Located in the beautiful coastal foothills of Northern California is Lake Sonoma. Lake Sonoma is surrounded by Sonoma County vineyards and land rich in history. This provides the perfect setting for a wealth of recreation activities.
Warm Springs Dam, which forms Lake Sonoma, was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Completed in 1983, the compacted, earth fill dam serves as a deterrent to disastrous floods, stores water for irrigation and municipalities, and creates a lake for recreation. Lake Sonoma extends 9 miles on Dry Creek and 4 miles on Warm Springs Creek.
The Visitor Center and Fish Hatchery are located at the park entrance and are open to
visitors year round. Here, exhibits tell the story of Warm Springs Dam, explain the
natural and early history of Dry Creek Valley, and offer a variety of audio-visual and
ranger-led programs. Displays in the visitor center focus on the culture of the Pomo tribe
of native Americans - the original inhabitants of the Dry Creek Valley - and their way of
life, with partular emphasis on their excellent basket making skills. Call (707) 431-4533
for additional information.
The Congressman Don Clausen Fish Hatchery is located behind the Visitor Center. Visitors can observe the operation of the hatchery and see displays which describe the life cycle of the coho salmon, steelhead and chinook. The hatchery was built to replace and enhance salmon and steelhead spawning grounds. It is a Corps of Engineers hatchery operated by the California Department of Fish and Game. Tours for large groups may be arranged by calling (707) 431-4533.
Boating Explore the many coves on the 2,700 surface acres of water by canoe, sailboat
or motorboat. Water skiing is allowed only in the areas designated on a map.
Boat launching ($3 launching fee) is provided at the public boat ramp on the west end of Warm Springs Bridge, and at Yorty Creek Recreation Area off Hot Springs Road (car top only). The marina is located off Stewarts Point Road and offers a boat ramp, boat slips, boat rentals and other services at a fee.
Information on fees and other questions regarding the marina may be obtained by phoning the Lake Sonoma Resort at (707) 433-2200. The Warm Springs arm is subject to closure due to fluctuating water levels.
Boating laws are enforced by the Corps rangers and the Sonoma County Sheriff.
Whether you prefer the seclusion offered by primitive boat-in camp sites, or the
convenience of a campsite in a developed campground, Lake Sonoma is for you.
Boat-in campsite are situated near the lake. Nine of these primitive sites are also accessible by the hiking and equestrian trails. Back country camp permits are required and are obtained at the Visitor Center.
Lake Sonoma's Liberty Glen Campground contains 113 individual campsites and two group camp areas for recreational vehicles and tent campers. The campsites are available on a first come, first served basis. Reservations are required for use of the group camp area and handicapped access sites.
To further your enjoyment, there are eight primitive campgrounds along the trail system. The campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and campers must obtain a back country camping permit at the Visitor Center. There is no potable water at these sites.
No camping is allowed outside these camp grounds. All campgrounds have restrooms, tables, grills and tent pads. You should carry your own water since the water you find along the trails is not drinkable. Washing your dishes. - or yourself - in springs, streams or the lake is not permitted.
Picnic sites are located throughout the park for daytime enjoyment. Fires are permitted
only in those barbecues provided. Groups may reserve two Group Picnic Areas located near
the Park Headquarters. Yorty Creek Recreation Area picnic sites are located near the
park's swim beach.
Trees have been left in the upper stretches of Warm Springs Creek and Dry Creek in
order to provide an underwater habitat for various species of fish. As a result, the lake
provides some of the best bass fishing in the state. Game fish also include Sacramento
perch, channel catfish and redear sunfish. For information about special provisions and
limits, please refer to the latest copy of the California Fishing Regulations.
More than 40 miles of trails welcome hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers to
Lake Sonoma, a 17,615 acre park 13 miles northwest of Healdsburg.
The trails provide access to hard-to-reach areas of the park. Passing through shady woodlands of oak, alder, bay and madrone, over sweeping grasslands and into redwood groves, the trails open onto impressive panoramas of the lake and surrounding hills. You will see a variety of wildlife including deer, jackrabbits and many birds. You may even be rewarded with glimpses of the rare peregrine falcons that nest here. For hints on what, where and how to look for wildlife and plant life, stop by the Visitor Center near the park entrance and talk to a ranger.
There are two types of trails at Lake Sonoma. Nature trails, which are relatively short
hiking paths, and longer trails which are suitable for hikers and horseback riders. There
is also a four-mile trail, "Half-a-Canoe Loop" which is open to all-terrain
bicycles. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on any of the trails.
The trail system is closed to bicycle and horse traffic each winter until crews have worked on erosion and other weather related problems. Please check at the Visitor Center about seasonal closures.
Safety Hints The Lake Sonoma area has a large number of feral pigs. The ancestors of
these animals were domestic pigs which escaped from the first Euro-American settlers.
These animals are wild and can be dangerous if cornered.
Rattlesnakes are also a possible danger during the summer, so avoid wandering off the trails into high grass or rocky areas.
Ticks are also found at Lake Sonoma. The bite of the western black-legged tick may transmit Lyme disease. Trail users should check for ticks immediately after using the trails. You may obtain facts about the disease and its prevention at the Visitor Center.
Nature From early spring to early summer, the park puts on a brilliant display of color
as wildflowers burst into bloom. Here are a few that will be on show: Fawn Lily, Spice
bush, Iris, Wild Onion, Indian Pink, Lupine and California Poppy.
Another colorful park resident is the madrone. As summer growth begins, the bark of this tree peels off in thin layers, leaving a pale green, satiny surface that ages to terra cotta or light red. The tree produces dense blossom clusters which are followed in autumn by clumps of reddish, berry-like fruits.
Poison Oak is a common sight around the park. You can recognize poison oak by its green, three-part leaves that turn brilliant red in the fall. The entire plane is toxic year-round. If you or your clothing touch the plant, you can get a painful, itchy rash. Breathing the smoke of burned poison-oak can cause severe eye and lung irritation.
A Wildlife Management area of approximately 8,000 acres, jointly managed by the California Department of Fish and Game and the Corps, has been set aside as a reserve for animal species, including the endangered peregrine falcon.
The peregrine falcon, one of our nation's endangered species, is found at Lake Sonoma. Although sightings are infrequent, if you see a small, hawk-like bird with a steel-gray back, white front and black cap, you will have caught a glimpse of the falcon. Peregrines have faced extinction because the pesticide DDT builds up in their bodies. The DDT causes the birds to lay eggs with thin shells, which break before hatching, With nest manipulation, the peregrine falcons at Lake Sonoma have successfully fledged young birds back into the wild.
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