Kennedy Meadows – Fly Fishing and a Ghost Town

Kennedy Lake

This month we decided to visit the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River because we heard a rumor that the trout were biting at Kennedy Meadows.

Kennedy Meadows Baker Campground – Location, Location, Location

We arrived at Kennedy Meadows at 7am on the Wednesday before the July 4th weekend thinking we would be able to find a nice spot by the river.  We were wrong.  There are seven campgrounds along the river and all of the river front sites had been taken.  We grabbed one of the remaining spots in the Baker Campground and started looking at our options.  We NEED to be next to the river!  With some sweet talking, Gi wrangled us into site 24 which one of the best river front sites in the Baker campground.  Perfect.

  • Kennedy Meadows Baker Campground site 24
    Baker Campground - Site 24

Within 20 minutes she was fly fishing and 40 minutes later Gi caught her first rainbow trout.  In the afternoon we hiked up to Kennedy Meadows to check out more fishing spots.

  • Walking through Kennedy Meadows

After a couple of hours we headed back to camp and stopped into the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Kennedy Meadows

Chatted with the wrangler about motorcycles and fishing spots

We decided to check out the saloon which was deserted.  We talked with Frank, the bartender, who used to be a wrangler at Kennedy Meadows and he mentioned that we can hire horses at the pack station to travel into the back country for some excellent fishing.

Kennedy Meadows Saloon

Frank manning the quiet bar two days before the July 4th weekend

After a drink we reserved our horses and headed back to our campsite.  The weather turned nasty with massive rain, thunder, and really strong winds.  I sat under our popup tent and enjoyed the storm while Gi fished in the rain.

Kennedy Meadows

Gi fly fishing in the rain

Horse Ride from Kennedy Meadows to Kennedy Lake – A Most Beautiful Day

Thursday we woke up early and arrived at the pack station at 6:30am.   We ordered a pack lunch from the kitchen then headed to the stables where we met our trail guide Hank.  He quickly outfitted us and got us up on our horses ready to ride.  Gi was on a nice horse named Miller and I was on Geronimo.

  • Kennedy Meadows Stable
    We meet Hank

The ride up to Kennedy Lake was spectacular (which is a major understatement).  The trail is very steep in places with switchbacks and in one place there was a 100+ foot drop-off so I didn’t take many pictures of this part of the trip.  We crossed over a couple of bridges and saw some beautiful country.

  • Crossing the Stanislaus River
    Crossing the Stanislaus River

Once we made it through the steep part of the trail, we traveled for miles through a pine forest and then out into the gigantic meadow at Kennedy Lake.  After three hours of riding, we got off our horses and unpacked.

  • Kennedy Lake on Horseback
    Riding through the forest

It was a short 10 minute walk from the horses to Kennedy Creek which flows out of Kennedy Lake.

Short walk to Kennedy Lake

Short walk to Kennedy Lake

As Gi describes it, the next three hours were some of the best fly fishing she has experienced.  The lake was so beautiful and we had the entire place to ourselves.

  • Kennedy Lake
    Kennedy Lake - No one there except us

We ate our pack lunch by the lake and enjoyed everything about this place.

  • Kennedy Lake
    Brian, the pack mule

After lunch, Gi fished for a couple more hours and I took a nap in the warm afternoon sun.

Kennedy Lake

Nap time

We left Kennedy Lake at 1:30 and enjoyed a most beautiful ride back to camp.

Kennedy Meadows
Sonora Pass, Bridgeport, and the Ghost Town of Bodie

Early Friday morning I dropped Gi off at the pack station so she could hike up the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River in search of trout.  I planed to ride my motorcycle to the ghost town of Bodie which is in the high desert near the Nevada border.

The drive over the Sonora Pass was breathtaking.  It’s the second highest highway pass in the Sierra Nevada mountains at 9624 ft.

  • This sign was only 8 miles from our campsite

I arrived in Bridgeport just in time for lunch and a drink at the Bridgeport Inn.  After lunch I walked the three blocks of downtown.

  • Bridgeport
    Mono County Courthouse

Leaving Bridgeport heading south on CA 395, I drove six miles to the turnout for Bodie.  The first 10 miles of the road are paved but the last three are not, which is okay with me because I have my Yamaha XT250 enduro.  I made it to Bodie around 1pm.  Bodie was founded in 1859 and it’s first big gold strike was in 1876. In 1879 the population grew to about 6,000 people.  In 1913 the mine closed and by 1920 Bodie’s population declined to 120 people.  In 1932 a fire burned down most of the 2000 buildings and now only 170 building are left standing.   I spent three hours wondering around the deserted houses, buildings and all of the debris.  It was a wonderful experience to see all of the old abandoned buildings; like a snapshot in time.

  • Bodie Ghost Town
    Bodie Ghost Town

Winding down

Saturday Gi got up early to go fishing and I decided to stay in bed pretending that I was retired.  We went on a hike later and Gi fished the remainder of the day.  At around 8pm, we made a quick decision to head home so we could spend some time with Christopher before he left for his one month trip to Taiwan.

This was a most wonderful trip because Gi was able to catch a bunch of trout.  I enjoyed seeing her have so much fun catching all of those fish.

What We Learned

  • The people at the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station are wonderful  (shout out to Hank).  The store is well stocked with food, beer, and camping supplies and the prices are reasonable.
  • Expect thunderstorms every summer night when it’s hot down in Sonora (which is was).
  • Fishing at the Baker campground was not very productive.  Fishing between the Baker and Deadman campgrounds and even farther up past Kennedy Meadows.
  • Kennedy Meadows is a popular place and there are plenty of camping options.  Here’s my quick review of the six riverfront campgrounds near Kennedy Meadows.
    • Deadman campground (#23) is the closest to the Pack Station and has great river access. 14 sites
    • Baker Campground (#22) is a mile from the pack station and can accommodate larger RVs up to 33 feet for a river front site.  These sites are the best 23, 21, 24, 19 of the 44 sites.
    • Eureka Valley (#21) is basically a dirt lot with few trees.  Not much privacy. 28 sites.
    • Dardanelle (#19) is paved and the sites are close. Many have a nice layout for an RV.  It’s close to the Dardanelle Resort.  28 sites
    • Brightman Flat ( #18) is unpaved and looks to be a bit disorganized.  Some good RV sites but most sites are not level.
    • Boulder Flat (#17) the sites are close and the campground looks a bit rundown.
  • And finally, the horse trip to Kennedy Lake was SPECTACULAR.

Dates visited

  • July 1-5, 2015

Thanks for reading.  Please let a comment!
Brian and Gi

2 Comments

  1. Neighbor J

    Wow… That was some description about your trip, almost felt like i was there with you guys. I have not been up that far in about twenty four years but after seeing the pictures and reading about your experience, I plan on getting there sooner than later!

    Reply
  2. Mom

    We are enjoying every post to ‘The Holle Days’. It’s like a mini vacation for us here in SC through your eyes.

    Reply

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