Photo Credit Cheryl Wood
Slab Creek Reservoir - A Hidden Paddling Getaway
Slab Creek Reservoir lies in a deep gorge in the upper South Fork of the American River in El Dorado National Forest in Placerville County. The South Fork American River is one of the most popular whitewater rivers in the western half of the United States. Slab Creek Reservoir is the only disruption in a series of whitewater runs lying upriver of Chili Bar Reservoir. It is a fabulous paddling destination that not many people know about. Only an hour’s driving time from Sacramento, it is a must see retreat for paddling enthusiasts who enjoy flat water in a peaceful atmosphere, void of all motorized water vessels.
Nestled at the base of a deep canyon, this long and narrow reservoir bears a striking resemblance to Clementine Lake, located in Foresthill, California. The diverse landscape provides exquisite sights and outstanding photographic opportunities. This shallow, river-like reservoir is lined with groves of pine as it winds through canyons framed by massive walls of granite, with an occasional waterfall breaking away from the bank.
Slab Creek Reservoir has only 249 surface acres. It’s not the largest or smallest reservoir in Northern California, and it might not qualify as the most beautiful, but it may be the narrowest. It is only about 100 yards wide in most places. Slab Creek Reservoir is approximately 4.5 miles long, and is regulated by a small hydroelectric dam that controls the depth of the reservoir. If you paddle continuously, it is about a 3 hour round trip.
The reservoir has accessibility problems in the event of an emergency or sudden change in weather conditions. There are only two access points at the lower and upper ends of the reservoir, and no access in-between. Cell phone coverage, though spotty, is available in the event you run into trouble.
The Forebay Road put-in on the eastern end of Slab Creek Reservoir is located just outside of Pollock Pines. The eastern put-in is affected by both the reservoir’s water level and the inflow, which is the result of diversions controlled by SMUD for power generation. The reservoir’s water level drops during the summer months. At low water levels you will have to portage your kayak through a shallow stream bed to reach the water. It is better to launch at the eastern put-in when the water level is high to avoid carrying your kayak over a rocky creek bed. Also, anticipate paddling against afternoon winds and the current on the return trip, if you launch from the eastern end of the reservoir.