If you're down in California, near the Sacramento Valley and want to park your RV in a different landscape to mountains and pine forest, go to Black Butte Lake. The four and a half thousand acre reservoir was created after the damming of Stony Creek by the US Army Corps of Engineers back in the early 1960s. Surrounded by low-lying basalt buttes and with a shoreline sparsely forested by blue oaks, the scenery is stark but eye-pleasing and has uninterrupted views to the distant horizon in many places.
The expansive open waters of Black Butte Lake are ideal for boating or kayaking and for practising water sports like wake boarding, wind surfing and kite-boarding. The lake is well populated with aquatic life too and many visitors take a pitch at one of the two campgrounds at Black Butte Lake to enjoy a spot of fishing. There are great hiking routes in the nearby Mendocino National Forest and around the lake shores. The trail head for the Paul Thomas Trail is accessible from the Orland Buttes campground. There are also two equestrian trails close by if you prefer trail blazing on four legs rather than two. While there are two sites at Black Butte Lake, if you're planning a wintertime visit only the Buckhorn Campground is open twelve months of the year. Orland Buttes closes from October through to the end of March.
Black Butte Lake occupies part of two Californian counties, Tehama and Glenn. You can expect to be motoring your RV through some wide-open countryside with distant views of gently undulating hills. It's a landscape created by volcanic action and while you're in the region, you may want to take a short detour to visit the Lassen Volcanic National Park. The one thousand plus acres of parkland are a steaming mass of fumaroles, hot springs and mud pots.
The closest town to Black Butte Lake is Orland. If you're driving down from the north or up from the south, you'll need to take the Highway Exit 32 off of Interstate Highway 5. From there follow the signposts and you'll find it's just a short eight mile drive along County Road 200 then Newville Road to reach the lake.
Once you're inside the boundaries of the Black Butte Recreation Area there are signs to guide you to both of the campgrounds and along the shore to where the pitch for your RV will be. It's all easy driving along well-maintained county roads where there are no particular hazards to look out for.
The Orland Buttes Campground lies on the eastern shore of Black Butte Lake. You can reach it by driving along Newville Road, until you see the fork off onto County Road 206. The 206 will take you right into the recreational area. The Orland Buttes is a campground with thirty-one, well-spaced out RV pitches. They are all paved, many are lake facing, but none have water or electricity hook-ups. There are communal showers and restrooms for visitor use as well as a boat ramp and a disc golf course across the road. The Orland Buttes Campground operates from April to September only and reservations are needed to secure a spot.
The Buckhorn Recreation Area and Campground is situated along the north-western shore of Black Butte Lake. You can access the campground via the Buckhorn Road which forks off from Newville Road. It's a campground with over ninety sites, none of which have water or electricity hook-ups. But they do have great views of the lake. The RV pitches are paved and shaded by tall oaks.
There are public-use showers and restrooms on-site plus two children's playgrounds and an exercise area. The Buckhorn Campground is open twelve months of the year. Peak season at Buckhorn runs from the beginning of April through to the end of September and reservations are required during those months. Walk-ups are accepted from October right up to the end of March.
While you're staying at Black Butte Lake, you might want to challenge your travelling companions to a game of Disc Golf. It's great fun and it's free. Located next to the Orland Buttes campground and open all year, the disc golf course has eighteen holes spread out on several acres of tree-covered hilly ground. The course is over a mile long in total and will definitely test your pitching skills with its three to four hundred foot long drives. It'll test your patience too as there are lots of low hanging branches to contend with.
Black Butte Lake is a great place to spend time outdoors exploring the many trails in the area. If you're staying at the Buckhorn Campground, you'll won't have far to go to find some. The recreation area has a thirteen-mile-long network of tracks for running, walking and cycling. Over at the Orland Buttes Campground, you can join the moderately difficult, sixteen-mile-long Paul Thomas Trail. For a walk through woodlands with a mountain backdrop, head over to the Mendocino Forest National Park to join the Hellhole Trailhead or the Rattlesnake Firefighter Trailhead.
While neither of the campgrounds at Black Butte Lake has any specialised facilities for stabling horses overnight, it's still a popular place to go for equestrian trekking. Whether you've pulled up with your RV and horse trailer for a week long stay or just passing through for the day, you'll find the best trails for riding are to be found in the terrains around Grizzly Flat and Burris Creek recreation areas. There are no steep inclines or overly rough ground to contend with and the trails are shaded by oak trees.
Black Butte Lake is an open stretch of water which at its longest point measures almost seven miles long. That's a fact which makes it very popular with sailors of all different types of boats. It's also makes it the perfect place to hold the annual Chico Multihull Classic Regatta. If you're a sailing fan, you won't want to miss this three-day event in May which sees over fifty catamaran converge on the lake to compete in various races.
Black Butte Lake with over forty miles of fish-able shoreline is a tranquil spot to cast your hook and line into the water. One of the most caught species is largemouth bass closely followed by channel catfish, spotted bass and crappies. If you prefer to fish from a boat, there are ramps where you can launch a craft located close to the Buckhorn and Orland Buttes Campgrounds and another nearby the Eagle Pass Recreation Area.
One thing which needs to be prevalent if you're planning on going kite boarding on Black Butte lake is the wind. The best seasons for finding the gusts which will whizz you across the lake are spring and fall. While you won't be skimming waves, it can get choppy when there's a strong South wind blowing. The most accessible launch site for going kite boarding at Black Butte Lake is in Anglers Cove right next to the Buckhorn Campground.