On the First Day of Summer Vacation

I went swimming in a nuclear pond

On the first day of my summer vacation, I went swimming in a cooling pond for a nuclear power plant. Nothing has happened to me, no new growths or extra limbs. The pond was never used for its intended purpose and turned into a recreational area. One can swim in the cooling pond with impunity. I hope. I mean you say nuclear and think radiation mutations.

The Rancho Seco Recreational Park in Herald, California, is owned by Sacramento Municipal Utilities District or SMUD. They also own the Nuclear Power plant on the grounds, the Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station. They also own the massive solar farm and a natural gas-powered plant. The Nuclear plant ahs been decommissioned since 1989 and has had its fair share of accidents.

I have to admit, accidents at a nuclear power plant is a scary thought. We instantly think of radiation poisoning, meltdowns, unsafe food, water, and air. Perhaps because of the movie The China Syndrom with Jane Fonda and Kurt Douglas where reporters uncovered flaws and issues with a nuclear power plant. The movie started a wave of “No Nukes” mania and over 60 US nuclear plants were canceled in the late 1970s. Many of the accidents in real life at the Rancho Seco power plant were not dangerous. There was one though.

On March 20, 1978, a power supply failure for the plant’s non-nuclear instrumentation system led to a steam generator dry out. An automatic reactor shutdown occurred. Many years later, in 2005, The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, (USNRC) said it was the third most serious safety-related occurrence in the United States to date ( first and second was the Three Mile Island accident and the Browns Ferry cable tray fire) Yikes!

With the plant shut down and with the blessings of, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on October 23, 2009 in they took the emergency cooling pond turned lake and created a stunning 400-acre park for the public. It really was nice. The lake, named the Rancho Seco Lake, is small at 160 Acres and is fed by the Folsom South Canal. It is pretty pristine. There was a small area for swimming while the rest of the lake remained off-limits for wading and swimming. Folks were fishing and small boats were welcomed. Gas-powered engines and Minnow bait were prohibited. I don’t know about minnow bait, but no gas engines meant it remained nice and quiet.

The Park had group picnic areas and individual picnic areas in abundance. All under beautiful mature trees and sitting on the green grass. There was little to no trash as there were park employees constantly coming by and picking up trash, tree limbs, and asking folks to turn down the music. It was nice to sit there, in the shade, and enjoy looking at the lake. I did not actually swim, but my husband did and said the small swim area was mostly gravel in the water so you were not sinking in mud.

The park boasts camping areas both group and tent camping, as well as RV areas. As far as I could see all the areas had water and the RV areas had electrical hookups. Again, these areas were pristine and clean. It looked like the tent camping area was located near the water. There is no swimming or wading, but if you were a fisherman, though, you would be in heaven.

There was a store, but it was not opened that day. Peeking into the window it had the normal beach store items, sunscreen, hats, towels, snacks, and various other items. Kayaks, Row Boats, Stand Up Paddleboards, Electric powered fishing boats were available to rent and Windsurfers are also welcome on the lake. The lake is a natural habitat for Bass, Bluegill, Red Ear Sunfish, and Crappie. Rainbow trout are stocked in the lake January through March.

Overall, I would go back. It is so hard to find places where it is clean, there isn’t a bunch of garbage left from fishermen and day-trippers. I only went by the water a little bit, but I found no hooks, lines, and other debris in the water. I did find, some swans, A beautiful black and white dragonfly, some ducks, and a frog or two in the reeds. I highly recommend this park as a place to reserve a picnic pagoda and bring the family or daylong fun.