Relaxation: Lake Sonoma


Lake Sonoma

LakeSonoma is a wonderful place to spend a sunny afternoon relaxing by the water. With that goal in mind, I recently took the family canoe out on Lake Sonoma. The lake itself had plenty of charm; its waters were warm, and the waves were gentle for the most part. However, the effort to transport the heavy aluminum canoe from its pond to the lake was less than relaxing.

We took the scenic Hot Springs Road out of Cloverdale, up and over the hill, and down to the Yorty Creek arm at the north end of Lake Sonoma. There was a nice swimming area, a convenient boat ramp (with a reasonable portage fee), public restrooms, and ample free parking.

subject21_LkSon02 subject21_LkSon01

subject21_LkSon25 subject21_LkSon04

subject21_LkSon24 subject21_LkSon05

Here are some tips to help make your trip to the lake a bit more relaxing:

  • Measure the length of your boat to know if your boat sticks out past the edge of your roof. If it does, tie down the prow AND the stern to the chassis of your car tightly.  (If you don’t, the canoe will wobble forwards and backwards as you drive over every little bump in the road.) Also be sure to bring a red flag to tie to the end that protrudes beyond the rear of the vehicle.
  • If you’re planning a visit to Lake Sonoma, make sure you have enough gas in your car to make the roughly six mile round trip from the town of Cloverdale to the lake BEFORE leaving the town of Cloverdale. (Not just as you crest the top of the rather beautiful hill overlooking the lovely, scenic lake…because you were paying more attention to the canoe on the roof of your car than you were on how much gas you had in your tank.)
  • Consider renting a canoe elsewhere on the lake or investing in a lighter polyethylene canoe or kayak.
  • Steer clear of the buoys, which mark the deepest part of the lake reserved for speedboats; they create heavy wakes which could rock—and potentially tip—the boat. I do not recommend taking a canoe out past the “no wake” zones unless you are an experienced canoe-er, and always be sure to wear your life vest.
  • Have two or more good paddles. (Roughly two dozen strokes into our trip, my old wooden paddle promptly snapped in half. Fortunately, we had a spare so we were not “left up the creek without a paddle.”)
  • Have enough rope and patience.
  • Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat (even if you think you won’t need them), nuts or another snack in a water-tight container, and shoes you don’t mind getting wet. If you are one of those people who insist on keeping their cell phones on their person at all times, take the precaution of putting it in a plastic zipper bag. An inner tube is a nice addition if you’d like to swim, as the lake is very deep. (I’d suggest swimming at the designated beach.)
  • Go at your own pace.

An example of tying your boat securely


Be wary of speedboats if you’re in a small canoe or kayak

Once on the water, we began to paddle around the lake. Now, a smarter individual might have simply relaxed back, and let the wind and water gently move them about the lake. I, however, rowed hard, trying to see as much of the lake as I could. Ooof. There is a lot to be said for just taking it easy.

subject21_LkSon07 subject21_LkSon20

subject21_LkSon06 subject21_LkSon09

While we were on the lake, we appreciated the beautiful golden hills, the warm sun, and the many interesting birds on and around the lake. We saw ducks, egrets, a blue heron, turkey vultures, a hawk or two, and even a woodpecker.

subject21_LkSon21 subject21_LkSon17

subject21_LkSon10 subject21_LkSon18

subject21_LkSon19 subject21_LkSon22

The lake was beautiful. The sound of the water lapping against the boat, the breeze, the beautiful patterns of the clouds across the brilliant blue sky, all this made for a lovely day. But the best was yet to come.

subject21_LkSon15 subject21_LkSon08


My reward for all the hard work was a chocolate malt at the Pick’s Drive-In, back in the town of Cloverdale. It was delicious! This little piece of Americana offers up great food and great atmosphere.

subject21_LkSon28 subject21_LkSon27

subject21_LkSon26 subject21_LkSon29

So if you want to spend a relaxing day on the water, I recommend taking Lake Sonoma at a leisurely pace, and enjoying the beautiful natural environment.

by Peter Rogers, photos by Nadja Masura