California Dreaming: Houseboat adventures |

California Dreaming: Houseboat adventures

Winter is finally turning to spring and thoughts are turning to summer. Clouds still loom dark with the threat of even more rain and days are cool, the nights still cold. Outside the window rain begins as promised and, as trees bow to mighty winds,

summer seems but a distant, hazy dream. A dream filled with visions of time spent elsewhere, perhaps at the lake; swimming in the cool water, fishing and hiking in the warm sun, and camping under the stars. What could be better? How about if that dream included a private bathroom, shower and kitchen?

Too much even for a daydream? Perhaps, unless you consider the houseboat. While some are cozy and rustic, others are virtual floating resorts and offer a long list of amenities. Watch the kids take the water slide down from the swimming platform, fish from the side of your own boat, slowly explore the shoreline of an expansive azure lake with the Sierra mountains and ponderosa pines framing the horizon. And then find just the right cove, hidden and secluded, to drop anchor

for the night. Experience the lake in a completely different manner. Then find your own private seclusion in the bathroom or stateroom. Imagine a barbecue with family and friends where no one has to drive home; no one has to go anywhere except for a midnight swim and then it’s just a short step off the boat. Admire the stars and moon as they reflect off the surface of the lake after a beautiful sunset.

Far from an idle daydream, a number of lakes with marinas that rent houseboats are close by in the Sierra Foothills, within just a few hours from Sacramento. In the northern part of the Sierra foothills, basically between Oroville and Marysville, lie Bullards Bar Reservoir, Englebright Lake and Lake Oroville. Further south, just west of Yosemite, lie Lake McClure and Lake Don Pedro. Both Lake Don Pedro and Lake Oroville have received environmental awards/recognition for participating in environmental programs to, among other standards, reduce energy and resource consumption, prevent pollution and comply with laws and regulations.

Houseboats can be economical with basic amenities such as those found at Englebright, or be floating hotels that sleep 15 people at Lake McClure. Typical amenities include general kitchen appliances, but also available are dishwashers and trash compactors. Gas barbeques, TVs, VCRs, stereos, ice chests, generators

and hot/cold water are standard, but some offer CD players and satellite radio, space heaters and air conditioning. A variety of sleeping options are available from sleeping decks and sofa beds to bedrooms with bunk beds, and queen-size beds in penthouse accommodations. Lake McClure, Lake Don Pedro and Lake Oroville even offer water slides off their houseboats. Consider one with a hot tub or wet bar. Pets are welcome on some of the houseboats. The only things to bring besides food are sleeping bags or bed linens and maybe some kitchen supplies.

Water sports are encouraged, so for the total lake experience try out some “water toys”. Get pulled by a tournament ski boat at Bullards Bar Reservoir or by a personal water craft (a seated jet ski powerful enough to pull a wake board or even a skier) at Lake Don Pedro. For calmer adventures perhaps a paddleboat or kayak at Englebright. Rent a fishing boat, available at virtually any marina, and search out dinner; most lakes have a variety of bass, salmon and trout and catfish can be found

at Lake Oroville and Lake McClure. Crappie and bluegill are also at Lake

McClure and browns at Bullards Bar and Englebright. Land sports abound too; so hike, mountain bike or camp. Englebright and Bullards Bar have campsites that are only accessible by boat, which adds to the privacy and the feeling of leaving civilization behind. Or, explore the Gold Rush towns of Jamestown, Sonora and Columbia outside of Lake McClure.

Prices vary greatly depending on style of boat, length of rental and time of season; June through September typically being peak season. Larger craft usually require a minimum of a three-day rental and can be rented for midweek or full seven-day vacations. For seven days during peak season, an economy houseboat that sleeps four can run as low as $900 with an upper range for deluxe accommodations at $6200. Smaller craft can be rented hourly, daily and weekly.

Check with each resort/marina for specifics. Their websites offer helpful tips on what to bring, rental policies and insurance coverage, or how to use when coordinating a rental with a group of people, and where the fish are biting. While the staff will typically explain the operation of their houseboats, the “ABC’s of the California Boating Law” at is recommended to review the basic rules of boating.

Indulge the dream and make it reality by planning ahead and making reservations as early as possible. Take advantage of the ultimate summer vacation: sun, water and as much fun and solitude as required, with the bonus of running water andt your own bathroom. A dream come true.

Bullards Bar Reservoir/Emerald Cove Resort & Marina at:

Englebright Lake/Skippers Cove Marina at:

Lake Don Pedro Marina at:

Lake McClure Marinas at:

Lake Oroville Marina at:

The “ABC’s” of the California Boating law at:

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