For Immediate Release: April 23, 2019

SMUD completes first round of recreation upgrades, work continues

Completed projects and new schedule mean more recreational opportunities this summer

Some of SMUD’s construction projects to upgrade popular Eldorado National Forest campgrounds in the Crystal Basin Recreation Area are completed and some sites will reopen even earlier than planned. That means the area will be able to accommodate the large number of campers, hikers, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts who come every year to enjoy what the forest offers.

The improvements are part of $150 million in upgrades and enhancements to existing recreation facilities related to SMUD’s Upper American River Project (UARP) hydroelectric power plants throughout the Crystal Basin Recreational Area, mostly around SMUD reservoirs. Information about the recreation facilities and their status is available at

The following accomplishments are good news for the 2019 recreation season:

  • Sunset and Azalea Cove campgrounds and the Gerle Creek Reservoir area saw significant upgrades to existing facilities as well as some new improvements in 2018 and are ready this summer. Sunset campground reopens a year earlier than planned, offering a new group site and shower facilities.
  •  The Angel Creek and Gerle Creek day use areas were also upgraded in 2018, including new and improved hiking trails, improvements to the hand boat launching area and fishing pier, a viewing platform and interpretive exhibits.
  • All campsites not scheduled for upgrades before 2021, have been retrofitted with bear-proof food lockers. 

Sites closed for construction:

The Northshore Campground Improvements Project at Loon Lake is scheduled for construction from June through October. The campground will be closed for the entire 2019 season and is planned for reopening in 2020:

  • The project will update the existing campground by adding a potable water system, and new and refurbished toilet facilities. 
  • The current 15-unit recreational vehicle (RV) campground will be upgraded to a mix of 25 RV, standard, and walk-in campsites. 
  • The new potable water system will connect to the existing water system at nearby Red Fir campground which will delay the opening of Red Fir until the beginning of July 2019. 

The North Union Valley Road (located on the north side of Union Valley) will be closed from West Point to Yellowjacket campgrounds while the 4.6 mile stretch of dirt roadway is being improved, including a paved surface, road widening, vehicle turnouts and trailheads. 

  • As a result, Camino Cove and Wolf Creek campgrounds will be closed for the 2019 season, reopening in 2020.
  • Yellowjacket campground will remain open during the road construction in 2019.

Sites that will be open in 2019 with construction deferred to 2020 through 2022:

  • West Point and Yellowjacket boat launches and campgrounds will be upgraded and completed together in 2021. Combining the projects allows for a single season closure for improvements to the facilities and keeps the campgrounds open for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
  • The Union Valley Bike Trail between Wench Creek and Yellowjacket campgrounds is scheduled to begin construction in 2020 and should be completed by late 2021.The segment between Wolf Creek and West Point campgrounds is scheduled for construction in 2021 and should be complete by the end of 2022. Once completed, there will be a continuous paved bike trail stretching well over 10 miles around the east end of Union Valley Reservoir, from Jones Fork to West Point campgrounds.

Since 1957 SMUD has partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to make Crystal Basin a spectacular destination in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It’s not only home to the UARP hydroelectric system, but is also open to the public for enjoyment of outdoor recreation.

These projects were agreed to in SMUD’s 50-year hydroelectric operating license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2014 for the UARP which is almost entirely within the Eldorado National Forest. SMUD initiated the upgrade design process even before the operating license was issued in 2014. These initial recreation improvements will continue for the first 20 years of the license. 

The UARP’s power plants generate almost 700 megawatts of clean, non-carbon-emitting power and can provide about 20 percent of SMUD customers’ power needs, which is especially valuable in hot summer months. 

SMUD is committed to the communities it serves and where it builds infrastructure and is a long-standing member of the El Dorado County community. SMUD continues to work with partners on fire prevention efforts, community development, road maintenance and environmental monitoring while working on other important projects in the county.

SMUD also remains committed to recreation improvements in the area and is delivering on the schedule outlined in the license. The improvements to existing campgrounds, hiking and biking trails, roads and boat ramps, as well as constructing additional facilities, will create additional demand and bring more visitors into El Dorado County along with many new recreation dollars spent at local businesses. 

SMUD continues to have a significant presence in El Dorado County with about 85 employees based at its hydroelectric maintenance headquarters at Fresh Pond with a local payroll and local expenditures well over $15 million per year. About 200 SMUD employees call El Dorado County home, sending their kids to local schools, buying goods and services locally, and contributing to the county’s tax base.