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What Limited Access To Mother Lode Lakes Looks Like Under COVID-19

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Sonora, CA — Although plans are still in the works to provide lake access to New Melones, other Mother Lode lakes are currently operating on a limited basis or shortly planning to open.

Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) officials in the region continue to indicate they are working with their counterparts on the federal level to get mitigation measures in place as soon as possible. Meanwhile the gates remain closed to the public.

Stanislaus National Forest remains under a closure order at least until May 15 of all of its developed recreational facilities, which notably includes Pinecrest Lake. Forest Supervisor Jason Kuiken recently signed Forest Order STF-16-2020-04, updating area and road closures, identifying the high-elevation roads on Calaveras and Summit Ranger districts that remain under seasonal closure through June 30. Kuiken states that although most lower-elevation roads are now open, in light of the statewide shelter-in-place order, his agency continues to ask that visitors recreate locally.

Don Pedro, Tulloch Now Open

Don Pedro Recreation Agency has recently reopened some day use areas and all boat launch ramps for personal recreational boating. Hiking and shoreline fishing are now permitted in accordance with Tuolumne County’s April 30 Public Health Order. The entrance gates will be open for purchasing of passes and when a staff member is not available, visitors should use the iron ranger process.

Commercial boat rentals are also not available and campgrounds and the swimming lagoon remain closed. Social distancing restrictions are still in place at day use areas, including at boat ramps, parking lots, and along shorelines. As certain areas of the Don Pedro Recreation Agency remain closed, not all restroom facilities are available and recreaters are asked to watch for signage as guidance as to which facilities are available.

As for Lake Tulloch, the boat launch at the South Shore RV Campground is open. The operator is continuing to use the iron ranger located at the parking lot above the ramp and charging the winter rate of $10 to park and launch since the facilities are limited. While envelopes are provided folks can bring their own if they prefer as long as they make sure to write the vehicle plate number on it. Lake Tulloch Campground is be closed for camping until further notice. All bathrooms and showers are closed and locked off to public use. Reservations remain on hold until further notice.

Tuolumne County spokesperson Jason Terry acknowledges that staff at Don Pedro and Tulloch are not checking IDs for local addresses and that the county is continuing to encourage folks to recreate locally. He adds that the policy applies across the board and that it bears being thoughtful about one’s choices not only for those coming into the county from areas with community transmission — but also for folks here who go to those areas, such as to visit and shop.

As for public health safety, Terry emphasizes, “It is expected that there will be mitigation measures in place [at the local lakes] to keep folks from congregating in places like the boat ramp and parking lot — make sure to bring along hand sanitizer because facilities will be limited.” While mandatory masking is not part of the order, he remarks, “The biggest mitigation measure would be staying away, followed by practicing sufficient distancing…and that is going to be with us until there is a vaccine in place.”

New Hogan, Camanche Update

While the developed recreational facilities at New Hogan Reservoir, operated by the Sacramento District US Army Corps of Engineers, remain closed, officials say they are working on contingency plans. The closures include the boat launches, day-use areas, campgrounds, and visitor centers.

Lake Camanche Recreation officials announced Tuesday with support from the Calaveras County Health Department and East Bay Municipal Utility District that, beginning Friday, the facility will begin allowing day use only access at Camanche South Shore for county residents only. They add that IDs will be checked at the gate and the North Shore will remain closed until further notice. Non-county residents who can show proof of a vacation home in the county such as a utility bill and proof of matching ID may have access to the park.

Day use hours are daily from 5 a.m. until one hour past sunset. Allowable activities are fishing and boating with your own equipment and equestrian staging and trail riding. The retail store will be open on a limited schedule from Wednesday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. As per the state and local Public Health orders there is no camping, lodging, RV parking or food service.

Among the mitigation measures in place at Lake Camanche, recreation staff will be limiting the number of guests in enclosed areas and asking that visitors maintain six feet of distancing between non-family members at all times while in park. Thorough cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be in place and staff will use masks and gloves when interacting with guests. Guests are strongly encouraged to wear masks and gloves and plastic guards will be placed at registers to protect guests and staff.

Additionally, houseboat owners must show proof of county residency and may access their vessel by way of South Shore entry only. North Shore covered slip owners must show proof of county residency and may access their covered slip by way of South Shore. Houseboat and covered slip owners may not stay overnight on their vessel and must exit the park with the closing of day use.

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