6 Best Boating Lakes in California (the Golden State)

best boating lakes in california

With the likes of Disneyland, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the Golden Gate Bridge, you'd almost never run out of things to do or destinations to visit when you take a getaway trip to the State of California with friends or family. However, for those who would like to step away from the bright lights and big cities, California also has a nature-loving side. In this guide we'll explore some of the best boating lakes in California, the Golden State. 

Our Most Recommended Boating Lakes and Destinations in California

The beautiful boating lakes California has to offer are very underrated. There are many, however these are our 6 top picks we recommend should not be missed.

1. Lake Tahoe

lake tahoe

Lake Tahoe is considered to be the largest alpine lake in the United States of America.

This lake measures approximately 122,000,000 acre-feet and is right behind the five greatest lakes in terms of size by volume. It has an average depth of 1,645 feet, second only to the Crater Lake found in Oregon.

As a tourist attraction, Lake Tahoe rivals a lot of other noteworthy attractions in both the state of Nevada and the state of California.

The most frequent activities, locations, and services offered in this destination are the following:

  • Winter sports
  • Summer outdoor activities
  • Seasonal activities and tours
  • Ski resorts
  • Casino resorts
  • State park
  • Beaches
  • Mountain resorts
  • Gondola rides
  • Fishing
  • Boating

There are several different fishing locations across Lake Tahoe and a variety of different fish species. The most notable fish species are the following:

  • Mackinaw trout
  • Rainbow trout
  • Brown trout
  • Brook trout
  • Kokanee salmon
  • Largemouth bass
  • Tahoe sucker
  • Tui Chub

2. Shasta Lake

shasta lake

Shasta Lake, known alternatively as Lake Shasta, is a reservoir situated in Shasta County, California, and was designed to store water ever since the year 1944.

According to measurements, the surface area of Shasta Lake is approximately 30,000 acres and has a maximum depth of 517 feet.

From a functionality standpoint, Lake Shasta is very important as it primarily deals with flood control operations for Sacramento Valley. It also serves as a source of power via the Shasta Powerplant.

As a tourist attraction, visitors get to enjoy the sights and splendors in and around the area, including the following:

  • McCloud Falls
  • Coleman Fish Hatchery
  • Whiskeytown
  • Shasta Trinity National Forest
  • Lake Shasta Caverns
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Northern California Breweries

As a boating and fishing destination, expect to catch any of the following fish species, to name a few:

  • Spotted bass
  • Rainbow trout
  • Chinook salmon
  • Brown trout
  • White sturgeons
  • Largemouth bass
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Bluegill
  • Brown bullhead
  • Green sunfish
  • Golden shiner
  • White bullheard

3. Mono Lake

mono lake

Mono Lake is one of the most well-known salt lakes located in Mono County, California, and is a naturally occurring body of water that was estimated to have been formed roughly 750,000 years ago.

Surveyors place the surface area of this lake at roughly 45,000 acres and the maximum depth is reported to be approximately 160 feet.

Although it is not known to be a tourist attraction relative to the entries mentioned earlier, here are a few of the things you can expect to see in the area:

  • Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center
  • Mono Lake Tufa State National Reserve
  • Tioga Pass and Tioga Road
  • Kayak rentals
  • Historical tours
  • Watersports
  • Boating and fishing

Despite the high salinity in its waters, Mono Lake is home to a thriving ecosystem of aquatic and non-aquatic flora and fauna, the likes of which include brine shrimp, tufa and alkali flies.

Note, however, that there are no fish species in this lake due to the high concentrations of salt.

4. Silverwood Lake

silverwood lake

Located in San Bernardino County, California, the Silverwood Lake is a relatively large reservoir that was created in the year 1971 as a component of the state water project in relation to the Cedar Springs Dam.

The reported water volume for this reservoir is approximately 73,000 acre-feet and the surface elevation is pegged at roughly 3,350 feet.

The Silverwood Lake is a great spot for tourists who are looking to visit the less-frequented water-based destinations. Services and activities include the following:

  • State parks
  • Picnics
  • Camping
  • Hiking treks
  • Beaches and swiming
  • Watersports
  • Boating
  • Fishing

The notable fish species found in this lake are the following:

  • Bluegill
  • Channel catfish
  • Striped bass
  • Rainbow trout
  • Largemouth bass

5. Lake Sonoma

lake sonoma.

Arguably the most beautiful and serene lake in California, Lake Sonoma is a reservoir located to the west of Cloverdale in the northern area of Sonoma County.

The surface area of this lake is pegged at 2,700 acres and has a surface elevation of approximately 200 feet.

From a practical angle, this lake provides much-needed resources for growth and development for the entire country.

From a tourist standpoint, activities and events that could be done in this destination are the following:

  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Hunting
  • Swimming
  • Boating
  • Riding

Notable fish species in this lake include the following:

  • Brown bullhead
  • Bluegill
  • Largemouth bass
  • Channel catfish
  • Redear sunfish

6. Lake Berryessa

lake berryessa

If you are familiar with Napa County, California, then you should know that this county houses Lake Berryessa, the largest lake in the county and a reservoir that was built in the 1950s.

This area also served as a home to the Pomo tribe prior to the construction of the reservoir.

The surface area of this lake is roughly 20,000 acres and has a maximum depth of approximately 275 feet.

This location has really opened up some interesting activities for people of all ages and locations of origin, including:

  • Paddle sports
  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Hiking tours
  • Camping
  • Cycling
  • Bird-watching

Notable fish species that can be found in Lake Berryessa are the following:

  • Chinook salmon
  • Rainbow trout
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Largemouth bass
  • Channel catfish


A polarizing state to a lot of people, but not to us, California is the perfect spot to be in if you wanna enjoy the hustle and bustle culture mixed with the recreational and laid-back adventures that people of all ages and cultures enjoy.

So, if you are in need of going out for a boat trip or fishing trip with friends or family in the sunny state of California, be sure to remember the best boating lakes in California we have shared with you.

Scroll to Top