SMUD begins construction on bike trail in the Crystal Basin Recreation Area
Significant improvements mean more recreational opportunities. What to know before you go.
SMUD continues to make significant improvements to popular Eldorado National Forest campgrounds and other facilities in the Crystal Basin Recreation Area, including the construction of two segments of bike trail at Union Valley Reservoir.
The Union Valley Bike Trail segments being constructed are located between Wench Creek and Yellowjacket campgrounds, and between Wolf Creek and West Point campgrounds. These new segments will connect to the existing paved trail. Construction should be complete by the end of 2022. Once completed, there will be a continuous paved bike trail stretching well over 12 miles around the east and north sides of Union Valley Reservoir, from Jones Fork to West Point campgrounds. Future plans include an unpaved mountain bike trail on the south side of Union Valley Reservoir.
The improvements are part of $150 million in upgrades and enhancements to existing recreation facilities related to SMUD’s Upper American River Project (UARP) license to operate its hydroelectric power plants throughout the Crystal Basin Recreation Area, mostly around SMUD reservoirs.
Several projects have been completed – meaning they are available to the large numbers of campers, hikers, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts who come every year to enjoy what the forest offers. But others are still undergoing improvements, so learn what you need to know before you go at smud.org/CrystalBasin and fs.usda.gov/Eldorado/.
The following accomplishments are good news for visitors:
- The Crystal Basin Recreation Information Station is now open.
- 25,000 lbs. of rainbow trout will once again be planted at Loon Lake, Ice House and Union Valley Reservoirs in 2021.
- The Northshore Campground Improvements Project at Loon Lake was an almost complete rebuild, which included:
- The previous 15-unit recreational vehicle (RV) campground was upgraded and expanded to a mix of 26 RV, standard, and walk-in campsites.
- A new potable water system was added to the campground.
- The North Union Valley Road (located on the north side of Union Valley) between West Point to Yellowjacket campgrounds was improved to include a paved surface, road widening, vehicle turnouts and lakeshore access trailheads.
- The same improvements as above were made to the Lakeshore road on the north side of Ice House Reservoir. Additionally, the new Upper Silver Creek day use area and parking accommodations were constructed at the end of Lakeshore road.
- Sunset Campground was completely rebuilt in 2018 including all new campsites, a new group campground, shower facilities, and upgraded RV filling station.
- Azalea Cove Campground saw significant upgrades to existing facilities in 2018 as well, including the addition of a potable water system.
- The Angel Creek and Gerle Creek day use areas were upgraded in 2018, including new and improved hiking trails, improvements to the hand boat launching area and fishing pier, a viewing platform and interpretive signage.
- All UARP-related campsites have been retrofitted with bear-proof food lockers
- Loon Lake boat ramp area was updated to improve the ramp, relocate and rebuild the 5-unit day use area and associated parking.
- 9 miles of backcountry trail improvements stretching from Loon Lake Reservoir to the Rubicon Reservoir.
- The addition of composting toilets at the boat-in/hike-in Pleasant Campground on Loon Lake Reservoir.
Sites closed for construction improvements in 2021:
- Yellow Jacket Campground and boat ramp (all year)
- West Point Campground (all year) and boat ramp (Closed after Labor Day)
- Wolf Creek Group Campground (all year)
- Wolf Creek Campground (Closed after Labor Day)
- Camino Cove Campground (all year)
- Sunset boat ramp (Closed after Labor Day)
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 recreation facility projects were agreed to in SMUD’s new 50-year hydroelectric operating license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2014. The license is 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 be completed during 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.
Suggested caption: Significant upgrades by SMUD to camping facilities at Gerle Creek Reservoir (above) will improve the recreation experience there and at other Crystal Basin Recreation Area around SMUD reservoirs in the Eldorado National Forest. The work includes projects that were agreed to in SMUD’s 50-year hydroelectric operating license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2014, which includes $150 million in upgrades and enhancements to existing recreation facilities in the Sierra.
Part of the Northshore Campground Project completed in 2019.
Gerle Creek Reservoir improvements completed in 2018.