Round Valley reservoir is a crystal clear, 160 ft. deep impoundment that makes a wonderful place to paddle. It's 3 miles across and about 2 1/2 miles wide and the centerpiece of Round Valley State Park. Motor boats are allowed, but there is a 10 horsepower maximum, so paddlers needn't worry about dodging water skiers and jet skis.
Though it's flatwater I rated the difficulty moderate because of the waves that can build on a windy day.
My wife and I decided to take advantage of this gem of a place and spend Memorial Day weekend camping, hiking, paddling and fishing.
We put in around 4:30 on Saturday under darkening skies and the sound of distant thunder. We decided rather than making a bee-line across the water to our campsite, we'd head for the far shore so we had a short paddle to safety in the event a thunderstorm forced us off the water. We were paddling into a pretty brisk breeze and would take a little water when we hit a wave the wrong way, but we reached our destination in about an hour and a half.
After setting up our camp and finishing dinner, we spent the rest of the evening watching a number of thunderstorms pass by in the distance. After my wife retired for the night I broke out my fishing rod and using a popper I proceeded to catch 6 small rock bass in about a half hour.
A dense fog greeted us Sunday morning. I took the canoe out for a paddle and brought along my fishing rod. I could actually see numerous good sized bass hugging the bottom in about 25 feet of water, but I didn't have any lures that would reach down that far, having brought mostly surface lures along. The fog was thick enough that I lost sight of the shore and became disoriented, but I had the foresight to take the GPS with me and found my way back to camp easily.
After a fruitless hour and a half with rod and reel I made it back to camp to greet my wife who was just waking up. We lounged around the camp all morning, catching up on our reading. After lunch we decided to combine a hike and geocache hunt.
A 9 mile hiking trail circles most of the reservoir, but doesn't completely circumnavigate it. The trail dead ends at a restricted area, so hikers have to return the way they came. We selected a geocache that was over a mile away and headed off find it. Along the way the sole of my 15 year old hiking boot came off, so we had to cut our planned 5 mile hike short and return to camp once we found the geocache. Still it was a nice walk through a pretty area.
It was now late afternoon and the thunderheads were building and we began to experience a repeat of the previous evening with the T-storms were passing to the north and south of us. Odds were that we couldn't dodge them forever though, and sure enough we soon noticed the tell-tale cloud heading directly toward us. I pulled the canoe farther up the beach and flipped it over, which turned out to be a smart move. The wind was picking up we started securing whatever might blow away and putting anything that shouldn't get wet into dry bags.
The storm hit and what a storm it was. The wind gusts were easily topping 50 MPH and the reservoir that was placid moments earlier, was showing whitecaps on top of 2 - 3ft. high waves. The beach where my canoe had been was under water and the waves were pounding the shore. Lightning was striking all around. It gave me an inkling of what it might have been like sitting in a trench and getting shelled on a WW2 battlefield. The realization that my tent poles were aluminum didn't help my anxiety any, though my wife just sat there unconcerned, quietly eating her dinner.
After the main storm passed there was a light drizzle left in its wake, but we had pitched a tarp and sat under it watching the sun set in a glorious, bright red sky.
Monday dawned crisp and clear. I took the canoe out for a short paddle and did some half-hearted casting, then returned to camp for a breakfast of grilled Spam and polenta with melted cheddar - an odd, but strangely satisfying combination.
We then packed up the camp, loaded the canoe and made a leisurely paddle back to he launch, hugging the shore line most of the way. At one point we spied a huge trout (brown I believe) prowling the shallows. The water is so clear we could see it from quite a distance. I tried casting several different plugs and spinners its way, but it ignored them all. I rigged my fly rod, but by the time I could get it ready the fish was out of sight.
After a quick stop to bag another geocache along the shore we continued our paddle, arriving at the boat launch just before 4 p.m.
Two boat launches are available, one for day users and one for campers.
Round Valley has primitive primitive campsites that can only be reached by boat or foot. The sites have a fire ring and there is running water conveniently located every few sites. Outhouses are sprinkled about every quarter mile along the length of the campground.
Mad River Explorer, Mitchell bent shaft paddles
Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day Weekend it's $5 per car weekdays, $10 on weekends, $2 per person for walk-ins and bike-ins.
Free the rest of the year. $17 a night per site for camping.
I-287 to I-78 West. Take I-78 west to exit 20A to Route 22 west, follow signs to the park.