Recreation for all

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From waterside walks to ridgetop hikes, freshwater fishing to horseback rides, kayaking and boating to camping and stargazing, EBMUD lands and reservoirs provide abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation for millions of annual visitors.

It wasn’t always that way. When voters formed the East Bay Municipal Utility District nearly a century ago, tensions developed between EBMUD and those seeking recreational access to the District’s watersheds. There were concerns that offering EBMUD open space as parkland would conflict with our top priority of water quality protection.

An early compromise came in 1936 when EBMUD started selling surplus tracts to the newly formed East Bay Regional Park District for the development of local gems that now bear the names Wildcat, Tilden, Sibley and Briones, among others.

Yet, as the region’s population grew and urban development spread, outdoor enthusiasts lobbied to fish in EBMUD’s reservoirs and seek respite on our vast land holdings.

A significant shift in district policies came in the 1950s after public relations campaigns and legislative maneuvering resulted in regulated public access to EBMUD’s 57,100 watershed acres. Pardee Reservoir in the Sierra Nevada foothills lured anglers as soon as it welcomed recreational use in 1958. Lafayette and Chabot reservoirs drew huge opening day crowds in June 1966, as did Camanche and San Pablo reservoirs soon after.

A hiker enjoys a sunrise at Pardee Reservoir.

A hiker enjoys a sunrise at Pardee Reservoir.

Today, EBMUD balances open space maintenance for public enjoyment with water quality protection and environmental stewardship as a part of our multi-purpose mission. We offer 90 miles of East Bay trails to explore the beauty of our reservoirs, redwood groves and oak woodlands. Local recreation areas invite you to picnic, play, birdwatch and fish. In the Sierra foothills, Pardee and Camanche offer camping, boating and shooting sports, plus access to historical sites and the growing Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail.

So come out and see us. Many areas offer free admission, and participants in our Customer Assistance Program receive free trail permits to reduce financial barriers. Learn more at as we work to increase access for everyone.