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A “secret lake,” missed by most!

A few years ago, I asked my handheld GPS to show me a list of the nearest lakes. Surprisingly, a lake named “Bethany Reservoir” popped up as the nearest one!

I had never heard of it! :-)

There was only one solution – hop on the Honda Shadow Spirit VT1100C, and check it out! I found a lake on the edge of the Altamont that is not easily seen, in an area passed by thousands of commuters on I-580 and I-205 everyday!

I guess that I am not the only one who missed Bethany Reservoir, the FIRST reservoir on the California Aqueduct of water headed to the south! SF Chronicle outdoor writer, Tom Stienstra, says that HE first spotted the lake while flying an airplane to trace the California Aqueduct! Stienstra says:

Bethany Reservoir is a small lake that’s always full and missed by many. Tucked in a valley in remote Alameda County, Bethany provides a pretty drive with a payoff in the spring. There is excellent biking on the California Aqueduct Bikeway, windsurfing and low-speed boating, and fishing for bluegill, striped bass and largemouth bass. Because you can’t see the lake from a major road, it gets overlooked.

The article has a good map, but you should take note of Stienstra’s directions, and you will see that it is not as easy as it looks (which is why it is MISSED)!

From San Francisco, take the Bay Bridge (get in right lane) to the split and Interstate 580 east. Bear right on 580 and drive 45 miles (past Livermore) to Exit 63 for Grant Line Road (toward Byron). Take that exit, turn left on Grant Line Road and drive 1.3 miles to Mountain House Road. Turn left and drive 3.2 miles to Kelso Road. Turn left and go 1.5 miles to Bruns Road. Turn left and drive 0.5 miles and then continue (technically onto Christensen Road) 0.6 miles to the park entrance road. Turn left and drive to parking, boat ramp and trailhead for California Aqueduct Bikeway. 61 miles.

OK, why go? For you bicyclists, Bethany Reservoir is the trailhead for a 44-mile trail that goes all the way to San Luis Reservoir. You can take a SHORT ride along the east side of the lake for the views or take a day trip to another parking area and crossing with Grant Line Road.

This is not a lake for high-powered water skiing – think quiet family getaway and picnic! describes its features:

Boating: In the spring, when north winds careen through Altamont Pass, Bethany Reservoir can be outstanding for windsurfing. The lake is small enough for flat water, but its location picks up the wind. The boat ramp, dock and parking are good for trailered and car-top boats; 5-mph speed limit for power boats.

Fishing: The best fishing is on the far side of the lake, where there is a series of five coves. For shoreline bait-dunkers, try a worm under a bobber for bluegill. For those with boats, striped bass feed at the head of the lake, and largemouth bass tend to hang near the points to inside the coves as spring takes hold.

Dogs: Leashed dogs permitted.

Cost: Day use, parking, $5; boat access, $5.

Contacts: Bethany State Recreation Area, (209) 532-0150;

Hours: Open 7 a.m. to sunset.

Facilities: Day-use picnic area, new shade ramadas, portable restroom, boat ramp, dock, fishing platforms.

Take a break and enjoy!

-Bill at

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