Bass Lake, California, USA

Also known as:  Crane Valley Reservoir

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Bass Lake CA.

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Bass Lake CA visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - West - California - High Sierra -

Snuggled into the heart of the Sierra National Forest and located at the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park, Bass Lake enjoys an ideal California location. This 1165-acre lake has been designated an official Recreation Area by the U.S. Forest Service, with campgrounds and picnic areas on the south shore. The north shore is dotted with private homes and cabins. Bass Lake is a popular destination for water recreation and back-to-nature pursuits.

Until the 19th century, Bass Lake was a quiet stretch of wilderness home to the Mono Tribe and many species of flora and fauna. In 1851, the Mariposa Battalion passed through the area and, upon seeing what they believed to be Sandhill Cranes, named the area Crane Valley. Though the birds were later discovered to be Great Blue Herons, the name stuck. Just 50 years later, in 1901, the San Joaquin Electric Company built the area’s first earthen dam on Willow Creek, a tributary of the San Joaquin River. After years of disrepair and changing hands, the dam was rebuilt in 1910, creating the reservoir we know today. For years, the lake was called Crane Valley Reservoir until a lumber company polluted the lake, killing all the fish. After paying a fine, the company was also ordered to repopulate the reservoir’s fish population – their choice was bass, and this name also stuck.

Although known for its recreation, Bass Lake was created for flood control, hydroelectric power generation, and irrigation water for agriculture. The Pacific Gas and Electric Company controls the reservoir’s water levels. Levels peak during the summer months, with a maximum elevation of 3376 feet above sea level. Starting in September, water is released from the lake, generating electricity, reaching a low elevation of about 3350 feet above sea level in November. Springtime rains begin raising water levels in March and April. The water depths of Bass Lake are difficult to calculate because of fluctuating water levels. When full, average depths range from 20 feet near the west end of the lake, to about 60 feet in the main channel, and to more than 100 feet near the dam at the southeast end. Bass Lake is approximately 4 ½ miles long and ½ mile wide.

Bass Lake boasts beautiful views and a perfect location. Surrounded by Sierra National Forest, the reservoir is quiet and peaceful while still offering a plethora of popular recreational activities. As you drive to the lake, take a long-cut and jump onto the Sierra Vista National Scenic Byway. Over 100 miles of scenic vistas and winding road offer views of dense red fir forests, millennia-old rock formations, towering Giant Sequoias, alpine lakes, and so much more. A trip on the Scenic Byway is not only the perfect way to start your trip, but a fantastic introduction to the greater Bass Lake Area.

The lake itself is packed with things to do, from fishing to swimming to picnicking lakeside, so whatever your tastes, you’re sure to feel satisfied. You may want to begin with a hike; seeing the lake from a different angle may help you decide on an activity itinerary. If not, spending a couple hours out in fresh air and surrounded by beautiful nature will be enough of a prize in its own right. Work your way along the meandering Willow Creek Trail, drinking in views of the loud, cascading Angel Falls. Take a trip through history on the Way of the Mono Trail, complete with guided hiking trail explanations along the way. Take one of two Goat Mountain Trail forks to reach a mountain summit with views that will literally take your breath away. As you’ll soon find out, hiking the beautiful Bass Lake trail offers more than just an opportunity to get your heart rate up.

Nature lovers shouldn’t stop with hiking trails. Bass Lake is comfortably and perfectly placed between two famous nature areas: Yosemite National Park and the Sierra National Forest. With over 2 million acres between them, both the National Park and the National Forest offer incredible views, serene bodies of water, rolling mountains, and myriad opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast. Take a hike, learn about nature, mountain bike through scenery fit for a postcard, rock climb until your calluses can’t take anymore, and indulge in every winter recreation activity under the sun. Both Yosemite National Park and Sierra National Forest will reach far and beyond your every expectation.

Back at Bass Lake, indulge in some aquatic fun. Rent a power boat and explore the lake’s 1,165 acres, grab a canoe or kayak to lazily explore hidden nooks and crannies, or hop onto a pontoon boat for a leisurely ride around the lake. If you plan to be out for long, pack a picnic and pick your favorite spot to enjoy the blue skies and awesome views. If you’re lucky, you may even see one of the bald eagles that make their home at Bass Lake.

Fishing is one of the reservoir’s favorite pastimes, and anglers love to make memories here. Black crappie, bluegill, brown bullhead, brown trout, channel catfish, green sunfish, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, sockeye salmon, kokanee salmon, white catfish, and yellow perch all swim the Bass Lake depths, and as you patrol the waters, bait your hook with your desired catch in mind. A special treat here at the lake: speed limits are restricted to 5 mph before 8 a.m., so make the mornings your favorite fishing time.

Like a sparkling sapphire jewel, Bass Lake decorates the countryside and complements the emerald greens of Yosemite and the Sierra National Forest. Spending time here will feel like the most relaxing and peaceful thing you’ve ever done, but your days will be as packed as you want them to be. So prepare yourself for sun, fun, and a whole lot of the great outdoors.

Custom Bass Lake CA house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Bass Lake CA

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Rock Climbing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Bass Lake CA

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Bullhead
  • Brown Trout
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Sockeye Salmon
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • White Catfish
  • Yellow Perch

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Bass Lake CA

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Bass Lake CA photo gallery

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Bass Lake CA statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Surface Area: 1,165 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 3,376 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 3,270 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 3,377 feet

Maximum Depth: 100 feet

Water Volume: 45,410 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1910

Drainage Area: 50 sq. miles

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