The lower Stanislaus River has an extensive Park System that is well maintained and open to public use. Knights Ferry Recreation Area, the put in for rafting trips, is a sprawling park that includes multiple picnic table and BBQ sites, river access, extensive hiking trails, and access to the oldest covered bridge west of the Mississippi River! Knights Ferry Rec. Area also is home to the Army Corps of Engineers local museum that includes local history displays as well as that of local flora and fauna. A great place to spend an afternoon checking out relics from the gold rush or to just relax along the river!
Next in the park system is Horseshoe Park, another large park about 4 miles downstream of Knights Ferry. Access to this park is off of Orange Blossom Road. The park includes riverside picnic tables, options for overnight camping, and river boating access. Horseshoe Park is a popular place for recreational boaters and kayakers to have lunch, and during weekends because a busy spot for those looking to cool off, fish, or BBQ. Permits are needed for overnight camping and can be found through the Army Corps of Engineers at 209-881-3517.
Orange Blossom Park is a large grassy park that is free for the public to use and located just 5 minutes east of Oakdale, CA. The park is a common recreational boat use area, and is the location where many commercial rafting trips end. The park includes large group sites for picnicking and BBQing that can be reserved in advance. While this park is among the most beautiful on the Stanislaus River, parking is limited, so make sure you show up early on busy days in order to nab a spot!
Between Orange Blossom and Oakdale Recreation Area is a small river-access only campground called Valley Oak. This secluded site harbors multiple group sites and is perfect for groups looking for a more secluded camping experience right along the river. Restroom and BBQ access points are located within the park.
The next park in the Stanislaus River Park System is Oakdale Recreation Area. This park stretches along nearly a mile of the Stanislaus River, and is unique in that it also houses a number of small stocked ponds. Because of this most of the frequenters of the park are fishermen, as picnicking areas are few and far between. Another great place for river access, Oakdale Recreation area is a great place to end or begin a recreational trip on the Stanislaus River.
The town of Riverbank surrounds Jacob Meyers Park, another large grassy piece of property along the north bank of the river. Revamped in the last decade, the park houses a boat ramp and a large playground for kids. Picnic tables, BBQ pits, and drinking water fountains are all available to the public. The rustic zone of the park covers over 40 acres and includes a mile-long walking/biking loop as well as a group campground.
At the end of the beautiful Stanislaus River Park system is McHenry Recreation Area on the northern end of Modesto. This rec. area contains multiple trails along the river, as well as some secluded camping sites that can be reserved. Picnic areas are dispersed throughout the park as well. In the busy summer months this park gets impacted as well, so early arrival times are recommended.