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Top 5 Lakes to Go Boating near Sacramento, CA

Jon Fesmire | July 20, 2023 @ 12:00 AM

The capital of California, Sacramento, is a warm inland city of 510,000. In fall and winter, the weather gets on the cooler side, but nights are warm and days are hot during the summer. So, it’s nice to know that there are many lakes in the area that you and your family can visit to cool off and go boating.

Looking at boating specifically, we picked five excellent lakes you can enjoy.


Clear Lake

Clear Lake, in the city of the same name, is the largest freshwater lake in California that doesn’t cross over into other states. It has 68 square miles of surface area and is a fantastic place to go boating. You’ll find plenty of parking with spots for 200 cars, including cars towing boats. 

What kind of boat can you take out on Clear Lake? Try fishing boats, patio boats, and pleasure cruisers. Oh yes, you can go canoeing, kayaking, sailing, and paddleboarding. Take a motorboat on the water with your friends and go water skiing, or head out on your jet ski.

Since this is part of Clear Lake State Park, you can also enjoy camping and stay for several days. Take a break from boating to go on a hike among the buckeye trees.

Clear Lake requires an inspection sticker to protect the lake system from invasive species they’ve had problems with within the past. These include quagga and zebra mussels, and you can learn more about this from the Lake County Invasive Mussel Prevention Program site, before your trip.


Folsom Lake State Recreation Area

The COVID pandemic forced closures at Folsom Lake State Recreation Area for much of 2020, but in the middle of 2021, the site is almost completely open, including the major campgrounds, Beals Point, Peninsula, and Negro Bar Group.

Folsom Lake is a large reservoir with 18 square miles of surface area residing within three counties, Sacramento, Placer, and El Dorado. You’ll find it at the base of the Sierra foothills.

There’s so much to do here, including hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding, waterskiing, and of course boating. Plus, you can fish for bass, catfish, and trout. If you visit without a boat, you can rent one from Folsom Lake Marina.


Lake Clementine

Lake Clementine is a clear, beautiful body of water two miles from Auburn, California. It’s separated into two areas called Upper Lake and Lower Lake, with activities delineated between the two. In the Upper Lake section, guests enjoy kayaking, swimming, and paddleboarding. In the Lower Lake areas, people go hiking and boating.

The site has a boat-in campground with 15 boat campsites and a limit of eight people per site. If you don’t get one of the limited campsites, there are hotels and inns nearby, like the Eden Vale Inn. You can sleep in comfort and enjoy the lake for several days.

To rent a boat at the Lower Lake Clementine Boat Launch site, get there early, as they go fast. That site also sells fuel and ice. The lake itself has calm waters and is great for fishing and enjoying the view of the park.


Lake Natoma

Lake Natoma exists thanks to the Nimbus Dam on the American River, and this reservoir feeds into Folsom Lake. People come here seven days a week, year-round, to go hiking, cycling, horseback riding, fishing, and boating. There’s no camping here, but the lake area is open from April 1 to October 15 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and from October 16 to March 30 from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

This small lake features two boat launch ramps. Motorized boats aren’t allowed, but other types are, and the speed limit is 5 miles per hour. Still, this is perfect if you want to go canoeing or kayaking or go out on a small fishing boat. You can try your hand at catching black bass, bluegill, brown trout, and rainbow trout.


Shasta Lake

We go from small and peaceful Lake Natoma to Shasta Lake, commonly called Lake Shasta, the biggest reservoir in California. This reservoir helps prevent floods in the Sacramento Valley, but of course, it’s also a great place for boating. Shasta Lake has nearly 47 miles of surface area to cruise around on your boat.

Here, people love water skiing, camping, boating, and fishing. Anglers catch rainbow trout and German brown trout, king salmon, several types of bass, catfish, crappie, and kokanee.

Oh yes, you can rent a houseboat to take out on the lake, take a tour of the Shasta dam, and enjoy the gorgeous scenery all around you.

When you’re not boating, you can store your boat at a Storelocal facility. Or, perhaps you need a good spot to store your jet ski or RV in between trips. At many locations, we provide the vehicle storage you need to keep your road or water vehicle safe.

Jon Fesmire
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