San Pablo Reservoir a bastion of summertime fun

San Pablo Reservoir to reopen for boat launches, shoreline fishing
San Pablo Reservoir

By Zach Chouteau

The ‘Rich Life’ segment loves exploring our region’s wealth of outdoor oases, and the San Pablo Reservoir in El Sobrante deserves a place near the top of that list.

Attending the birthday party of one of my son’s best friends recently was a good reminder of all the cool stuff this green and pristine setting has to offer. Set just off the San Pablo Dam Road, the Reservoir Recreation Area lets you get out on the water by renting a patio boat, motor boat, kayak or rowboat. There’s even a boat launch that allows boaters to bring their own motor boat, kayak or canoe.

I found out during my recent visit that this is a huge fishing hub too, and that the reservoir is frequently stocked with trout and other fish. You can rent bait and tackle and even obtain the needed fishing permit at the visitor center. There are also large outdoor fish cleaning stations complete with sinks.

Of course picnicking (with nine different sites) and birthday parties are also popular here, and a large, well-designed playground area definitely adds to the family allure. Wildlife is a bit of an unexpected highlight, especially geese and ducks—but you also spot less-pedestrian feathered friends like wild turkeys and even owls. And speaking of animals, most of the area is friendly to leashed dogs—just keep smaller ones away the woods, as bobcats occasionally make the scene.

If there is one shortcoming it’s the lack of swimming due to the lake’s status as a drinking water reservoir. But kids keep cool with squirt guns and water balloons, and there also four rentable gazebos that help beat the heat. Make sure to bring some sun block, as it can definitely get a bit hotter here than closer to the Bay.

The San Pablo Reservoir Recreation Area is located at 7301 San Pablo Dam Road (about midway between central El Sobrante and Orinda); while the hours vary depending on time of year, it’s open daily from around sunrise to about an hour before sunset. The site closes seasonally in mid-November and re-opens at the start of February.

For more info and the official hours visit the official EBMUD website for the venue.


  1. Why is the lake closed during the winter? That is one of the most popular times to visit. We went to Lafayette Reservoir just down the road, it was open, and so full that there was little parking. It is sad that the lake closes at any time.


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