Crowley Lake, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - High Sierra -

Also known as:  Long Valley Reservoir, Lake Crowley

Crowley Lake is known for excellent trout fishing in California’s High Sierras region. Before construction of the Long Valley Dam in 1941, few trout existed in the Owens River. After the new reservoir filled with water, trout planted by California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife grew into an excellent trout fishery.

Crowley Lake, owned and built by Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, feeds the main Los Angeles Aqueduct, providing drinking water to the residents of four regions in southern California. The newly-filled lake reaches a depth of 114 feet and covers approximately 5,300 acres in Mono County. As is fitting for a major new lake in the arid Eastern Sierras, the lake is managed for both fishing and other recreational uses. Its convenient location off of US 395 south of Mono Lake guarantees a large number of visitors each year to appreciate its charms. The lake was named after Father Crowley, the ‘desert padre’ who is something of a local hero in the Owens Valley residents’ battles over water rights.

As a major water supply serving millions of people, access to Lake Crowley (as it is also called) is tightly controlled. That doesn’t mean it’s hard to use; one concessionaire controls access to the lake and charges admission fees. The Crowley Lake Fish Camp, as the facility is called, also offers boat rental for smaller fishing boats and larger pontoon rentals to families and groups. The full-service marina offers fuel, repairs and rental dock space for long-term rental, a tackle shop, cafe and convenience store. A few full-service RV spaces are rented as are a few dry camping sites on the water and two fully-furnished cabins by reservation only.

Ample parking for private boat owners and their boat trailers is provided at Crowley Lake, along with boat storage during the off-season. Private watercraft must be inspected for invasive species before launching, particularly quagga mussels, a service offered free at the boat ramp. The lake is officially open between the end of April and the end of October. Only 13 miles south of Mammoth Lakes, Lake Crowley welcomes visitors during the warm summer months to water ski, wake board, kite-surf, kayak and stand-up paddleboard.

Trout fishing is one of the major draws to Crowley Lake, with rainbow trout, brown trout and cutthroat trout all caught. Perch are another popular fishing target; their young are a major food source for the trout which grow to excellent size. Two trout seasons exist at the lake, with early summer fishing allowing baits. The creel limit is two trout, both of which must be over 18 inches long. After the end of July, all fishing must be done with artificial lures and barbless hooks only. Fly fishing is always popular, particularly near the several inlets to the reservoir. Several trout fishing competition events occur at the lake during the summer. Trout were originally stocked in the reservoir when it first filled in the 1940s, where they were found to grow exceptionally well. Several years of research showed the best times and varieties to stock for optimal angling experiences. The intervening years have created an excellent trout fishery in great demand with anglers. The trout fishing adds yet another popular recreational activity in the Mammoth Lakes area.

Although there is limited camping directly on Crowley Lake, other campgrounds and outdoor opportunities are numerous in the immediate vicinity. The Bureau of Land Management maintains a small campground across the highway from Lake Crowley, with great lake views and access via the concession docks. Other camping areas are available in the area, along with rustic resorts and cabins with a range of amenities. Several popular hiking trails have trailheads near the south end of Crowley Lake, including the popular eight-mile Lower Rock Creek Trail, famous as a difficult, ‘technical’ mountain biking trail. Other trails intersect the main trails.

The small town of Crowley Lake holds a grocery store and convenience foods and supplies, acting as headquarters for recreational visitors to the area. Horseback riding can be arranged in the immediate area. An outfitter who offers training in horseback packing invites a small number of experienced horsemen on the annual horse round-up and move to winter pastures. Limited amounts of real estate are available in the vicinity, and a few private vacation rentals can be arranged.

Crowley Lake’s history is a long saga of Los Angeles’ quest for water and the ranchers and farmers of Owens Valley fighting to protect their water rights. What is now the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began diverting water from the Owens River in 1913, drying up natural Owens Lake in the process. Although court battles ensued, the needs of the growing metropolis soon prevailed, leaving Owens Lake a dry salty lakebed responsible for blowing alkaline dust that became a health hazard. The Water Department attempted to utilize the dry lakebed for water storage during wet seasons with disastrous results, and finally built the Long Valley Dam to contain the water while normalizing stream flow somewhat. In recent years, federal forces have declared the water of Crowley Lake to be impaired by nitrogen from agricultural run-off. That problem appears to have been solved, and LADWP floods the dry Owens Lake bed with enough water to minimize the dust storms.

Water levels grow lower in Crowley Lake late in summer but don’t experience rapid change. LADWP no longer posts water levels for the public, but the concessionaire can easily give water level information to anyone interested in making a visit. Come to Crowley Lake and experience some of the world’s best trout fishing.

* Statistical information for Crowley Lake is somewhat vague depending on the source. LADWP lists the catchment area as about 350 square miles, while the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board lists it as 1,947 square miles. The United States Geological Service maps show the ‘Crowley Lake Watershed’ as covering the entire area of Mammoth Lakes, much of the Eastern Sierras and a portion of Nevada. We have used the smaller watershed area as more representative of the actual catchment for Crowley Lake alone.

Things to do at Crowley Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish species found at Crowley Lake

  • Brown Trout
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Crowley Lake Photo Gallery

Crowley Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

Surface Area: 5,280 acres

Shoreline Length: 45 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 6,781 feet

Average Depth: 35 feet

Maximum Depth: 126 feet

Water Volume: 183,743 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1941

Drainage Area: 350 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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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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