Clear Lake Reservoir, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - Shasta Cascade -

Located in Modoc County, California near the Oregon border, Clear Lake Reservoir stands statuesque among the surrounding hills and plains. The original earthfill dam was built across the Lost River in 1910 and replaced with a new concrete dam in 2002. Though the reservoir was first created to reduce water flow into the Tule Lake wetlands and store irrigation water for agricultural land, the area has since become home to one of the most important wildlife refuges in the state. Because of its large surface area (25,760 acres maximum) and relatively shallow depths, the reservoir has a high rate of evaporation during warm weather. Clear Lake Reservoir should not be confused with Clear Lake, a natural lake located in Lake County, California.

Modoc National Forest commands 1,654,392 acres of northeastern California real estate, housing within its boundaries the Warner Mountains, from the Cascade Range, and a forest bed that was covered by lava millions of years ago. In the lower elevations, visitors to the forest will find bitterbrush and curl-leaf mahogany, which slowly give way to a sprinkling of aspen, incense cedar, ponderosa pine, red fir, and white fir in higher elevations. At the forest’s highest elevations, you’ll find lodgepole and western white pines, as well as some startlingly beautiful vistas from your vantage point on top of the forest’s summit.

Wind your way along nature trails that were once traveled by covered wagons and their brave passengers, their wheel ruts still carved into the canyon rock. Take a hike along a section of the famous Oregon Trail, experiencing the forest in almost the same state as those settlers many years ago. Walk the paths of the Native Americans and settlers who trapped, hunted, and fished for their living. Catch a glimpse of early 20th century life in Tom Smith’s Cabin, now listed on the National Register of historic places. As you hike through the Modoc National Forest, you’ll not only have a front row seat to the area’s diverse wildlife, but you’ll take a trip back in time.

The 46,460-acre Clear Lake National Wildlife Refuge nuzzles the banks of the reservoir, covered in bunchgrass, low sagebrush, and juniper. The lake’s small, rocky islands are flecked with nests for colonial nesting birds, including the double-crested cormorant and American white pelican. In fact, the refuge is one of the only two remaining nesting grounds in California for white pelicans, producing over 1,400 baby pelicans every year.

Clear Lake Wildlife Refuge is devoted to maintaining and protecting a natural habitat for sensitive, threatened, and endangered species, a goal they continue to meet each year. Pronghorn antelope, sage grouse, bald eagles, herons, mule dear, and many other animals make this safe area their home. Because of their special needs and fragile habitat, the refuge is closed to public access between spring and fall, in order to protect their safety. Clear Lake Reservoir is part of the Clear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, so recreational activities are limited to wildlife viewing and waterfowl and antelope hunting during the California State seasons.

Clear Lake Reservoir is truly a place of natural beauty and tranquility, naming indigenous flora and fauna as its number one priority. A better location for exploring nature and enjoying the diverse plants and wildlife likely doesn’t exist. Come experience all Clear Lake Reservoir has to offer.

Things to do at Clear Lake Reservoir

  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • National Forest

Clear Lake Reservoir Photo Gallery

    Clear Lake Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

    Water Level Control: US Bureau of Reclamation

    Surface Area: 25,760 acres

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 4,536 feet

    Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 4,516 feet

    Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 4,552 feet

    Average Depth: 20 feet

    Water Volume: 527,000 acre-feet

    Completion Year: 1910

    Drainage Area: 735 sq. miles

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    Trophic State | LakeLubbers

    Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

    An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

    A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

    A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

    The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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    Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

    Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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    Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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    Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

    Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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    Completion Year | LakeLubbers

    This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

    The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

    You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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    Water Volume | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

    You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

    Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

    1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

    The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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    Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

    You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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    Average Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

    Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

    Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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    Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

    At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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    Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

    Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

    When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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    Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

    You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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    Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

    This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

    A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

    When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

    You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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    Surface Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

    The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

    You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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    Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

    This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

    Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

    "Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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    Lake Type | LakeLubbers

    There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

    - A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

    - A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

    - A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

    "Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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