Millerton Lake, a stone's throw away from Fresno and CA-99 in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, is one of the San Joaquin River's largest reservoirs. The reservoir was named for the town of Millerton, the original seat of Fresno County. The town was inundated and wiped from the map when Friant Dam was built in 1942 and the lake was created in its stead.
With 19 miles of shoreline and nearly 5,000 acres of water surface area, and with depths over 300 feet in parts, Millerton Lake, at capacity, is one of the largest lakes in Central California. It is located in the heart of a sunny area surrounded by green hills and shrubbery. However, in recent years, the lake has been profoundly affected by the severe droughts in California, and has suffered the fate of many other reservoirs in the region. As of the fall of 2015 (when the pictures above were taken), the reservoir held less than 40% of its maximum capacity, and the proof is quite evident at the boat launches. Two massive 10-lane boat ramps are sitting well above the water on the south side of Millerton Lake, and the single 2-lane north side ramp near Meadows Campground has been extended nearly a quarter-mile in length in the worst times of the drought to provide lake access for boaters. The water level has been showing signs of recovery as of late. As of spring 2016, it is at about 60% of its capacity.
Despite the effects of the drought, the area still remains a fantastic option for those in the San Joaquin Valley looking to do basically any summer outdoor activity. Hiking trails loop around the hills on the north shore, where there are also dozens of campsites at several different campgrounds, many of which have incredible views of the lake and every amenity a state park campground can offer. In the winter months, bald eagles are frequently spotted around the area as well. Additionally, a fish hatchery is located just south of Friant Dam.
As a designated recreation lake, boat ramps are located on both the north and south shores, with more than enough parking for vehicles and trailers. The lake's waters are open for a variety of activities. Whether you are here to fish, jet ski, or even go speed boating, the lake's size allows for hundreds of visitors to safely do different activities on the water. In addition, a marina, which offers boat and tube rentals, can be found in a cove at the southeast end of Millerton Lake, although the drought has pushed it about a quarter of a mile from the normal parking area.