Lake Natoma was ranked #3 for the best rowing spots according to Rowing News

The calm waters of Lake Natoma are an ideal place for paddling, according to Rowing News.

The magazine’s list of the top ten rowing spots in North America ranked Lake Natoma third in the United States, behind Montlake Cut in Washington and Florida’s Nathan Benderson Park.

“It’s a nice surprise,” said Cindi Dulgar, associate director of the Sacramento State Aquatic Center. “We are great because of the people who support us.

“We get to enjoy the lake every day, and this brings recognition back to the University.”

The Aquatic Center regularly hosts West Coast regattas. They include: Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships, Southwest US Junior Championships, Pac-12 Rowing Championships, Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships, Women’s NCAA Rowing Championships, and in 2022, the USA Canoe/Kayak Team Trials

“This is such a beautiful place.” — Brian Dulgar, Director of the Aquatic Center

Located behind the Nimbus Dam and fed by American River water released from the Folsom Dam, Lake Natoma is a state park that is home to fishing and boating, and is lined with trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. .

“It’s one of the calmer lakes,” said Brian Dulgar, director of the Aquatic Center and wife of Cindi Dulgar. “The water is super protected by the landscape. … You need much stronger winds than in other places so that you cannot row.”

When it comes to paddling venues, fairness is key.

“There are some places in the country that are susceptible to inclement weather, with winds picking up in the afternoon making some lanes more favorable than others,” Dulgar said.

Lake Natoma was little more than a repository for Folsom Lake releases in the early 1980s. The shorelines were too rocky for boats. The only facilities were leaky Quonset huts.

“This was all rock,” said Aquatics Center rowing manager DeDe Birch. “The state park was a small turning circle for parking and nothing else. There wasn’t even a picnic table.

“You had to climb rocks to get to the water.”

The grant money and a partnership between the California Department of Parks and Recreation and Sac State Associated Students Inc. resulted in improvements such as a sloping beach area, launch ramps, a spectator pavilion and a fishing pier.

A system comprised of 8 miles of cables can be installed 6 feet underwater to transform the lake into a premier paddling venue, and one of the few places in the country that can have seven 2,000-meter lanes side by side. of the other. Breeds.

“When we pitch the field, it’s a giant wire mesh,” Birch said. “When you see all the buoys lined up, north to south, it looks like the perfect chessboard.”

When the race is over, the lake reverts to a shared public space.

“We can hold a championship regatta and the next day the state park can return to its natural state,” said Cindi Dulgar. “We have picnics and baby showers and all kinds of people using the state park the next day, as scheduled as well.”

Lake Natoma is where both the Sac State Women’s Rowing Team and the Sac State Rowing Club practice. Birch runs a high school program that included more than 200 students from across the Sacramento region at its peak.

The lake is also home to Birch’s program for post-college athletes ages 23-78.

Upcoming events at Lake Natoma include:

  • March 12, April 16 and 22: Capital Crew League Races
  • April 13-15: US Olympic Canoe Team Trials
  • April 28-30: WIRA Rowing Championships
  • May 4-7: Southwest Junior Rowing Championships
  • May 13: West Coast Conference and Western Sprint Rowing Championships
  • May 20: Gold Rush Masters Regatta
  • October 27-28: Chief of the American Rowing Regatta

Except for a week-long winter break and during high water flows, such as those caused by recent storms, the Aquatic Center operates year-round, renting kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards, and offering classes and camps. for young.

Each year, the Aquatic Center serves about 50,000 people, Brian Dulgar said.

“This is such a beautiful place,” he said. “There is something about being in the water. You can have a miserable day, and you come here and it clears your head.”

An aerial view of a rowing regatta at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center on Lake Natoma.
The Sac State Aquatic Center at Lake Natoma regularly hosts West Coast regattas, like this 2019 event, and practice sessions for both the Sac State Women’s Rowing Team and the Sac State Rowing Club, as well as successful high school programs. and post-college. (Courtesy Cindi Dulgar)

About Jennifer K. Morita

Jennifer K. Morita joined Sacramento State in 2022. A former newspaper reporter for the Sacramento Bee, she spent several years juggling freelance writing with being a mother. When she’s not driving her two daughters, she enjoys reading mysteries, experimenting with recipes, and Zumba.