Yuba and Bear River Watersheds

Yuba River watershed

  • Kidd Lake
  • Cascade (Peak) Lakes
  • White Rock Lake
  • Sterling Lake
  • Fordyce Lake
  • Meadow Lake
  • Lake Spaulding

Grouse Lakes area – northern watershed lands

  • Lindsay Lakes (Lower, Middle, and Upper)
  • Culbertson Lake
  • Rock Lakes (Lower and Upper)
  • Carr Lake

Grouse Lakes area – southern watershed lands

  • Blue Lake
  • Fuller Lake
  • Rucker Lake
  • Deer Creek Forebay (ND)


Bear River watershed

  • Sierra Discovery Trail and Glacial Ponds
  • Bear Valley
  • Bear River Canyon


North Fork American River watershed

  • Lake Valley Reservoir
  • Kelly Lake
  • Halsey Forebay
  • Rock Creek Lake


Overview of Watershed Lands in the YubaRiver Watershed

The watershed lands in the Yuba River watershed surround hydroelectric reservoirs (almost all called lakes) at elevations from 7800 feet at White Rock Lake near the Sierra Crest to 5000 feet at Lake Spaulding.  The lands within FERC license boundaries are narrow strips around the lakes.  PG&E owns large proportions of the shorelines of most of the lakes.

The lakes have attractive shorelines, some granitic, some forested.  Nine of the lakes are located adjacent to the west side of the exceptionally scenic and popular Grouse Lakes area, from which motor vehicles have been excluded for thirty years.  Major trailheads to the Grouse Lakes area are located on these watershed lands. 

Most of the lakes are well-known to and enjoyed by recreationists, even the lakes reached by several miles of rough dirt road or by roundabout routes from the north and east.  Many of the lakes have good fishing.  The lakes are within several hours’ drive of large populations in the Bay Area, Central Valley, and Sierra Foothills.

All these watershed lands are within the boundaries of Tahoe National Forest.  Though they are within the band of checkerboard public and private ownership resulting from railroad land grants, all of the blocks of watershed land are bounded mostly by national forest lands. 

YubaRiver watershed

Kidd Lake and Cascade (Peak) Lakes (Upper and Lower):   These three small attractive lakes are situated south of I-80 about four miles west of the Royal Gorge Ski Resort’s principal trailhead at the end of a rough dirt road.  PG&E owns 280 acres in the vicinity of the lakes. PG&E ownership at Kidd Lake includes about 75% of the shoreline, the rest being privately owned. PG&E owns about 40 percent of the shores of the Cascade Lakes, almost all the rest being national forest land.  Only narrow strips around the lakes are under FERC license.

Recreation at Kidd Lake includes non-motorized boating and fishing. PG&E operates a group campground on the lake, and the Department of Fish and Game stocks the lake with trout. 

Motorized boating is not allowed on the Cascade Lakes, and their waters are enjoyed by canoers and anglers for trout.  Their wooded and gently sloping shores are attractive, and there are walk-in campsites on the southwest shore of the upper lake.  The Palisade Creek Trail descends to the North Fork American Wild River from a trailhead on PG&E land.

WhiteRockLake: Located on the west edge of the Castle Peak Roadless Area at an elevation of 7800¢, White Rock Lake offers views of spectacular Sierra Crest scenery.  Most of the lake’s shoreline, which includes substantial alpine meadow habitat, is attractively forested. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses White Rock Creek not far below the lake, and trails in the lake basin north and south of the lake lead to the Sierra Crest and the summit of Mount Lola.   The lake, which is slightly enlarged by a dam for increased upstream storage, is a popular fishing destination even though it is reached by a rough dirt road.  There are a total of 30 informal campsites on the west and northeast shorelines.  PG&E owns 160 acres west and north of the lake; the FERC license lands include only the shoreline.  Tahoe National Forest lands adjoin the PG&E land on the south and east. 

SterlingLake:    Sterling Lake, a 112-acre reservoir at an altitude of 6980´, is six miles northeast of Cisco Grove on Interstate 80, the last two miles on a rough dirt road. Lake Sterling has a granite shore with a conifer forest backdrop, and is attractive when full.  However, late summer drawdowns are often severe.  The lake has a primitive campground and a boat launch and is stocked with rainbow trout. Recreation use is light.  PG&E owns 80% of the 1.6 miles of public access to the lake; the other 20% of public access is on Forest Service land.  Only the shoreline is under FERC license.  Tahoe National Forest lands adjoin the PG&E land on the north and west. 

FordyceLake:  Fordyce Lake, with a surface area of 774 acres, is one of the largest PG&E reservoirs in the Yuba River watershed.  Fordyce Lake is not far north of Sterling Lake, but the road is so rough and rocky that 4WD vehicles are recommended.  A very large volume of water is released from the lake during the summer; the resulting mid- to late-summer drawdown significantly reduces the lake’s aesthetic quality and recreation values.  Recreation use is relatively light:  there are about 30 informal campsites and the lake is stocked with trout, but only small boats can be transported to the lake.  PG&E owns 1,560 acres of land around the lake and more than 80% of its 11 miles of shoreline.  The watershed lands around the lake are contiguous with national forest land along 2/3 of their boundary.  Only a narrow strip of steep and rocky land on the shore is under FERC license.

MeadowLake:  Meadow Lake is only a few miles north of Fordyce Lake, but is much more easily reached by a roundabout route from the east, including some miles of rough dirt road.  The wooded and gently sloping shores of the lake are an attractive setting for camping and recreation.  There are about 50 informal campsites at the lake.  The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, which grow rapidly on freshwater shrimp. Anglers enjoy 2-3 pound trout with rich salmon-colored meat.  PG&E owns about 200 acres of wooded and gently sloping land around the lake, but only about ¼ of the shoreline.  Most of the remaining shoreline is national forest land.  Only the shoreline is under FERC license.  The watershed lands around the lake are contiguous with national forest land along about ¼ of their boundary. 

LakeSpaulding:  Lake Spaulding, with a surface area of 700 acres, is one of the largest and by far the most heavily developed and most heavily used PG&E lake in the Yuba River watershed.  The developed facilities – parking, boat launch, and 25-unit campground - are located just off Highway 20 and a few miles from I-80.  The lake provides ample opportunities for fishing, boating, and hiking along the shore.  There are opportunities for boat-in camping at several locations around the lake.  Late fall and winter drawdowns are severe in many years.  PG&E owns 80% of the 6 miles of shoreline accessible to the public; only a narrow strip around the lake is under FERC license.

Grouse Ridge - Photo courtesy PG&E

Overview of Northern Watershed Lands in the GrouseLakes area

These watershed lands are contiguous to Tahoe National Forest lands in the exceptionally scenic Grouse Lakes area, noted for its more than 125 lakes and ponds.  Only the shores of the six PG&E lakes are within FERC license boundaries.  The Grouse Lakes area is a very popular recreation area, not far off I-80 and easily accessible from population centers. 

Forest Service management of the Grouse Lakes area emphasizes maintenance of existing relatively natural conditions and providing opportunities for non-motorized recreation.  Off-highway vehicles have been banned from the Grouse Lakes Motor Vehicle Control Area (MVCA), which includes PG&E watershed lands around the Lindsey Lakes, since 1972. 

Recreation in the Grouse Lakes area is facilitated by an extensive network of trails. Many attractive lakes with good fishing are reached by short easy hikes suitable for families and all age groups.  There are major trailheads at Carr Lake and Lindsey Lake next to PG&E lands.

Almost all the checkerboard private lands in the Grouse Lakes area, except for the PG&E watershed lands, have recently been acquired by the Forest Service. Acquisition of the private lands provides assurance that the great public benefits of the Grouse Lakes area will not be degraded by vacation home development.  

Future management of these watershed lands should be consistent with the protective management of Forest Service lands in the adjacent Motor Vehicle Control Area, with necessary exceptions for the maintenance of PG&E reservoirs. 

Lindsey Lakes (Lower, Middle, and Upper) and Culbertson Lake:  Lower Lindsey Lake, which is reached by an unpaved road, is the most accessible and heavily used of these four lakes located in the Grouse Lakes Vehicle Control Area.  Lower Lindsey Lake has a surface area of 29 acres and nearly a mile of shoreline, most of which is owned by PG&E.  Ten informal campsites are located along the north shore.  Middle and Upper Lindsey Lakes, with 34 and 3 acres of surface area respectively, are reached by walking a short distance from Lower Lindsey Lake.  The shoreline of Middle Lindsey Lake is mainly flat and provides numerous campsites.  Upper Lindsey Lake, which has a rocky and brushy shoreline, is largely unsuitable for camping.  Culbertson Lake, a short distance from Upper Lindsey Lake, is situated at the base of a towering cliff and is the largest and deepest of these lakes.  Its surface area is 70 acres; about half of its 1.5 miles of shoreline is owned by PG&E.  Much of the eastern shore is national forest land.

These four lakes are natural lakes with small dams at the outlets; the dams are low enough that unsightly drawdowns are limited.  The Lindsey Lakes and Culbertson Lake are some of the most scenic lakes in the PG&E system, and their relatively pristine settings are very popular with hikers, backpackers, and anglers. 

RockLakes (Lower and Upper):  These attractive subalpine lakes, situated within the Grouse Lake Vehicle Control Area, can be reached by a 2.5 mile trail from Lower Lindsey Lake.  The Upper Lake has a surface area of 21 acres and 0.8 miles of shoreline entirely owned by PG&E.  There are ten undesignated campsites on the east side of the lake.  Lower Rock Lake has a surface area of 9 acres and 0.5 miles of shoreline entirely owned by PG&E with seven undesignated campsites.  Both lakes are visited by hikers and backpackers who enjoy swimming in them. 

CarrLake (LowerFeeleyLake):  Carr Lake is situated on the western boundary of the Grouse Lakes Motor Vehicle Control Area.  It is the primary entry point for the numerous visitors hiking and backpacking to the many adjacent lakes.  The trailhead parking lot is accessible by passenger car; it is full on most summer weekends.  Carr Lake itself is relatively small, with a surface area of 7 acres and about 0.5 miles of shoreline.  PG&E owns 40 acres of relatively flat land, including the dam and part of the western shoreline, most of which is suitable for camping. 

GrouseLake area, southern watershed lands

Fuller, Rucker, and Blue Lakes are located just northwest of Lake Spaulding near the Bowman Road, the principal access to the west side of the Grouse Lakes area.  Fuller and Rucker Lakes are very popular for recreation because they are so easily accessible.  Only narrow strips along the shores of the lakes are under FERC license.  PG&E also owns about 1500 acres of watershed land northwest of these three lakes.

All of these watershed lands are adjacent to national forest lands.

FullerLake: Fuller Lake is the lake nearest to I-80 on the Bowman Road and is located immediately east of the road.  The lake is so heavily used for picnicking and fishing that the shoreline is often crowded with anglers on weekends and parking is difficult on weekends..  PG&E owns 190 acres at the lake and about half of its shoreline; part of the west shore is national forest land. 

RuckerLake:  Rucker Lake is a shallow lake with forested shore at the south edge of the Grouse Lakes area.  It is easily accessible, being less than a mile from the Bowman Road. PG&E owns the eastern and part of the southern shore, about 30% of the shoreline; most of the northern shoreline is national forest land.  There are 12 undesignated campsites and a launching ramp.  Only non-motorized boats are permitted.

BlueLake:  Blue Lake, near Rucker Lake, is accessed from the Bowman Road by about 2 miles of 4WD road.  It is a deep lake with attractive forested shores.  Trout fishing is generally excellent.  There are about 20 informal campsites on the lake, those on the north shore being unusually attractive.  Blue Lake lies within a block of watershed land.


Bear River watershed

Sierra Discovery Trail and the Glacial Ponds:  The Sierra Discovery Trail is an outstanding forest/watershed education trail located on the Bowman Road between Highway 20 and the South Yuba River in upper Bear Valley.  The trail educates visitors about hydroelectric power and forestry practices, and also features geological, geological, ecological, cultural, and historical exhibits.   The Land Conservation Plan should ensure the continued operation of this valuable educational facility and availability of funds for its maintenance.

The Glacial Ponds are located on about 60 acres of PG&E lands adjacent to the Sierra Discovery Trail.  Old-growth ponderosa pines surround four scenic and biologically important ponds.  The ponds were carved by glaciers in roof-pendant sea-bed metamorphic rocks and overlook the South Yuba River Canyon.  The Land Conservation Plan should recommend future management that preserves this important ecological area.

Bear River (BearValley segment):  This 1,000-acre property, an inholding in Tahoe National Forest north of Emigrant Gap, includes most of Bear Valley and all the adjoining meadows and three miles of frontage on the Bear River.  The Bear River supports a popular fishery for rainbow and brown trout, and flyfishing clubs are involved in an ongoing stream habitat improvement project. The valley supports excellent wet meadow and riparian wildlife habitat. PG&E maintains a picnic ground, visitor center, and nature trail in the upper portion of the valley. Only 3 miles from I-80, this area is very accessible and extremely vulnerable to development.  Only a small portion of the property is included in the FERC license. 

Bear River (Canyon segment):  Downstream from Bear Valley, the Bear River flows through a deep, heavily forested canyon which parallels Interstate 80 between Emigrant Gap and Rollins Reservoir.  There is little public use of this canyon because public access is minimal – there are no roads suitable for passenger vehicles and no maintained trails – and because most of the streamflow is diverted through conduits for power production.  PG&E ownership, while not continuous, includes a substantial proportion of the length of the canyon.  Only the lands occupied by canals, roads, and reservoirs are within FERC license boundaries.

AmericanRiver watershed

The water impounded by Lake Valley Reservoir and Kelly Lake in the American River Watershed is diverted to the Bear River Watershed.  After passing through several powerhouses and reservoirs, some of the water is diverted back into the American River watershed, passing through Halsey Forebay and Rock Creek Reservoir before winding up in Folsom Lake.

LakeValley Reservoir and KellyLake: The forested shore of 300-acre Lake Valley Reservoir is a ten-minute drive from I-80, which makes it extremely popular with recreationists.  PG&E recorded 11,500 visitors to their campground and picnic facilities in 1996.  PG&E owns about 1,800 acres of land in the vicinity of the reservoir and nearby Kelly Lake; these parcels include all of Lake Valley Reservoir’s four-mile shoreline.   Only narrow bands along the shores of the two lakes are included in the FERC license. About half the boundary of the watershed lands is with national forest land.
Kelly Lake is a small, attractive reservoir situated immediately north of Lake Valley Reservoir.  PG&E owns about one-third of the shoreline and 160 acres to the southwest of the lake.  Ownership of most of the remaining shore is divided between the Forest Service and a membership-only campground.  PG&E maintains a picnic area which had 1,047 visitors in 1996.

RockCreekLake and Halsey Forebay:   These small impoundments in the foothills of Placer County close to Auburn and the surrounding watershed lands would make good regional parks. 

PG&E owns nearly 200 acres of oak woodland around 55-acre Rock Creek Lake and over a mile of shoreline.  Day use, primarily by fishermen, is limited to access by foot.

Halsey Forebay, with a surface area of 17 acres, has 0.3 miles of shoreline and is contiguous to 700 acres of PG&E land, which is mostly not under FERC license.    The PG&E land is an attractive oak woodland open space in this rapidly urbanizing area.  There is a 9-unit picnic ground.  The lake, which is heavily stocked with hatchery trout, received an impressive 11,000 visits in 1996.