Turlock Lake State Recreation Area

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About Turlock Lake State Recreation Area

Nestled in the rolling foothills of eastern Stanislaus County is this beautiful little gem, Turlock Lake. The park is bordered by the lake to the south and the Tuolumne River to the north. It is a host to various recreational activities such as swimming, boating and picnicking and is open year-round. It also offers visitors an opportunity to see the wonderful variety of native plant life that once flourished alongside the rivers of the San Joaquin Valley.

Campgrounds in Turlock Lake

Turlock Lake Campground

1. Turlock Lake Campground

Nestled on the banks of the Tuolumne River, this campground has 67 sites available (some are tent only, so be sure to double check when you are...

Colleen
Colleen: At this large, family friendly campground you'll pitch your tent right by the lake! We camped here this summer and the weather...
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Turlock Lake
hipcamper
June 5th, 2015
Turlock Lake
hipcamper
June 5th, 2015
Turlock Lake
hipcamper
June 5th, 2015
Turlock Lake
hipcamper
June 5th, 2015

3 Reviews

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Hipcamper A
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It can be fairly empty here, so there are opportunities for some very tranquil moments

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Hipcamper A
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Campsites are nice, well-shaded and fairly spread out, but some are tiny with little shade, so be selective.

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Hipcamper Colleen

At this large, family friendly campground you'll pitch your tent right by the lake! We camped here this summer and the weather was so nice we didn't even use the top flap of our tent. When we woke up we walked down to the lake and picked fresh blackberries. The bathrooms also have electrical outlets.

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History of Turlock Lake State Recreation Area

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 generation.

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.

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 Turlock Irrigation District built a 3,500-acre reservoir between La Grange and Waterford that became known as Turlock Lake.

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 mining.