A few years ago Sharon and I were skiing out of the Coyote Snow Park on the Eagle Trail to the Shaver Lake overlook. Much to our surprise, we not only arrived at a view of Shaver Lake, we saw a small lake above Shaver.
It is not on my Garmin Topo map set. We determined later that it was the Shaver Lake Forebay and it is accessible off highway 168. Although it is mentioned on Wikipedia, there is little information about it there. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balsam_Forebay.
Art Sallee recalls the story of a couple of folks that were lost one night and headed down toward the light from a bathroom near the lake from the overlook. They were post holing through deep snow when the Fresno County Search and Rescue (SAR) team found them. Lights can be further away than you might think they are.
Trail To Forebay
The trailhead begins at the Balsam Meadow Snow Park and it is roughly a mile to the forebay from there. Our loop hike was about 2.5 miles.
Partial route downloaded from Suunto Ambit
The purpose of the forebay is to store Shaver Lake water pumped into it during the night when there is a reduction in demand for electricity for release back into Shaver Lake via a tunnel during the day to make additional electricity. It is reported to be 95% efficient. Southern California Edison is responsible for a great deal of recreational opportunities because of the construction of several lakes for generating electricity and the access roads to them.
Additionally, it is a nice, little known lake for picnicking, swimming, fishing or bird watching. I don't have a current photograph of an Osprey but one has nested there for years on various spar trees above the dam. We did see an Osprey take a fish out of the forebay and fly away with it.
We recently took a mother’s day hike with the kids and grandkids to, around and back from the forebay. The earlier in the day you go, the higher the water and the more difficult it will be to walk around the lake. The elevation is about 6,500’. It is also a good first ski of the winter season with a relatively flat trail.