Morning paddle on the “Disney” of Sierra lakes


On the Lodi paddling trip a few days back, a fellow paddler sung the praises of Utica Rerservoir just off Highway Four (which is over Ebbetts Pass). He said, “If Walt Disney was going to build a lake, this is what it would be.”

So, after a breakfast at Bear Valley Lodge, which had just opened for the season, they launched Kermy and Old Blue near a small but packed campground on the shore of the reservoir.

What sets the reservoir off from other Sierra waterways are the numerous granite rock islands, which make for fun kayaking around. And while Alpine had some motorized crafts for fishing (hardly an annoyance), Utica was sound free, filled only with kayakers and people in canoes. (The Adventurers could have done without the distant sound of some lumber operations.)


According to the Ebbets Pass website, Utica, along with it neighboring twin lake, Union, was constructed to provide water for first placer, and later, hard rock mining operations. Union Reservoir was built in 1853 by the Union Water Company of Murphys to provide water to Murphys, Angels Camp, and beyond. The Utica Mining Company took over the Union Water Company in the late 1880s, and enlarged the Union Reservoir in 1901. The company constructed Utica Reservoir in 1905 to augment its water resources and provide water and electricity to its extensive mining and power operations.

Knowing overnight company was coming to visit, they finished their paddle shortly after noon and headed to Arnold for lunch on the way down the mountain, having enjoyed a 24-hour adventure at two great mountain lakes…

Photos by Dennis Nugent

Paddle/easy/4.3 miles

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