Manzanita Lake: A Great Family Outing
Photo © Michael Olwyler
For a family picnic, to hike a short trail, to do some fishing, or walk through a bit of Sierra Nevada foothill history, Manzanita Lake is only 1.5 miles from the center of the town of North Fork along County Road 222.
Manzanita Lake is a small, quiet man-made lake that dates from the early 1940s when hydro-power was just being developed in California. PG&E owns the facilities and administers the area, which is surrounded by land administered by the Sierra National Forest. Make up a picnic lunch from stores in North Fork and then head for the outdoors!
Manzanita Lake, with 26 surface acres and an average depth of about 6.5 feet, is situated at 2,900 feet in elevation and can be a cool respite from the intense heat of summer. In winter, your visit might find a silent lake, a lone Bald eagle, a great time for a short hike, some birdwatching and time to enjoy nature!
Today, this small lake attracts visitors all year round who want to:
- Picnic in a less developed site near a very pretty lake. Amenities include a parking area; fire grates for barbecues which may be used when fire danger is low; no-flush toilets; garbage cans for picnic waste (don't dispose of household garbage here.)
- Watch birds. (Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) are common in the late fall and winter; Canada geese (Branta canadensisI) fly in and out of the area all year long honking just above the treetops; various passerines flit in feeding flocks; an occasional Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) stops by in quiet times to fish.
- Fish. California State Fish and Game rules apply. Please see http://www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/
- Hike. Enjoy short, level hiking among foothill oaks and pines with wonderful views toward the South Fork Bluffs along a historic road closed to traffic. The rise and fall of the trail from the Manzanita Lake parking area to the end of the trail/road is slight - about 100 feet. From the Manzanita Lake parking area to the end of the flume is about 2.2 miles round trip. there is access to this trail at other points along County Road 222, the Manzanita Lake Road.
- Bike. Enjoy a short bicycle ride on the paved section of the trail, with access to and from North Fork along County Road 222, the Manzanita Lake Road. Horses can even be ridden along this route.
- Wading in the cool waters.
The picnic area is popular on summer weekends, as is fishing around the lake. The trail that runs around the lake and continues down-canyon is the original road that led to North Fork from Crane Valley. The trail/road follows an old flume that carries water from Manzanita Lake to Corrine Lake where it is again used to produce hydro-power. The California Department of Fish and Game stocks fish and the planting schedule is sometimes listed for Manzanita Lake.
El Lago Manzanita tiene un área de picnic cerca del lago, mesillas para comer, pesca legal, y un sendero de 1.6 kilómetros. Que belleza!
The biggest challenge? Getting people to stash their trash in their garbage bag when they're recreating! Please take it home!
El mayor desafío? Que la gente no tire su basura cuando visitan el Lago Manzanita! Por favor de guardar su basura en una bolsa y llevarla a casa. Cada uno tiene que atender por su parte para mantener la belleza. Gracias!
Picnickers can help keep Manzanita Lake clean and beautiful by taking their trash home (only infrequent trash removal is provided) and picking up after others who aren't as wise about their garbage disposal.
In the summer fire danger can be extreme! Before lighting a barbecue or other fire, check first with Cal Fire (formerly California Department of Forestry), the Bass Lake Ranger District office (559-877-2218).
Anglers MUST be wise about their fishing line, micro-trash, and fish entrails. Wrap up your abandoned fishing line and what you find along shores in order to avoid it strangling birds and tripping other visitors. Pocket your micro-trash or put it in your garbage bag. The Tread Lightly! principles of best behavior are to bag and pack out entrails to your home, or bury them at least 100 feet away from any water, trail, or picnic area. Thanks!
The access to Manzanita Lake via paved County Road 222 is open all year. It's about a 1 hour drive from Fresno and only minutes away from North Fork. In the future, a trail may link the town of North Fork to the lake for even greater community and tourism benefits.
From Fresno: Travel north toward Yosemite National Park and the town of Oakhurst on State Highway 41; continue north past the junction of State Highway 145; continue north to the traffic light at the junction of County Road 200 and turn RIGHT; travel all the way to the town of North Fork; watch for Count Road 222 just past the Chevron station and convenience store; turn LEFT on Road 222; travel about 1.4 miles to County Road 226; continue STRAIGHT another .1 mile to the Manzanita Lake parking area on the RIGHT.
Fees: There are no fees for use of the area. However, California Department of Fish and Game rules for fishing apply.
The toilets at the Manzanita Lake parking area are accessible. However, the trails around the picnic area are very rough. The trail leading around the lake and along the old Flume Road to town is not accessible at this time, though the North Fork Community Trails System proposes this segment as an accessible trail in the future.
Dog owners love this walk as it is just long enough for them and their animals to get some good exercise.
Keep your dog under your control and supervision at all times (see http://www.madera-county.com/index.php/madera-county-animal-laws , and scroll down to "Dog Control & Leash Law Enforcement"). It's more polite to control your dog prior to his causing a commotion!
Horses can be ridden around Manzanita Lake. However, the parking area is a restricted size so please ensure that horse trailers don't block access. The route on the trail for riding horses and mules is short but quite pleasant, though most of it is on old blacktop surface.