Folks from all over the Northern San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area and other points converged on Woodward Reservoir over Labor Day weekend for the last hurrah of summer.
They cooked chicken and steaks on the grill, slept in tents, recreational vehicles and travel trailers, and found countless ways to enjoy the water, from jet skis and power boats to sailboats, inner tubes and inflatable rafts. Woodward, a few miles north of Oakdale, features a 2,900-acre reservoir surrounded by 3,767 acres of land for campers and day-trippers.
“We got to go canoeing (and there is) good food,” said 10-year-old Andrew Liang, who was among four families and friends from Oakland, Fremont and Oakdale who spent the holiday at Woodward. “It’s fun to go fishing and jet-ski.”
Andrew’s dad, Leonard Liang, said Woodward was ideal because they found a spot to camp right by the water. But it satisfied the key metric: “If the kids like it, you go,” Liang said, while laughing.
The scene at Woodward played out throughout the region over the holiday weekend.
“We’ve been very busy. It’s been a very good weekend,” said Robin Grove at the Pinecrest Market at Pinecrest Lake Resort, about 30 miles east of Sonora along Highway 108. “The whole summer has been excellent.”
The Turlock Lake State Recreation Area and Modesto Reservoir reported good holiday crowds, though they and Woodward got off to slow starts. “It picked up Sunday; today is our busiest day,” said Sharon Wolf, who is co-area manager with her husband, Bob.
Law enforcement and fire agencies reported a relatively quiet weekend as of Sunday afternoon. The one exception was a DUI crash Saturday night on Interstate 5 near Newman that claimed the life of an 11-year-old boy.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department beefed up its coverage of Woodward and Modesto reservoirs to ensure a peaceful weekend. Still, deputies at Woodward arrested two people on suspicion of DUI and one man was airlifted after his head was split open during an altercation.
“Today has been very busy on the water,” Sgt. Dennis Cordova said Sunday. “We’ve been trying to keep everyone safe. We’ve had a lot of novice jet-skiers and boaters, so we’ve been educating them.”
Though Sept. 21 is the last day of summer, Labor Day is the unofficial end of the season. AAA expected nearly 4 million Californians to travel 50 miles or more from their homes over the holiday weekend, up 1.6 percent from last year. Most of those travelers – more than 3.1 million by AAA projections – would drive to their destination.
Those motorists included members of the Faith Family Christian Center in Stockton. They were at Woodward on Sunday for the church’s annual picnic. This is the seventh or eighth consecutive year that church members have come to Woodward. They say it’s a friendly, safe place, and they like the water.
Church members planned to spend the day swimming, using the two jets skis and boat they brought and playing volleyball and football.
“The focus is on fellowship,” Faith Family Christian Center member Mary Rogers said.