Weekend paddle trip: Sly Park Recreation Area in Pollock Pines

Jenkinson Lake is in the Sly Park Recreation Area.
Jenkinson Lake is in the Sly Park Recreation Area.

Whether canoeing or kayaking, it’d be hard to find more pleasant paddling than on Jenkinson Lake.

The man-made reservoir near Pollock Pines was created by spillover from the 190-foot-high Sly Park Dam, built in 1955 to help provide irrigation water to a portion of El Dorado County. It’s small and tranquil, shaded on all sides by the clustered pines that rim the lake. Fishers and picnickers on the shoreline are a common sight, but the lake itself is wide open.

Start from one of two boat launches on the west side of the lake, both accessible from Sly Park Road off Highway 50. At the main entrance, visitors pay $11 per vehicle. Canoes, kayaks and pedal boats are available for rent in summer months.

Traversing the lake from the launch to the northeast corner is the most direct route, but paddling along the lake’s edge is a great choice for those with time to spare. Pull over at a rocky enclave for lunch, or hop off and take a hike through one of the area’s many wooded lakeside trails. Added bonus: a hike-in waterfall.

A half-day paddle, including a stop for lunch, is very doable for naval novices and pro paddlers alike.

Canoe trip: Stonebraker Boat Launch to Park Creek Waterfall

Distance: About 5 miles round trip

Directions to boat launch: Follow eastbound Highway 50 to Exit 60, Sly Park Road. Turn right onto Sly Park Road. In about 4 miles you will reach the park entrance. Visitors may launch at the main entrance boat launch, or continue driving another 3 miles to Stonebraker Boat Launch. Larger boats and motorized boats should use the main entrance launch.

Route: Paddle to the northeast corner of the lake, where the waterway narrows and veers off to the right. It’s about 21/2 miles from the boat launch to the first of two creeks. Park your kayak or canoe near the right-hand creek, known as Sly Park Creek. Climb to shore and hike about one-quarter of a mile away to find the Park Creek Waterfall. It’s about 33 feet high and definitely worth the upper-body workout across the lake to reach it. (Note: The waterfall is best from spring through early summer.)

Toilets: There are restrooms at the main entrance on Sly Park Road.

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