Beardsley Reservoir and Dam

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.

For more information about Beardsley Reservoir and area status visit the Tri-Dam Project website or the Stanislaus National Forest website.



  1. We’ve gone to Beardsley several times over the last 10 -15 years and we’d like to go again to swim and fish. When we went two years ago the water level was extremely low and we didn’t stay. Can you tell me if the water level is back to average (or more) this year after all the rain we’ve had? Thanks very much…

    • I was up there in July and it was full but haven’t been back since. My guess is it’s still pretty full and worth a trip. I highly doubt it’s down to the levels it was two years ago. Keep in mind that the day use area and boat ramp is closed because the road is washed out from last winter’s rains but the road across the damn is open.

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