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Lake Mendocino - Camping at Chekaka Campground

Updated on July 17, 2017

This campground is currently closed indefinitely. However, the nearby campground called Kyen Campground is still open to the public.

Camping East of Ukiah - Lake Mendocino Recreation Area

Lake Mendocino is located in Mendocino County, east of Ukiah, California. A large recreational lake, activities offered include: camping, swimming, fishing, and boating, and hiking. There are over 300 campsites located at Lake Mendocino, but not group sites, walk in (first come, first served) campsites, and boat-in only locations on the far side of the lake (opposite available parking and boat launching sites). This side of the recreation area - Chekaka Campground - offers a sparser experience than the other campgrounds through the Lake Mendocino Recreation Area. At Chekaka Campground, of the 300 sites, campers will find 17 simple campsites here. There were 20 campsites at one point but some appear to be under repair now and cordoned off from the public. Running water is available at this campground at spigots dispersed between campsites.

Two hours north of San Francisco, Lake Mendocino dam was formed in 1958. The fishing hoping to catch bass, stripers, blue gill, crappie, and catfish are attracted to this lake. While some fish from shore, better catches are had by boat and boat launch sites are available for motorized boats.

Day use options include group sites, barbecue and picnic areas (including group picnic sites), some with covered seating areas. One of these sites is just above Chekaka Campground, with a large playground, an lake overlook and a short hiking trail available, plus flush toilets and a spigot outside the bathroom.

Campers are mostly of the tent-pitching variety. However, RVers are also welcome at Chekaka. Tables and grills are available at sites and group camping can be arranged. Evening gates close at 10pm. The Chekaka Campsite is self-registration only so only cash or check are acceptable payments. Though this part of the recreation area lacks showers, the fee is only $20 per night. This can be a good choice for RVers but the dump station is on the other side of the lake, at Kyen Campground. The lake is walking distance from the campground.

Dogs on leash are allowed at Chekaka Campground.
Dogs on leash are allowed at Chekaka Campground. | Source

Homeless Sometimes Frequent These Sites

Visitors are warned that there is a group of homeless persons at these campgrounds, some of which can create domestic disturbance. After camping there annually, I've come to realize that there are problem people essentially residing at this recreation area. Though the Army Corp. has a limit of a 14 day maximum stay, these folks get around this rule by alternating who registers for the site (which name they register under). While they generally limit their camping to the cheaper locations of the Kyen Campground - away from the shoreside campgrounds - they do sometimes stay at the Chekaka Campground when their time runs out at Kyen. Since Chekaka Campground is a self-registration campground with an unmanned ranger station, the ranger comes through less often and this campground is less monitored, allowing these folks to set up camp unnoticed.

Water skiing, jet skiing, and boating are popular options at this lake.
Water skiing, jet skiing, and boating are popular options at this lake. | Source

Wildlife and Weather at Lake Mendocino

Wildlife includes squirrels, raccoon, deer and birds. Early risers will easily find deer nibbling along the roadsides.

Summer weather temperature are between 80's to 100's at the peak of the season. Winters will see averages of 40's to 50's, with unusual lows in the 30's.

Ample Wildlife Is at Chekaka Campground

While not as common as at the other campsites, Chekaka Campground sees its share of deer.
While not as common as at the other campsites, Chekaka Campground sees its share of deer. | Source
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Camping at Lake Mendocino

It's still worth it to camp at this lake. Though visitors will find better company (other travelers such as themselves) more common on the weekends at Chekaka Campground, when staying longer or wanting showers, the best campground on the lake - besides the boat-in campgrounds - is Bu-Shay. At Bu-Shay Campground, there are no homeless, there are flush toilets, hot showers, and beach access (behind the playground). However, if a budget-friendly spot near the lake fits the bill, then for $20 a night, Chekaka Campground will do. It's kept clean, there are pit toilets (with flush toilets walking distance - just outside of camp at the dam overlook - and one can freshen up with a swim at the lake. Camp Chekaka also has the best proximity to the shore fishing, should anyone choose to try their hand at catching dinner.

Lake Mendocino - The Local Perspective

Lake Mendocino

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