Lake Modesto

Lake Modesto once resided just outside of downtown Modesto adjacent to what is currently known as the Tuolumne River Regional Park at Legion.  

The history of the Tuolumne River Regional Park began in 1932 with construction beginning on the first bridge crossing the Tuolumne River (Tuolumne River Bridge) and construction of Dennett Dam, formerly located under the current 9th Street Bridge. Construction of Dennett Dam was completed in 1933 and on Fourth of July 1933 Lake Modesto was dedicated, named after the former Modesto Mayor, Lincoln L. Dennett. The newly formed river lake extended from the City of Modesto to the town of Empire. 

More than 20,000 people attended the 1933, Fourth of July celebration event at Lake Modesto. The celebration kicked off with a spirited downtown parade, attended by California Governor James Rolph Jr. and featured kayak and canoe races, water polo, swimming, and diving competitions throughout the day. The celebrations concluded that evening with some (25) boats decorated with glowing-colored lanterns floating past Legion Park, up and down the new lakefront area. It has been viewed as Modesto’s most unusual and celebrated Independence Day observance.   

Unfortunately, in 1935 high river flows and flood conditions destroyed Dennett Dam. The structure was rebuilt in 1937. The replacement structure was significantly damaged again in the 1940s' and the structure was condemned by the State of California in 1947. The remnants of the Dennett Dam remained in place for decades until the City of Modesto was able to get approval from the State to remove the structure in its entirety in summer of 2018. 

(Cited: Colleen Stanley Bare, “Modesto Then and Now”, 1999)