Sunday, August 4, 2013

No Pictures, Just Information

Howard (Windknots & Tangled Lines) mentioned that he would like to know how the lakes are connected and if they come out of different drainages. So I sat down and did some research and thought the best way is to list them from top to bottom. These are all lakes I’ve fished and talked about in the past.

Before I get into a lot of this, I need to mention that a good majority of the lakes upcountry are owned and operated by the electric companies in the area. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Bay Area Municipal Utility District (BAMUD) are two such companies that use the lakes for electric power generation and water. With this in mind, a lot of the water out of these lakes moves by way of a flume system that boggles the mind.
Blue Lakes are such lakes owned and operated by PG&E. Blue Lakes (Upper and Lower) look like they are snow melt fed for the most part. Lower is fed by Upper and then, and pay close attention here, a small creek (called of all things Blue Creek. You’ll remember I found this wandering one day) runs out of it, but the majority of water from Upper and Lower moves, I assume, in flumes to lower lakes and I’ll get to that in a minute. 

Blue Creek meets Deer Creek and they meet Sandy Creek which becomes the North Fork of the Mokelumne that meets other creeks and runs all over the place. You get the idea. The rest of the water is flumed somewhere, but I don’t have enough knowledge of the area to tell you how the flume systems works.

Red Lake is also snow melt fed and the water running out of it (Red Lake creek) eventually runs into the West Fork of the Carson River down in Hope Valley. 

Woods Lake is snow melt fed and runs out Woods Lake Creek and into Caples Lake. Caples is also fed by Emigrant Creek. Keep in mind that these lakes are high in elevation (Upper Blue 8100’, Woods Lake 8200’, and Caples 7806’) and there is a lot of snow up there that melts in the spring and fills these lakes. 

Caples Lake is an EID (El Dorado Irrigation) lake. It drains into Caples Creek and eventually into Silver Fork of the American. I’m sure there is a flume system in play here too. Flumes are like Starbucks, they're everywhere. You don’t think they don’t make these lakes just for us to fish in, do you?

Kirkwood Lake is the same, snow melt fed. It also drains into Caples Creek and then into Silver Fork of the American River. 

Silver Lake, again and I’m starting to sound like a broken record, is fed by snow melt. I sat on the highway side of the lake and watched huge amounts of water flow into the lake from the creek that feeds it. As the snow disappeared on the surrounding mountains I’ve also watched that same creek slow to a trickle. 

I could go on and on, but there is such a network of creeks and rivers in this area, in fact in all of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, that it is almost impossible to follow the drainage of all the lakes that are up there. Suffice it to say that the major lakes (Caples, Silver, Bear River) are fed by creeks that are fed by snow melt and there is a vast network of flumes connecting a lot of these lakes to make electricity for the surrounding area and down into the valley. 

When you have multiple mountains reaching upwards of 9000+ feet, there is a lot of snow to melt in the spring to run down a lot of creeks and fill a lot of lakes. 

Down below the lakes are interconnected the same way. The North fork of the Mokelumne River feeds Lake Pardee which feeds Lake Camanche with are both BAMUD lakes. The North Fork of the Mokelumne comes out of Tiger Creek Dam (PG&E electric generator) which is fed by a system of flumes that include the one out of the “secret” lake (didn’t think I’d get that one in, huh) and Salt Springs Reservoir.   

Lake Amador is a whole nuther animal. It’s owned by a private party solely for recreation. I’ve talked enough about the Cutbows there, the hatchery, and the camping that I won’t go into a lot except to say that it’s fed by runoff from winter rain. 

Disclaimer: This is the best explanation I could come up with and if there are incorrect statements or other explanations I didn’t discover, feel free to put that information in the comment section. That way those that read this blog will also benefit from your knowledge. 

I hope that's enough because Brother that's all I've got.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading what I write. 



  1. Mark, thanks for all your research! Since I don't know the mountain ranges in California I assume that the primary range in your area that the snow melt comes from are the Sierra Nevadas? Anyway, thanks again.

    1. You got it Howard, the Sierras are the biggest and highest range. Interestingly enough, the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Ranges create an almost continuous range extending from Southern California (near Tehachapi) to the Pacific Northwest. What I’m finding more amazing is the number of small creeks in the area that are home to wild populations of trout. Mainly rainbows, but some browns, then brook trout at higher elevations. Certainly is fun fishing for these trout in water that’s freshly melted from snow a short hike away. These fish are not of any size, but good looking fish to be sure. By the way, Mark mentioned only one watershed of three or four that are within a drive of one or two hours from his home (and my family cabin).

    2. You can't tell Howard everything Patrick. Next thing you know he'll be moving out here just for the fishing.