At the heart of Northern California’s rural, agricultural Lake County, Clear Lake has long attracted nature lovers, boating and watersports enthusiasts, campers, hikers, and birdwatchers. Beaches, parks, resorts, boat docks, grazing land, vineyards, gardens, and private homes line the lake’s peaceful shores.
Clear Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in California and one of the most ancient lakes on the North American continent — possibly the world — with lakes existing at the site of Clear Lake for approximately 2.5 million years. Pomo Indians, the region’s earliest inhabitants, called the lake “Lypoyomi,” which means “big water.” In the 1800s, the name was changed to reflect the region’s sweet fresh air and the lake’s influence on the Mediterranean-type climate. Lake County continues to boast the state’s cleanest air, as verified by the California Air Resources Board.
More than 100 miles of shoreline, an average depth of 28 feet, constant water renewal due to tectonic plate activity below the lake bottom, geothermal hot springs, and nutrient-rich waters all are credited with Clear Lake’s legacy of having more fish per acre than any other lake in the country.
Known as the “Bass Capital of the West,” Clear Lake is home to numerous fishing tournaments each year from a variety of bass clubs that include Bassmasters, 100% Bass, American Bass Association, WON Bass, FL:W Outdoors, and more. In spring 2007, the nation’s top pro anglers smashed tournament weight records on Clear Lake during the 2007 ESPN Bassmasters Elite Series Tournament. In fact, ESPN recently ranked Clear Lake as the #2 bass fishing destination in the world. Other major species include the Sacramento perch, channel and white catfish, brown bullheads, white and black crappies, bluegill, and carp. Catfish are abundant and weigh up to 25 pounds, with average catches weighing 15 pounds. Clear Lake bass are some of the largest in California. According to ESPN reports in 2002, “No other lake in the nation can match these weights. The best part of Clear Lake is that you don’t have to be veteran tournament fishermen to catch these double-digit bass. In fact, just as many trophy bass are caught by anglers in small aluminum boats…”
Fish on your own or opt for guided fishing tours and lessons. Sailboats, jet skis, canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, and power boats are available to rent. Nine free public boat launches are open year-round. Watch professional water skiers and wakeboarders who come from all over the world, including Australia, to practice and compete on Clear Lake.
Bird watching is accessible from numerous vantage points around the lake. Ducks, American white pelicans, blue herons, green herons, osprey, grebes, egrets, cormorants, valley quail, mourning doves, horned owls, Cooper’s hawks, and bald eagles are some of the lake’s natural treasures. Butterflies dance among the willows, cottonwoods, tule grass, and several rare and colorful species of wildflowers on the water’s edge.
For more information on Clear Lake, the article, "Forgotten Lake" by Juliane Poirier Locke was published in the California Academy of Sciences "Wild California" at www.research.calacademy.org in 2004.
Read more about Clear Lake, its history, ecology, and the ongoing efforts to preserve Clear Lake – A Natural Treasure.