In 1944, Congress authorized the construction of New Melones Dam to prevent flooding of 35,000 downstream acres of agricultural lands and communities. The 1962 Flood Control Act included irrigation, power, wildlife and fishery enhancement, recreation, and water quality as reasons for construction.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began building New Melones in 1966, completing the dam in 1978 and the spillway and powerhouse in 1979; the Corps then transferred the project to the Bureau of Reclamation. When the reservoir filled, the 211-foot-high old Melones Dam, built in 1926 by the Oakdale and South San Joaquin Irrigation Districts to provide water for agriculture, was inundated.
Today, New Melones is part of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project. It is located off of Highway 49, some 8 miles north of Sonora and 6 miles south of Angels Camp, in the Southern Mother Lode. Each year, some 800,000 visitors enjoy New Melones’ numerous recreational opportunities. Facilities include day use areas; boat launch ramps; more than 300 campsites; hiking, biking and equestrian trails; a visitor center and museum; and abundant water-based recreation.
Visitors to New Melones
Visitors are asked to help protect historic resources by not handling, removing or destroying any artifacts or ruins along the lake bed. These sites and artifacts are protected by federal and state laws that prohibit disturbing the sites in any way. In addition, the use of metal detectors is not allowed on Reclamation lands per 43 CFR 423.29(f). Please report the finding or destruction/removal of any ruins or artifacts to the New Melones Field Office at 209-536-9094.
Lake conditions vary seasonally at New Melones Reservoir depending on weather and annual rainfall. Please see the following link for the most up-to-date lake condition information: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/staMeta?station_id=NMS
In the News
- Reservations and recreational information
- REA Fee Program
- Invasive Quagga and Zebra Mussels
- Fish Species