Upper Mokelumne River Watershed

North Fork Mokelumne River watershed

  • Blue Lakes Complex
      Upper Blue Lake
      Lower Blue Lake
      Meadow Lake
      Twin Lake
  • Cole Creek
  • Upper Bear River Reservoir
  • Panther Creek
  • Tiger Creek
  • Lake Tabeaud
  • North Fork Mokelumne, Salt Springs Dam to Tiger Creek Powerhouse
  • North Fork and Main Stem Mokelumne, Tiger Creek Powerhouse to Electra Powerhouse


North Fork Mokelumne River watershed

Blue Lakes Complex:   The Blue Lakes complex, consisting of Upper and Lower Blue Lakes, Meadow Lake, and Twin Lake, is situated in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Mokelumne River.  PG&E owns a total of 1,700 acres in the Blue Lakes complex, including 6 miles of the four lakes’ 8.5 miles of shoreline, the entire shorelines of Meadow and Twin Lakes, and 80 acres in the watershed of Deer Creek to the east.  Only narrow strips around the lakes are included in the FERC license.  The watershed lands are almost entirely surrounded by national forest land.  The western boundary of Upper Blue Lake lands and three sides of the Meadow Lake lands are contiguous with the Mokelumne Wilderness.  The Blue Lakes lands are included in The Nature Conservancy’s priority list for their Sierra Nevada Ecoregional Plan and nearby National Forest in Snow Canyon is being set aside as natural research area. 

The scenic landscape surrounding the lakes is a pine forest with interspersed granite outcrops, flower-studded pocket meadows, and sandy beaches.  There is also glade habitat of sloping wet meadows which supports wildflowers, birds, and browse species.  The watershed lands provide an attractive background which enhances camping and recreation at the lakes.

Upper and Lower Blue Lakes, reached by a paved road, are a very popular recreation area.   Twin Lakes is accessed by a good dirt road, but Meadow Lake is accessed by a primitive road.  There are six very popular campgrounds with 113 campsites along the shores of Upper and Lower Blue Lakes.  PG&E recorded 16,700 visits to the campgrounds in 1996.  Thousands of trout fishermen, hunters, boaters, and hikers also visit the lakes.  Trails lead west, south, and north from the watershed lands around the lakes into the Mokelumne Wilderness.  PG&E's severe (and unsightly) reservoir draw downs are now limited to late fall by the settlement agreement and new FERC license. 

Cole Creek:  The 960 acres of watershed lands, originally acquired as a potential reservoir site, are in a three-mile strip in the scenic granite-walled U-shaped valley of Cole Creek.   They are surrounded by national forest land; the eastern 400 acres are within the Mokelumne Wilderness and should be managed to preserve their wilderness character and rare wildlife.  The lands are not within a FERC license boundary.  The canyon contains attractive mixed conifer forest and some nice campsites affording solitude.  Access by several miles of very rough dirt road limits recreational use. 

Upper Bear River Reservoir:   Situated immediately upstream from Lower Bear River Reservoir, this lake is not accessible by road or trail.  However, it can be enjoyed by boaters who are willing to portage their craft around the dam.  The more difficult access limits use and makes the lake very attractive to boaters who desire a wilderness-type experience.  The reservoir supports an abundance of medium-size rainbow trout and some brown trout. A considerable amount of natural reproduction occurs in the Bear River above the lake.  PG&E owns the entire 2.5 mile shoreline and 450 acres of land, mostly outside the FERC boundary. 

Panther Creek: PG&E's new license for its Mokelumne River Project called for removal or dismantling of three diversion dams in the watershed  of this tributary of the North Fork of the Mokelumne.  One dam, on West Panther Creek, was removed in 2003.  The diversion structure of a dam on Beaver Creek was dismantled that year and the third dam, on East Panther Creek, was breached and future removal is planned.  These actions have opened fish habitat in the 3,000’-4,000´ elevation range, known for rich habitats.  PG&E owns about 2.5 miles of frontage on Panther Creek below the diversion dams. The downstream end of the  PG&E lands is contiguous with Forest Service lands along the North Fork Mokelumne.  Although Panther Creek flows through a rugged canyon, there is some access for anglers in the vicinity of a road crossing.

Tiger Creek:  PG&E owns 240 acres around Tiger Creek Regulator Reservoir and about 800 acres along 2.75 miles of Tiger Creek to its confluence with the North Fork Mokelumne.  Roughly the lower half of these lands are contiguous with Forest Service lands along the North Fork Mokelumne.  The upper half is contiguous with other private ownerships.  Only lands around the Regulator Reservoir and forebay and lands occupied by facilities are under FERC license.  PG&E also owns small parcels around the Tiger Creek Powerhouse and Afterbay.  There is some fishing at the Regulator Reservoir..  Although the canyon of Tiger Creek is rugged, there is some access for anglers in the vicinity of a road crossing.

Lake Tabeaud: This small reservoir in Amador County northeast of Jackson is a popular recreation area for residents of Jackson and vicinity.  Canoeing is popular because boats with internal combustion engines are not allowed on the lake. PG&E owns the entire shoreline.  The property includes popular walking and equestrian trails including an old road along “the Upper Standard,” an  abandoned canal. 

North Fork Mokelumne, Salt Springs Dam to Tiger Creek Powerhouse:  This beautiful 17.5-mile stretch of the North Fork Mokelumne and its excellent and very popular trout fishery are enhanced by regulated flows of cold water from upstream storage.  A road parallels the upper six miles of this stretch, and there are three campgrounds.  Most of the streamside lands are national forest land; PG&E owns three parcels with a total area of 320 acres and about two miles of stream frontage.  These parcels are isolated and hard to reach but are not within FERC license boundaries. 

North Fork and Main Stem Mokelumne, Tiger Creek Powerhouse to Electra Powerhouse:  West of the national forest boundary, the North Fork Mokelumne flows mostly through public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and joins the Middle Fork Mokelumne to form the river's main stem.  PG&E owns six parcels with six miles of river frontage along the North Fork between Tiger Creek and Electra Power House which are important for public access.  Donation of the watershed lands in this reach to BLM would close several gaps and make consistent management possible.  The PG&E lands on the Mokelumne are used extensively by residents of the Amador County communities of Jackson, Sutter Creek, Pioneer, Pine Grove, and Volcano.