For our first camping trip of the season together, my girlfriend, Natalie, and I took the canoe up to Lake Sonoma for some boat-in camping. Lake Sonoma is a man-made reservoir just east of Cloverdale, California. There are beautiful campsites around the edge of the lake, lots of shoreline to explore, and plenty of fishing — the lake contains one of California’s only landlocked steelhead populations.

We self registered for a campsite at park headquarters at the southern end of the lake then drove up to Yorty Creek to put in. With the canoe packed up, we shoved off for the 2.7 mile paddle to our campsite. It was fairly windy but, once we left the main basin of the lake, the water was much calmer. In an hour and fifteen minutes we were at Thumb Camp, Site #2.

The site was beautiful: right on the water and under the shade of a huge oak tree.

Thumb Camp, Site #2

The view from our campsite

Photos: Natalie Menacho

Nothing beats a nice campfire.

Photo: Nik Schulz

The next day we tried our hand a fishing. While out on a wood-gathering expedition — it’s OK to collected dead or downed timber on the lake’s shore — we saw a school of about 30 good-sized fish. Later in the afternoon we headed up one of the narrow, sleepy arms of the lake. After not too long we spotted a fish that came right up under the canoe to look at us. We trolled the lures right passed him, and he swam over to inspect. Ultimately he wasn’t interested though. When we tried to grab him with the net, he darted away then came right back to continue staring up at us. He was friendly enough but had no interest in coming with us back to camp. I can’t say I blamed him.

The first cast I made back at camp drew a bite from an eager fish. After it freed itself from the hook, it must have put the word out about us. We barely had another bite for the rest of the weekend.

The fish were friendly enough but seemed uninterested in what we had to offer.

We climbed to the top of the ridge the first night to watch the super moon rise over the hills. We spent some quality relaxing time reading in the hammock and watched a woodpecker peak out from a hollow tree. After two nights and a full day on the lake, we packed up camp.

Starting to pack up camp

The canoe loaded up for the return trip

Photos: Natalie Menacho

One last photo of Natalie on the shore

Photo: Nik Schulz

Heading back

Osprey swooping in

Photos: Natalie Menacho

On the paddle out we got a little too close to close to an osprey nest. The young osprey called out and took off. In no time mama and papa swooped in to defend their turf. Big talons on those guys.

If you go, do it before the end of July. From what I hear the black flies makes things pretty unpleasant after that.

Happy camping!

Photo: Natalie Menacho

Here’s a map of Lake Sonoma: