Cali Paddler Explorations - Puddingstone Reservoir, Bonelli Park

Cali Paddlers are known for their passion of exploration. A desire to paddle our waters, and pay respects to the amazing wildlife and nature that lives in our waterways. Thank you to Bret Warner from Stand up to Alzheimer’s for exploring this great state and sharing new areas to paddle. -C.P.

Puddingstone Reservoir/Bonelli Park - Map

CP Explorations - Puddingstone ReservoirAs I have previously mentioned, lamented, I live about an hour away from the beach. While the mountain lakes are not far from my inland home the distance is still prohibitive when it comes to a before/after work weekday paddle. That's where Puddingstone reservoir, located in Bonelli Park comes in.  Nestled Northeast of the 10 and 57 junction Bonelli Park serves as an excellent escape from the inland urban sprawl, even though it is in the middle of all of it.  The lake itself has a perimeter of roughly five miles, and considering its central location you will likely be in the company of fisherman as well as other paddlers if you go out for an afternoon workout. Never have I thought the lake was too crowded, however. The lake is also home to a plethora of birds, although I cannot attest to identifying or seeing this many, I have heard that over 250 different species have been seen there.  Some of the common ones are Mallard, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, American Coot, Black Phoebe, Western Scrub-Jay, American Crow, Bushtit, Northern Mockingbird, California Towhee, Song Sparrow, and House Finch.  I am a firm believer that you do not have to be able to recognize all those to enjoy them, the variety of birds is great enough that someone with less than rudimentary knowledge of birds can still be stoked about all the different birds flying around and floating on the lake.

CP Explorations - Puddingstone Reservoir

This was enough to keep me going to Bonelli/Puddingstone at least periodically for several years, but recently my family discovered a whole new aspect to the park. Actually my wife did when she was trying to keep both kids entertained while I raced at the North Shore Extreme earlier this year.  There are numerous playground structures and picnic areas for families. I had noticed these many times, but was always so focused on paddling that I never thought twice about them. Some of the play structures are also unique to Bonelli. One example is multiple different fake rocks all connected with ropes for kids to climb on and across. These are all close enough to the main launch area that a quick paddle can be had while the family plays and still have time for your significant other to get a workout as well. And since the lake only allows power boats on a small section far from the picnic areas it’s plenty safe to take kids paddling with you, if you can tear them away from the playgrounds long enough.

CP Explorations - Puddingstone Reservoir

In addition to all this there are numerous cross country and mountain bike trails throughout the park, and I have seen mountain bike demos occurring on almost regular occasions on the weekends. They are usually by Norm’s Hangar, which is a pretty solid breakfast spot by the small airport adjacent to Bonelli Park.  I have often thought Bonelli Park could be a great place for a trail run/mountain bike/paddle triathlon, maybe after I run Stand up to Alzheimer’s in July this year I can expand it into a second race in socal and give this idea a shot, until then I will happily enjoy paddling there on my own, and with my family, both before work and on the weekends.

Hours - Sunrise to Sunset for boating, but the rest of the park closes at 7:00 in the Winter and 9:00 in the summer

Fees - 10 to get a car in and 7 to launch a non motorized boat.  There are various places to park just outside the park, but it would be a pain to get an paddling craft from those to the water.

Launch area - Big lot, I have never seen it full. There is a grass area both in the middle of the lot, with parking spaces on both sides, and a sizable grass area leading right up to the water. There are some docks here too, but to high to launch from.

Hazards - Nothing serious. Angry fishermen if you hug the shoreline too much. Lifeguards will definitely stop you if you have no PFD on or with you, and if you paddle a hollow wooden board, they will remember you well enough so you won’t get away with it two times in a row.

Extra Local Knowledge - A lot of gates are not manned in the winter. Theoretically you could get in and launch, if you go to a non designated launch space, without paying anything at these times. In regards to this, however, I have had lifeguards ask me for my launch permit in the wintertime before.

Also, there is no vehicle entry fee on the weekdays from November thru February.

Paddlecraft allowed - The only limitation on the website is that a non motored boat must be over 8 feet in length. I have only seen SUP’s and Kayaks on the lake, but there is no reason other craft can’t play as well.

CP Explorations - Puddingstone Reservoir

CP Explorations - Puddingstone Reservoir

CP Explorations - Puddingstone Reservoir

This is part of our Cali Paddler Explorations Series. We have the ambitious goal of paddling and sharing every body of water in our great state. We would love for you to share with us something by you and help us continue quest! 

Team Writer Bret WarnerTeam Writer Bret Warner - Paddling truly got its hooks into me when I, on a whim, watched the 1999 Santa Cruz Paddlefest with my dad. I had kayaked a little before, but from then on the addiction was palpable. My first kayak, a purple and turquoise Necky Rip, came soon after. The following year I was that kid at UCSD who had a surf kayak in the common study area instead of a surfboard in my dorm room. I also taught sea kayaking all through college in San Diego, and up in Santa Cruz after I graduated.

When SUP came around, however, the paddling addiction became even more rabid. The garage started to fill up with different types of boards, and is now more than half full of hollow wood boards I have built myself,both for environmental reasons, and because it’s awesome to get to talk about how you built your own board when people ask you about it after a race. I love the paddle racing scene in California right now. Everyone is so stoked to be on the water competing, and the fierce competition is matched by the smiling faces when the race is over. I have gotten to paddle crafts that I never really considered before, and can see myself getting hooked all over again on something else: prone, OC-1, surfski,whatever, I just need more garage space.

Three years ago I founded the non-profit Stand up to Alzheimer’s. An organization that raises money and awareness for Alzheimer’s research through paddle races. This organization was born from lacking a tangible way of dealing with my father’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, but has now become a way, hopefully, for other to help cope as well. Our next event is on July 9 in Monterey at Del Monte Beach, just a little north from Monterey Bay Kayaks. Visit us at

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  • Karen - October 16, 2020

    How much are paddle boats? Are they available with out making a reservation? Is it all week or just weekends?

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