California Drought is Over: See the Stunning Before and After Photos of These Epic Paddle Board Spots!

April 3, 2023

After an unusually wet winter season, many of California’s drought-affected lakes and reservoirs are ready to be discovered by paddlers looking to SUP in California – check out these select locations to paddle board in California’s newly replenished water locations!


For years, the severe drought in California has led to low water levels and the disappearance of many of the state’s most precious water locations. But, after a winter season of rain and snow, there’s good news – the drought has lifted! The bodies of water that were once disappearing are now filled up, providing paddle board enthusiasts with a new range of areas to explore on their boards.

If you’re in California or planning to visit, take advantage of the newly replenished waters and check out these locations. From hidden coves to stunning shorelines, there’s no shortage of breathtaking views waiting to be explored. So grab your board, hit the water, and experience the beauty of SUP in California at these natural wonders.

Exploring California's newly replenished water locations

Lake Oroville

Located in Northern California, Lake Oroville is a stunning reservoir with crystal-clear waters and beautiful mountain views. However, this picturesque destination was severely impacted by the droughts that ravaged California in recent years. Two years ago, Adam Beam from AP News reported that “the mighty lake” was “shrinking with surprising speed amid a severe drought,” with state officials predicting it would reach a record low.

But now, as Rachel Ramirez from CNN explains, the lake is seeing a rebirth. Before-and-after photos show an incredible improvement at the reservoir, which as of this week stood at 115% of the historical average for the date, a notable jump from just 61% in February 2021 and 77% in 2022.

With the recent increase in water levels thanks to the end of California’s drought, Lake Oroville has become a popular destination for paddle boarders seeking new adventures. Once at dangerously low levels, many of its coves and inlets were dried up and inaccessible. But with the return of water to the area, paddle board enthusiasts can now explore areas of the lake that were once impossible to reach. With over 160 miles of shoreline and a range of scenic vistas, Lake Oroville is a perfect destination for paddle boarders of all levels and a great place to paddle board in California’s newly replenished water locations.

Folsom Lake

Northern California’s Folsom Lake, a large reservoir northeast of Sacramento, is finally starting to recover from years of drought. After reaching record-low levels in December, the lake began to fill up again thanks to a series of potent storm systems that brought rain and snow to the region. The amount of water in the lake tripled as a result, creating a new challenge: the lake was refilling too fast. Officials had to release water from the dam to bring the levels back down to prevent flooding.

Despite the recent progress, there is still a long way to go. The lake is currently at 116% of its average for this time of year, but that’s only 61% of its overall capacity. Most reservoirs in the region are still not close to reaching flood-control stage, and much of California remains in the worst category of drought. Nevertheless, Folsom Lake provides a promising sign that the state is making progress in its fight against drought. If you’re in the area, now is the perfect time to explore the lake’s scenic shores and clear waters on a paddle board adventure.

For the best launch location at Folsom Lake, head to the Granite Bay launch ramp. It’s a popular spot for paddle boarders to start their adventure with easy access to the water and a great place to paddle board in California’s newly replenished water locations.

“By March 10, the Folsom Dam was full enough that the Bureau of Reclamation released water down its auxiliary spillway into the American River to manage water levels.”

Lake Shasta

Lake Shasta, located in Northern California, is the state’s largest reservoir and a favorite destination for SUP in California. The lake offers breathtaking mountain scenery and numerous opportunities for exploration, including paddle boarding. After years of drought, the water levels at Lake Shasta have finally risen, providing ample opportunities for adventure.

The lake has risen over 100 feet since December 2022, and as of March 20, 2023, was 75% full and 98% of historical average. With more wet weather forecasted, the water levels are expected to continue rising, providing paddlers with more access to areas of the lake that were previously dry.

With over a million-acre feet of space, there’s still plenty of room for water at Lake Shasta. Despite the rising water levels, officials say they do not expect to need to release water through the spillway this spring, making it a perfect time for paddle boarders to explore the lake’s stunning scenery. A great launch location is Centimudi Boat Ramp, which was previously surrounded by brown mounds but is now submerged in water, providing easy access to the lake. And a great place to paddle board in California.

paddle board in California, Lake Shasta

Lake Mendocino

Lake Mendocino, located along the Russian River in Northern California, was one of the areas hit the hardest by the state’s severe drought. The water level had become so low that state officials had to reduce the amount of water heading to 930 farmers, businesses and other junior water-rights holders in order to prevent the lake from drying up completely.

However, with the recent return of rainfall, Lake Mendocino has seen a significant increase in water levels over the last year. According to the US Bureau of Reclamation, the lake was at just 43% of its capacity in March 2022. But as of March 2023, the lake has filled up to 90% of its capacity.

One of the best launch locations for SUP in California on Lake Mendocino is the Kyen campground. From there, you can paddle around the lake and explore its scenic coves and inlets, enjoying the crystal-clear waters and stunning mountain views. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddle boarder, Lake Mendocino is a perfect place to spend a day on the water and paddle board in California.

paddle board in California, Lake Mendocino

Diamond Valley Lake

Diamond Valley Lake in Southern California has come back from years of drought, thanks to a series of winter storms that eased the state’s dry conditions. The massive reservoir, the largest in Southern California, was nearly half depleted during the state’s driest three years on record, and its supplies were barely enough to meet the health and safety needs of 6 million people. But now, following an extraordinarily wet winter, officials from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California have been able to turn on the taps once again. As a result, the lake is now an incredible location for water sports enthusiasts, including paddle boarders.

The $2 billion, 4.5-mile-long reservoir, built nearly three decades ago, has twice as much water as all the region’s other surface reservoirs combined. With the reservoir refilling, officials said the gushing spigots should be able to refill the 810,000 acre-foot reservoir to its full capacity by the end of the year.

If you’re looking to paddle board on Diamond Valley Lake, the launch location is at the Diamond Valley Marina, located at 2615 Angler Avenue, Hemet, CA. The mood on the lake is joyous, as water pours into the reservoir from the State Water Project, marking an incredible turnaround for a region that only months ago had barely enough supplies to meet the health and safety needs of 6 million people. And with the newly reformed lake comes plenty of opportunities to SUP in California.

Water flows into Diamond Valley Lake, the 810,000-acre-foot reservoir near Hemet, as it refills Monday, March 27, 2023, with recent rainwater for the first time in three years. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

Additional Locations To Explore

Check out the pictures at these other locations below!

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe’s water level has been steadily rising due to a series of wet winter storms that have raised it to about a foot and a half of its maximum limit.

Recommended Launch Location: Kings Beach

Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake’s water level rose by more than 2 feet after almost three weeks of winter storms that dumped record rainfall and significant snow across the state.

Recommended Launch Location: Meadow Park

Big Bear Lake rises two feet in one week thanks to winter storms – San Bernardino SunVisit

Lake Isabella

The water level at Isabella Lake has been steadily increasing since January 2023, reaching 57,399 acre-feet. This is a significant increase compared to when it was below 49,000-acre feet due to stormwater pouring into the upper Kern River.

Recommended Launch Location: Paradise Cove

paddle board in California, Lake Isabella

Trinity Lake

Trinity Lake’s water level has been steadily rising in recent months due to heavy rains and snowstorms, reaching 36% full on Monday and 50% of its historical average. As more snowmelt melts through the spring, its level will continue to rise.

Recommended Launch Location: Trinity Center Marina

Lake Berryessa

The water level at Lake Berryessa has risen 12 feet in the last month.

Recommended Launch Location: Markley Cove Resort

Paddle board in California, Lake Berryessa

San Luis Reservoir

California’s San Luis Reservoir is looking a whole lot better than last summer—currently 81% full! The nation’s largest off-stream reservoir provides critical water supply to farms, communities & refuges. Water supply is shared 55% state/45% fed.

Recommended Launch Location: Romero Visitor Center

Lake Perris

According to Lake Levels Information, Lake Perris is up 29% sitting at 1,578 feet elevation.

Recommended Launch Location: Lake Perris State Recreation Area

Paddle board in California, Lake Perris

Castaic Lake

Castaic is up to 62% and some of that is because of retrofit work done in 2021.

Recommended Launch Location: Castaic Lake Recreation Area

Paddle board in California, Castaic Lake

Pyramid Lake

While Pyramid Lake suffered a drop at the end of last year. Its levels have risen to 2,574.80 feet as of March 29, 2023. You can monitor its levels on Lakes Online. This is a location for SUP in California unlike any other!

Recommended Launch Location: Emigrant Landing

paddle board in California

Lake Camanche

Camanche Reservoir on the Mokelumne River is holding 312,520 acre feet of water. And is 75% of capacity and 124% of average.

Recommended Launch Location: North Shore Marina

California's replenished water locations

Pine Flat Lake

At last check, Pine Flat Reservoir is at 78 percent capacity.

Recommended Launch Location: Deer Creek Recreation Area

California's replenished water locations
Pine Flat reservoir’s water levels are rising behind the Pine Flat Dam — so much so, that residents are concerned.

Lake Cachuma

Lake Cachuma has been steadily rising due to a recent rainstorm that doubled its capacity from 18% to 25%. This has resulted in an inflow of 36,600 cubic feet per second. And an increase of 0.84 acre feet per second, as well as a 17-foot elevation increase – perfect to paddle board in California!

Recommended Launch Location: Cachuma Bay Recreation Area

Lake Cachuma expected to fill and spill in wake of major storms.

New Melones Lake

New Melones on the Stanislaus River is still a little low. But holding 921,766 acre-feet of water, 38% of capacity and 67% of average.

Recommended Launch Location: Tuttletown Recreation Area

Lake Nacimiento

Lake Nacimiento Resort says water levels have risen by more than 16 feet since the beginning of December.

Recommended Launch Location: Lake Nacimiento Resort

Lake Casitas

Recent storms have benefitted water levels at Lake Casitas, which has risen approximately 42.5 feet since fall 2022 and stood at 58% of capacity on March 16.

Recommended Launch Location: Lake Casitas Boat Rental

SUP in California

Millerton Lake

Millerton Lake has surpassed 80% full and is releasing water from Friant Dam following days of atmospheric river events.

Recommended Launch Location: Millerton Marina

SUP in Calfornia
Millerton Lake reaches capacity, eye kept on Friant Dam


The recent end of the drought in California has opened up many exciting new places for paddle boarders to SUP in California. From the stunning mountain views of Lake Oroville to the surreal landscape of Lake Shasta, there are endless opportunities for adventure on the water. So grab your Atoll inflatable paddle board and head out to one of these exciting destinations to experience the beauty of California from a whole new perspective – and paddle farther than you ever have before!

Ready for a fun adventure while you SUP in California? If you have any questions or comments? Or if you’re ready to grab the ultimate iSUP for adventure – an Atoll iSUP? Drop a message into our inbox. Or call us directly at 8 7 7 . 6 9 8 . 8 5 8 1. We’re here to get you on the water!

3 Responses

  1. The easing of the drought is definitely to be celebrated, so I hate to nitpick, BUT, I’m 99% sure that your photo of Pyramid Lake is the one in Nevada, and not California. It too is a place to SUP unlike any other as long as you pay attention to the wind forecast.

  2. The conditions are fantastic and should be celebrated! The California drought has been eased, but it is not over.

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