As the water levels in New Melones Lake have been dropping to historic lows, we’ve noticed some pretty fascinating things popping up in addition to the great recreational and interpretive programs that are regularly offered there. Here is a selection of things to check out during this time of unique viewing and exploring opportunities.
The Bird Factor
The first thing you may notice with the receding waters is all the trees that have reemerged from the surface, sticking out like wooden skeletons. This is good news for birders, as there are now lots more places for birds to roost, especially those that like to fish – a recent boat ride revealed eagles, osprey, herons and cormorants. With a kayak or quiet pontoon boat, some of these birds will actually let you get fairly close – perfect if you have a strong telephoto lens or a decent set of binoculars.
The Fish Factor
Word on the water is the bass and catfish are biting! The water is also starting to clear up due to stable and slightly rising water, which should make for a promising month for you anglers out there. Check out Glory Hole Sports fish report and be sure to stop in to their store for all your gear and supplies before hitting the water.
Long before there was New Melones Reservoir, there was the mining town of Melones, also known as Robinson’s Ferry, for it was the site of the main Stanislaus River crossing for these parts in the late 1800s. The town and all its stories were inundated in 1978 when the New Melones dam was built, but lately the receding waters have exposed the site. We’ll warn you that while you can walk into the area and be fascinated, federal law states that “visitors must not destroy, injure, deface, remove, search for, disturb or alter natural resources or cultural resources. Visitors are also prohibited from using metal detectors.” So feel free to walk around, imagine yourself in the hardscrabble life of a miner on the Stanislaus River, but best keep your hands to yourself. The site is easily accessed by boat or via a long hike near Stevenot Bridge.
Fun Interpretive Programs for the Family
Speaking of mining history, did you know there was a railroad that connected Angels Camp and Jamestown? The terminus can still be seen at the present day site of Railtown 1897 in Jamestown, and at New Melones Lake you can hike along the route of the Sierra Railway! This is just one of the weekend outings offered completely free by the Bureau of Reclamation – the lake’s managing agency. November’s programs include:
Eagles and Osprey Kayaking Tour – Sat Nov 1, 10am
Geocaching Tuttletown’s Trails – Sun Nov 9, 10am
Melones Branch of the Sierra Railway – Sat Nov 15, 10am
Photography Workshop – Sun Nov 23, 10am
Mark Twain’s Trials, Tales and Trails (Hike with historical info) – Sat Nov 29, 10am
Programs start at various locations around the lake, please contact the visitor center at 209-536-9094 ext. 200 or their website for specifics. All programs are free.
The Bureau also maintains many miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking, and several campgrounds at both the Glory Hole and Tuttletown Recreation Areas. Free downloadable maps of trails and campgrounds are also on their website.
New Melones Lake Marina
While the marina store, under new local ownership, is currently closed for the season, boats are available to rent by appointment. Big plans are underway for upgrades and enhancements at the marina, including more food options and rentals of a variety of watercraft. Call 209-785-3300 to inquire about rentals or visit www.newmeloneslakemarina.com