Paddle Notes: Lake Sonoma lies nestled in the
beautiful coastal foothills of Sonoma County, a
forty-five minute drive north of Santa Rosa.
Kayakers will enjoy exploring the lake’s scenic
shoreline and coves, surrounded by 8,000 acres of
oak woodland. With its outstanding kayaking, hiking
and fishing opportunities, Lake Sonoma is truly a
Lake Sonoma is also one of the best boat-in
camping destinations in California. The lake boosts
nearly 100 boat-in campsites scattered around the
lake. Some campsites lie close to the lake's ski
zones while others are situated in more secluded
regions perfect for fishing or swimming.
wish to sleep on their boats may anchor anywhere
within the park, but boats must be equipped with
anchor lights. If kayakers wish to tie up to the
shore, they must be at one of the designated
Lake Sonoma allows all types of boating, so
beware of fast-moving watercraft, especially during
foggy conditions in the middle of the lake near Warm
Springs Dam. On warm days the lake is buzzing with
motor-driven watercraft and jet-ski activity.
There are no-ski areas and 10 m.p.h. speed zones in
the Warm Springs and Dry Creek Arms and 5 m.p.h.
speed zones in Cherry Creek and Yorty Creek inlets.
The lake’s two main arms provide an array of
scenic inlets to explore. There are three launch
locations. To reach the Yorty Creek boat launch, Hot
Springs Road is not recommended for motor homes or
vehicles pulling trailers. The shape of the lake is
not well suited for novice paddlers, unless they
only paddle the very upper or lower arms of the
Kayak Fishing: The largemouth bass at Lake Sonoma
can grow big due to the abundance of threadfin shad.
The record for largemouth bass was 15.37 pounds. The
lake also provides exceptional fishing opportunities
for sunfish population, including crappie, redear,
and smallmouth bass which are frequently caught by
anglers, fishing by the dam. The submerged trees
from the flooding of the lake provide excellent fish
Wind & Weather Conditions: The daytime high air
temperature ranges between the 80s and 90s in the
summer, between the 60s and 70s during the spring
and fall, and in the 50, and 60s in the winter. The
summer is hot and dry, and the winter is foggy and
wet, though there were foggy conditions in June and
July both time I paddled here. Fluctuating water
levels occur in the Warm Springs Arm, which create
unmarked water hazards, and is subject to closure
due to fluctuating water levels.
Terrain: Lake Sonoma is surrounded by vineyards
and coastal foothills in Sonoma County. Lake
Sonoma’s topography reminds me a lot of Lake
McClure, located in Central California. The only
difference is Lake Sonoma has foggy weather
conditions ant the lakes’ water color is an amazing
shade of blue. In addition to the plentiful wildlife
at Lake Sonoma, there are beautiful wildflowers from
early spring to early summer.
Open: Kayaking is allowed daily, 24 hours a day,
year-round. The boat speed limit is 50 m.p.h. There
are 5 and 10 m.p.h. boat speed limit zones, except
in the designated jet and waterski areas.
Fees: There is a fee for day use, to launch and
Lake Facilities: Lake Sonoma is open to all
boating and jet skiing. There are boat rentals
(including canoes), a full-service marina, four boat
launches, a snack bar and small store, fishing,
windsurfing, swimming, hiking and horseback riding
trails. The Warms Springs Recreation Area nearby
Lake Sonoma has a picnic area with a group pavilion.