Millerton Lake State Recreation Area

California, United States
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 (3 votes, 3 reviews)
Millerton Lake State Recreation Area is located in the heart of California, near the southernmost end of the Mother Lode gold region. Here, where the San Joaquin River flows out of the Sierra Nevada foothills and into the Central Valley, 319- foot Friant Dam was built across the river canyon in 1944 to form Millerton Lake.

With over 40 miles of shore land for water sports, this SRA offers visitors swimming, fishing, and boating. The hills surrounding the lake provide good hiking opportunities. Wildlife in the park includes ground squirrels, cottontails, mule deer, badgers and bald and golden eagles. During winter, the park has special boat tours to view the bald eagles.

The lake was created by construction of the Friant Dam across the San Joaquin River in 1944. The park’s camping facilities include boat camping. The park contains the original Millerton County Courthouse, built in 1867.
Getting There
The area is 20 miles northeast of Fresno via Highway 41 and Highway 145.

The Day Use Annual Pass is accepted at this park.
Seasons/Climate/Recommended Clothing
The weather can be changeable; layered clothing is recommended.
Operating Hours & Contact
Please call the park for operating hours.
Telephone: 559-822-2332
The north shore has 148 developed sites among oak and gray pine woodlands, 27 with electricity hookups. Each site has a table, stove and drinking water. Two group campgrounds can accommodate from 45 to 75 people.

Make Campground Reservations

Boat Camping: Temperance Flat has 25 first-come, first-served sites reachable by boat. North Finegold can hold 15 fully contained boats. Register in advance at the south shore park entrance during park hours. Read the boat camping information sheet for details on shore campsites, registration, marinas, safety requirements, and self-contained sanitation devices. It is recommended that boaters complete a boating safety course before operating their boats at Millerton.
Picnicking: Picnic areas with barbecue grills and restrooms surround the lake. Groups of up to 100 may choose to reserve one of two Grange Grove picnic areas. South Finegold—reachable by car and boat—has tables, wood stoves and a shade ramada that can accommodate 150.

Boating: Millerton’s shoreline has three launch ramps with parking nearby. Snacks, beverages, bait and gas are available at Millerton Lake Marina. Local boating groups stage sailboat races and regattas in June and July.

Hiking and Bicycling: Trails range from level hiking areas to challenging mountain bike trails. Markers along a 1/4-mile interpretive trail at Fort Miller campground explain the natural and cultural resources. The strenuous, hiking-only Buzzard’s Roost Trail at the north shore offers lake views. On the south shore, Blue Oak Trail provides a level, two-mile hike to Winchell Cove. An 11-mile trail follows the river canyon from South Finegold to the Bureau of Land Management’s rustic Squaw Leap campground.

Fishing: The shoreline habitat provides hiding places for an abundance of bass and catfish. Fishing tournaments are occasionally scheduled through special events permits. A valid California fishing license is required.
Millerton Lake has the largest population of wintering bald eagles in the San Joaquin Valley, most having migrated more than 1600 miles from summer breeding grounds in Canada. The San Joaquin drainage and other nearby lakes have several year-round nesting bald eagle pairs, sometimes spotted in summer.

Other wildlife-watching opportunities include resident golden eagles, waterfowl, and both indigenous and migratory bird species that travel to and from the higher portions of the Sierra Nevada. Larger mammals such as deer, bobcats, coyotes and mountain lions inhabit the area. Smaller animals include foxes, badgers, skunks, raccoons, opossums, cottontail rabbits and ground squirrels.
Plant Communities
The first fall rains turn the hills green and wildflowers reach their peak in April. During the summer, stately blue oak and live oak trees dot the dry brown hills. Up the river canyon, oaks and gray pine combine with Manzanita, ceanothus and other chapparal to form a denser forest. Vernal pools above the upper river canyon provide a vital habitat for the short life cycles of frogs, toads, tiny fairy shrimp, prehistoric-looking tadpole shrimp, and specially adapted plants.
Park History
For thousands of years, several groups of Northern Foothill Yokuts lived in the rolling grasslands and woodlands of the region. The women crafted beautiful baskets used for both utilitarian and ceremonial purposes. The men harvested acorns and hunted deer, quail and other game. The Yokuts were especially skilled at fishing for salmon, which they dried and stored for winter use.

The lives of the Yokuts were altered by the intrusion of settlers who brought diseases to which they had no immunity, depleted their food sources, and caused them to be displaced from their villages. Conflicts with the new arrivals ultimately led to the Mariposa Indian War, which ended in 1851 with the signing of a peace treaty at the U.S. military encampment known as Camp Barbour. An envoy had negotiated treaties with several California Indian groups, but congress failed to ratify the treaties.

Camp Barbour, now beneath the lake’s surface, was built in 1850. A tent city called Rootville, later changed to Millerton, sprang up and quickly prospered. It served as the Fresno County seat from 1856 to 1874. The area’s only courthouse was built in 1867. In 1941 the courthouse was dismantled and reconstructed on its present site at Mariner’s Point to protect it from rising floodwaters. The courthouse has been restored to look much as it did more than a century ago.

Today the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation maintains Friant Dam as part of the federal Central Valley Project to manage water for flood control, drinking water and irrigation. California State Parks has an operating agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation for the management of Millerton Lake.
Accessible Features
The campground is set on hilly terrain with a few tent sites that may be usable dispersed through four of the six camping loops.
Meadow Campground: Accessible restroom, shower and parking available by campsite #91. RV sites with hook-ups are dispersed around a paved loop, and four RV sites are generally accessible. Usable restrooms and restrooms with showers are available throughout the other campground loops. Some designated accessible parking is adjacent to restrooms.
Campfire Center: The campfire center is located at the north shore on a usable path of travel with space for two wheelchairs. Two accessible parking spaces are also provided.
Group Camps: Accessible restroom, shower and parking are provided.

Picnic Area
South Shore: The La Playa day use area on the South Shore is located on a hilly promontory with picnic tables, including two accessibly designed tables on a flat surface overlooking the lake. Tables are on dirt surfaces so usability is affected by wet weather.
Restroom: Accessible restroom with adjacent accessible parking is provided.
Grange Grove: Two group picnic areas at Grange Grove, South Shore, have two accessible tables at each site. Restrooms are accessible. Routes of travel are generally accessible. A large parking lot includes ample designated accessible parking.
Crows Nest: There is an accessible designed picnic area with accessible restroom and parking.
South Finegold Day Use Area: There is an accessible picnic area with accessible restroom and parking.

McKenzie Point Trail & Marina Trail: Located on the South Shore. A portion of these trails are accessible with accessible parking.

The 19th century courthouse serves as an exhibit center on the history of the town of Millerton. The facility is generally accessible. Unisex restrooms at the uphill end of the parking lot permits side transfers and may permit front transfers. Accessible parking spaces are dispersed near both the restroom and the courthouse. The hillside location of the parking area may create some challenges. Some assistance may be required with the slopes or at the curb ramps.


Millerton Lake South Shore Trail
The easy South Shore trail is the best hike. The scenic portion starts at South Bay Picnic Area and is 2 mile 1-way.
4.9 mi/
7.9 km
Millerton Lake South Shore Trail
Millerton Lake South Shore Trail
Millerton Lake State Recreation Area, California, United States
Easy: 4.9 miles, 1-3 hours
The easy South Shore trail is the best hike. The scenic portion starts at South Bay Picnic Area and is 2 mile 1-way.
Community Trips
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Pincushion Mountain
by pcmasten on Nov 07, 2011
Friant, California, United States
5.0 miles
Directions: from Hwy 41 and CA 145, go east on CA 145 for 3.3 mi. Turn right onto CA 206. Go east for 2.2 mi and turn left onto Millerton Rd. Continue 4.2 mi on Millerton rd. Turn left onto Sky Harbor Rd (street just before Table Mountain Casino). Follow Sky Harbor Rd for 5.8 miles to the end of the road. Parking is available along the road. There are port a...
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Landscape Of The Area On Opposite Side Of San Jaquin River.JPG Photo
Looking South Back the San Joaquin River Photo
Hike to the top of Pincuhion Mountain, Millertion Lake
by Dennis93277 on Mar 17, 2013
Friant, California, United States
5.0 miles
We went on the trip March 17, 2013.  It was a wonderful day for hiking, clear skies, cool, and a breezy.  We parked just outside of the "South Finegold Day Use Area" because the gate to access the area was locked.  I don’t understand why it was locked as people were using the area and the county employees were cleaning the restrooms.   We pretty much followed the track supplied by ‘pcmasten”.  You...
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Millerton North Side
by bcurwick on Jan 04, 2009
Fort Miller (historical), California, United States
9.3 miles
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Millerton North Side
by bcurwick on Jan 31, 2009
Fort Miller (historical), California, United States
8.2 miles
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Northside Millerton
by emylopez on Jan 31, 2009
Fort Miller (historical), California, United States
0.0 miles
Friant, left @ bridge before dam, right on 145. Park at millerton recreation area. Future hiking: buzzards roost.
Boat Dock - High And Dry Photo
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Millerton Lake
by sammydee on Nov 22, 2009
Fort Miller (historical), California, United States
3.7 miles
Elaine and I were in Fresno to watch our daughter compete in a Marching Band contest.  Afterwards she was heading home with the band, leaving us a few hours to go have fun.  We wound up here, mostly by luck.  It was an interesting hike ... the water level was very low, making for some interesting scenery.  
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Millerton Lake State Recreation Area South Shore Trail
by suetfei on Nov 27, 2010
Friant, California, United States
4.9 miles
Millerton Lake Recreational area is close to the much visited Yosemite National Park. Located 20 miles northeast of Fresno, it is almost at the exact geographic middle of California.  Millerton Lake was created in 1944 by damming the San Joaquin River as it flows out of the Sierra Nevada foothills and into the Central Valley.One of the biggest attractions in the park is bald eagles watching, most havingmigrated more than 1600 miles...
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Birfrost Trail
by fresgo on May 28, 2012
Fort Miller, California, United States
0.4 miles
short hike to two geocaches
Heather ahead of me on the trail Photo
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This waterfall was flowing much heavier two weeks ago Photo
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Buzzard's Roost Trail
by joker021971 on Mar 28, 2010
Fort Miller (historical), California, United States
1.3 miles
A quick little hike not too far from home. Very steep points going up, but it's short, so it should be possible for most. Trailhead is found inside the park gate on the West side of Millerton Lake about half way to the camp ground and boat launch.
North Millerton Lake
by bvelasquez on Sep 08, 2010
7.1 miles
Good challenging single track at Millerton Lake.

I went with a group of classmates. The hills were lush and green. The best part was all the wild flowers blooming everywhere this time of year. This trail is used by hikers and people mountain biking. They also allow dogs on leashes. Try Pin Cushion Peak if you want an uphill challenge!
Visited on Mar 31, 2016

by taryngami on Jun 02, 2016
Not exciting in the summer when the water level is low.
Visited on Nov 22, 2009

by sammydee on Dec 26, 2010
Do it early in the day in the summer time.
Visited on May 15, 2006

by Bent4Bob on Mar 07, 2011

Who's Been There

Dennis93277 is the Guru of Millerton Lake State Recreation Area

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Table mountain, Friant Ca, millerton lake, San Joaquin River, lake shore hike, Pincushion, bald eagle, Aubery, Friant Dam, Millertion Lake, Friant, Fresno

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