The California Rivers and Lakes to Add to Your Spring Itinerary

The California Rivers and Lakes to Add to Your Spring Itinerary

By Mackenzie Hutson March 09, 2020

As communities across the world and in California mitigate health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are shifting our content focus and will not encourage any travel or social activities during this time. We will, however, continue to shine a light on and celebrate the many beautiful aspects of our State with the intention of being a source of inspiration and joy during this difficult period. We will also be providing tips and resources specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic safety measures in the coming weeks. Thank you for reading, and stay safe!

While the Golden State’s 800-plus miles of coastline tend to steal the spotlight, California’s rivers and lakes make idyllic springtime vacation destinations. Surrounded by rugged mountain peaks and lush forests, the state’s various waterways always delight visitors with unexpected panoramas. So, take advantage of the warm temperatures and make the most of rain-free days before the scorching summer weather takes hold. 

The Best Rivers to Explore This Season

Trinity River

The Trinity River is a major tributary of the Klamath River and begins in the Trinity Alps before meeting up with the Klamath at Weitchpec. The river’s 203 miles are split between 120 miles of recreational space, 39 miles of scenic expanse, and 44 miles of wilderness. The river is known for its salmon and steelhead fishery resources, but it is a hot spot for adventurers, too. Prepare to encounter rapids in the springtime, or wait until summer to appreciate the beauty as you leisurely float down the river.

South Yuba River

The South Yuba River is iconic for its smooth granite mounds, emerald pools, and cascading white water rapids. The river is also known for its location during the Gold Rush, so 20 miles of the roughly 65-mile-long river is designated as a California state park and is a popular swimming destination.

North Fork American River

Spanning 88 miles, the North Fork is the longest segment of the American River, fed by the snowmelt of the Sierra Nevada. Wildflowers, forests, and stunning cliffs make this waterway unique, and the rushing rapids make it a worthwhile destination for thrill-seekers.

Kings River

Whether you’re looking for the perfect picnic spots, campgrounds, whitewater rafting, or fly-fishing, Kings River is the place you’ve been dreaming of. Nestled in one of the deepest river gorges on the continent, this river flows through Kings Canyon National Park and the Sequoia and Sierra National Forests for 81 miles, offering unparalleled scenery.

Klamath River

As California’s second largest and second longest river, the 286-mile-long Klamath River is a spectacle to see. Klamath is known for its fishing opportunities (which include steelhead, king salmon, and silver salmon), jet boat rides, and endless recreation—so there’s always something new to explore.

The Best Lakes in California for Vacation

Lake Tahoe

Tucked along the California-Nevada border, surrounded by the picturesque South Lake Tahoe and dozens of world-class ski resorts, Lake Tahoe is one of the best lakes in California. Gaze at the snow-capped mountains, stand-up paddleboard around the lake, or hike in the nearby wilderness to make the most of your spring vacation. Though it’s freezing, Lake Tahoe is one of the best swimming lakes in California, so run out to the clear waters and dive right in.

Lake Berryessa

Situated east of the charming town of Calistoga, Lake Berryessa is the largest lake in Napa County, but it gains its fame from its mysterious, spiraling hole. Rent a houseboat, admire the wildlife, and sit beneath the oak trees to see why this serene locale is a California favorite.

Shasta Lake

Lake Shasta is always a good getaway. Spend your days cruising around on a boat,  fishing, camping, and appreciating California’s largest reservoir. Then, take a tour of Shasta Dam—the second largest cement dam in the U.S.—before heading up to the peak of Mount Shasta to take in the views.

Lake Arrowhead

Located high in the San Bernardino Mountains, just outside of Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead has something for everyone. There are numerous  things to do—from boating and sailing, to canoeing and kayaking, to fishing and horseback riding—so it’s nearly impossible to be bored in this secluded oasis. Whether you spend your time backpacking, bicycling, or photographing the colorful wilderness, this is one springtime vacation you’ll never forget.

Mammoth Lakes

With a location near Yosemite National Park, Mammoth Lakes makes the perfect weekend getaway year-round. From family-fun indoor activities, to kayaking excursions on the lake, to snowboarding in the mountains, there are activities here for every mood—especially during spring, when you can ski and fish in the course of an afternoon. Mammoth Lakes is home to some of the most beautiful lakes in California, so don’t miss your chance to splash around.

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