I first heard of Manzanita Lake in the book "Canoeing the California Highlands" by John Coale. It's only about a mile long and perhaps a couple hundred yards wide but this little known jewel is great for fishing and relaxing.
The first view of the lake from the parking lot is paradisiacal! And only 45 minutes from Fresno makes it a great one-day spot. Manzanita Lake is well hidden from the roadway leading to the lake and is completely edged with vegetation and trees. This makes the lake a fine place to canoe / kayak while fishing or watching birds.
In recent years a few pairs of Canadian Geese have been nesting and raising their young here. The geese and assorted ducks can often be hand fed according to the locals. Osprey, Red-tailed Hawks, Acorn Woodpeckers, and Red-winged blackbirds can also be seen here. The lake is regularly stocked with trout and has large mouth bass as well.
The stream that feeds the lake offers a fine upstream paddle that's not difficult and gives you a bit of exercise. The water ways meander around little islands of wild growth and trees. A few well placed sand bars give you an opportunity to park your vessel and watch birds or simply take in the sounds of the running water.
Pit toilets are available as are fixed-standing BBQs. There are plenty of picnic tables and the grounds are well cared for. Parking is no problem but if you're carrying a canoe/kayak you'll need to portage it across the picnic area to the "beach" where easy entry to the water is available.
No camping. No day use fees.
From Fresno take Highway 41 North about 25mi to Road 200 (North Fork Road) where you'll turn east. When you reach the North end of town (North Fork) you'll turn left on Road 222 and travel about 2 miles before reaching the entrance to the lake on the East side of the road.
Sierra National Forest
North Fork Chamber of Commerce
"Canoeing the California Highlands" by John Coale