Beardsley Reservoir is a man-made lake located in the steep, rocky canyon of the Middle Fork Stanislaus River. The reservoir is located four miles northwest of Pinecrest Lake (as the crow flies) and roughly seven miles from Hwy 108 down the steep, winding, paved Beardsley Reservoir Rd (Forest Route 5N02). Beardsley Reservoir is part of the Tri-Dam Project which is managed by the Oakdale and the South San Joaquin Irrigation Districts. The other two reservoirs within this project are Donnells Reservoir (five miles upstream from Beardsley) and Lake Tulloch (southeast of Copperopolis).
Beardsley offers recreational opportunities like fishing, camping, some hiking, swimming, exploring and picnicking. Recently there were recreation related improvements applied to the Beardsley Day-Use Area, the China Flat Day-Use Area, Beardsley Campground and the addition of the 19-space Black Oak Flat Campground (formerly Pedro Flat). These improvements began in the Fall of 2013 and are expected to be completed before the summer vacation season begins on Memorial Weekend 2014. The improvements include rehabilitation and better accessibility at both day-use areas and the Beardsley Campground and the installation of the new Black Oak Flat Campground.
Beardsley Day-Use Area will have better access to Beardsley Lake via an ADA compliant paved path. In addition there will be improved traffic flow, more parking, new restrooms, new picnic sites and the replacement of the boat ramp plus 250 foot extension added for lake access during low water levels. The China Flat Day-Use Area will get new ADA accessible trails, a fishing platform and a wildlife viewing platform. The Beardsley Campground improvements include reconfigured campsites, access to potable water, and a trail leading to Beardsley Lake.
If you are looking for some activity, there is a swimming area near the Beardsley Day-Use Area that is roped off from the lake with buoys. A sandy beach offers plenty of room for sun bathing or just relaxing. In addition there is a short, moderate level, 3/4-mile, one-way hike along the Spillway Trail. This trail starts on the west side of the dam and ends down below the dam at the China Day-Use Area. The total elevation change of this hike is about 300 feet. If you’re on foot the best fishing is at the Beardsley Reservoir Afterbay, near the China Flat Day-Use Area below the dam. Make sure and follow the posted fishing regulations for this area.
The Beardsley and China Flat Day-Use Areas are open seasonally from May to November from 6am to 10pm. The campgrounds are also seasonal from May to November.