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City of Chowchilla
Copyright 2005-2013  All Rights Reserved


Berenda Reservoir is an equalization reservoir that provides water for local farmers. It is part of the Chowchilla Water District distribution network that receives water from two sources - the Madera Canal from Friant Dam and Buchanan Dam - through contracts with various agencies, most prominently being the United States Bureau of Reclamation. The network consists of 150 miles of unlined canals and 49 miles of pipeline. There are over 950 turnouts where irrigation water is delivered to waterusers. Water is released seasonally into the network from mountain reservoirs at a schedule determined by the Federal and State agencies.

The Berenda Reservoir is located approximately four miles east of Chowchilla on Avenue 26. It situated on six land acres owned by the Chowchilla Water District. The grounds and reservoir are open to public use only during the water delivery season and offer opportunities for summer recreational fun. The site includes a Rotary Club BBQ shelter, Scout Island, a boat launch, beach swimming areas, and restrooms.


Open days and times for the Berenda Reservoir is determined by the availability of water and the cooperation of volunteers and are subject to seasonal change.

The City of Chowchilla has an agreement with the Chowchilla Water District to open for public use and maintain the reservoir grounds during the summer season when the reservoir has water. Access to the facility is prohibited when the reservoir is not filled.

The City of Chowchilla has a sub-agreement with the Chowchilla Lions Club that volunteers to open, maintain and oversee the use of the Berenda Reservoir. The Club has full responsibility to open and close the reservoir grounds per their defined schedule and at their discretion.


There are no fees to enter the Berenda Reservoir when it is open. If special events are held on the property there may be a fee associated with that particular activity.


All boat operators, including operators of personal watercraft (PWC), are obligated to follow all California laws and regulations. Both boat and PWC operators need to know, understand and follow the current statutory regulations.

The California Harbors and Navigation Code, will be observed at all times on Berenda Reservoir. Restrictions may be imposed by local authorities. It is the responsibility of boat and PWC operators to check with authorities to become familiar with the regulations and ordinances.

Per agreements with Madera County and the Chowchilla Water District, the Chowchilla Police Department has enforcement jurisdiction for Berenda Reservoir.
All accidents are to be reported to the Chowchilla Police Department at (559) 665-8600, or 911 in case of an EMERGENCY.

Special events may be regulated by separate established policies.

Useful brochures for watercraft users

Water Use Regulations

The following list of rules and regulations are not all-inclusive but do highlight those of utmost importance.

  • All state boating regulations in the California Harbors and Navigation Code are in effect.

  • All vessels, boats and personal watercrafts (PWC) used in California must be registered and numbered according to California law; valid registrations of another state are recognized provided the vessel will not be used in California for longer than 90 days.

  • Personal watercraft is defined as a vessel less than 12 feet in length, propelled by machinery designed for person to stand, sit or kneel;

  • California law requires that all vessels must be equipped with a Type I, II, III or V U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on board.

  • California law requires any person aboard a personal watercraft, or being towed behind a vessel must wear a Type I, II, III or V U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket;

  • California law requires a vessel to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher on board and readily accessible.

  • No person shall operate any craft under the influence of intoxicants or narcotics.

  • Persons under 16 years of age are prohibited from operating any motorboat or personal watercaraft of more than 15 horsepower.

  • A person 12-15 years of age may operate a motorboat of more than 15 horsepower if supervised by a person on board who is at least 18 years of age.

  • Maximum speed for all watercrafts (boats, jet skis, etc.) is 35 miles per hour;

  • All boat traffic and boats towing skiers and personal watercraft will operate in a counter clockwise traffic pattern.

  • Jumping or attempting to jump the wake of another vessel within 100 feet of that vessel is prohibited.

  • Spraying down another person or vessel is prohibited.

  • Operating at a rate of speed and proximity to another vessel so that either operator is required to swerve to avoid a collision is prohibited.

  • All powerboats and personal watercraft must be off the lake waters by 1/2-hour before sunset.

  • No watercraft are allowed between the shoreline and the Keep Out buoys.

  • No person will operate a watercraft in designated swimming area;

  • Swimming is not permitted in No Boating and No Wake areas.

  • Speed is limited by law for certain conditions and areas. The maximum speed for motorboats within 100 feet of a bather (but not a water skier) and within 200 feet of a bathing beach, swimming float or lifeline, passenger landing being used, or landing where boats are tied up is 5 miles per hour.

  • The Berenda Reservoir waterway is limited to 15 launched vessels at any one time (first-come, first-serve basis); the number of vessels or speed enforcement by the Chowchilla Police Department may be changed to a safer limit for users on the reservoir, as deemed necessary.


The California Penal Code, City, and County of the California Code of Regulations. City Resolution #36-99 establishes certain rules, regulations and fees for the Berenda Reservoir (Chowchilla Municipal Code Chapters 6, 12, 12.24, 12.28).

  • The reservoir grounds and water opens no earlier than 8:00am and closes no later than dusk, approximately 1/2-hour before sunset.

  • Swimming is permitted in designated areas ONLY.

  • Firearms are prohibited inside of the reservoir grounds.

  • Speed limit for vehicles on a roadway inside the park gate is 15 mph.

  • Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

  • The possession of glass containers is prohibited.

  • No animals are allowed in park during a special event; the City leash law pertains to all other open hours of operation.

  • Open fires are prohibited.

  • Overnight camping is prohibited except for approved special events.

  • All vehicle code and state laws apply.