French Bar or French Camp, and
eventually became La Grange. The easily
obtained placer gold played out by 1856. Gold
mining returned to the Tuolumne River when
the La Grange Dredging Company formed in
1905 to extract gold from an eight-mile section
of the river, now part of the park. Several
million dollars in gold were extracted before
dredging operations ceased in 1952.
TURLOCK LAKE TODAY
In 1950 the Turlock Irrigation District leased
Turlock Lake, with its 26 miles of shoreline
and 228 acres of foothill country, to the State
of California to form Turlock Lake SRA.
From several lookout points, visitors can
view the surrounding savannas and some of
the cattle ranches and orchards nearby. Lake
Road, which separates the campground from
the day-use area, offers an excellent
perspective of the campground, the river and
sloughs, and miles of dredger tailing piles,
the by-product of a half century of gold
TURLOCK IRRIGATION DISTRICT
Just as the Tuolumne River furnished water for
mining, it also provided rich soil for agriculture,
and by 1857 farms lined its banks. The farmers
irrigated their crops with the spring
floodwaters of the Tuolumne River, leaving
them vulnerable to periods of drought.
With the backing of farmers, in 1887
Assemblyman C. C. Wright proposed a new
kind of local government agency—an irrigation
district—to help deal with the problem of crop
irrigation. The first district to be established
under the Wright Act was the Turlock Irrigation
District. To control water for irrigation, this
district and the Modesto Irrigation District
together constructed La Grange Dam in 1893.
Despite this the water needs of the farmers
were barely being met. To solve the problem,
The rich riparian habitat along the Tuolumne
River and adjacent sloughs with their forested
banks and tangled underbrush provides a
haven for many birds and animals.
Over 115 species of birds have been
identified along the river. Woodpeckers,
hummingbirds, orioles, western bluebirds
and greenbacked goldfinches provide flashes
of color along the riverbanks as meadowlarks,
valley quail, bushtits, mourning doves and
western mockingbirds fill the air with their
songs. Hawks and turkey vultures dominate
the wide-open sky by day, and barn and
screech owls join in at night. On the water and
along the shore during fall and winter,
mallards, canvasbacks, coots, white-fronted
geese, several kinds of herons, grebes, gulls
and terns are common.
The riverbanks are home to the gray fox,
beavers, muskrats, cottontails, wood rats,
bullfrogs, and turtles, while coyotes, black-tailed
jackrabbits, and an occasional deer wander
through the savannas surrounding the lake.
Turlock Lake has a 26-mile shoreline, with
humpbacked islands and jutting peninsulas.
Low, rolling, grassy foothills enfold the
reservoir. Valley and blue oaks dot the
undulating hillsides in small clusters. At the
picnic area, cottonwoods, western
sycamores and willows provide shade.
The Tuolumne River’s rich riparian habitat
boasts some 190 species of flowers, herbs,
shrubs and ferns. Many native trees, including
interior live oaks, cottonwoods, white alders,
elderberry, ash and buckeye grow along the
river’s banks, providing a thick canopy of
shade. The broader riparian shore features a
thick tangle of oak, willow and fig trees
intertwined with wild grape,
blackberry, toyon, elderberry
and mock orange.
Wildflowers decorate the
grassland and hillsides with
lupine, fuschias, sunflowers,
wallflowers and Mariposa lilies.
Woodwardia ferns grow in
moist places along the cliff,
and a multitude of other
flowers, shrubs and ferns infuse
color throughout the area.
Turlock Lake SRA offers a wide range of
recreational opportunities, including camping, picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating
With a sheer bluff rising on its south boundary
and the Tuolumne River on the north, a
secluded campground offers 63 campsites
about one mile from the lake. Native trees
provide shade, and the heavy growth of
blackberries entice jam and pie fanciers
from mid-July through October.
Each campsite has a stove, table and food
locker, and piped drinking water is within a
hundred feet. Hot showers and restrooms with
flush toilets are nearby. Although no trailer
hookups are available, trailers up to 27 feet
can be accommodated in the campsites.
Along the lakeshore are two formal picnic areas,
lots of shade trees, and an irrigated grassy
area. Stationary barbecues are nearby. A boat
launching ramp and ample
parking for boat trailers and cars
are also available. There are no
lifeguards on duty, so swimmers
should use caution. Trout, black
bass, crappie, bluegill and
catfish in the lake and river
test the skills of fishermen.
• Picnic area: Two accessible
picnic tables are located at
the picnic area next to
Fishing on the lake
Swim Beach and adjacent to designated
accessible parking. Assistance may be
required getting to water faucets or grills.
• Beach/Shore Access: A beach wheelchair
is available. Call the park for more
information. The restroom near the beach
• Depending on water levels, the boat dock
is navigable for persons who can selftransfer to boats.
NEARBY STATE PARKS
• McConnell State Recreation Area, 5 miles
southeast of Delhi, (209) 394-7755
• George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area,
28 miles west of Merced, (209) 632-1852
• Great Valley Grasslands State Park, 5
miles east of Gustine, (209) 826-1197
• Each campsite is limited to eight persons.
• Dogs must be leashed at all times.
PLEASE CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR PET.
• Loud, disturbing noises and music are
prohibited at all times. Quiet hours are
between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
• Watch out for poison oak.
• Do not gather dead wood. Firewood may
be purchased at the campground office.
• Bicyclists under 18 must wear approved
helmets. Bicycles are not permitted on
footpaths and must be equipped with
headlamps and reflectors in compliance
with vehicle code regulations.
• Campsites are vulnerable to theft at any
time. Secure your valuables and equipment, and report any suspicious activity.
• Campground check-in time is 2:00 p.m.
Checkout time is noon.