Fallen Leaf Lake, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - High Sierra -

Travelers who enjoy the splendor of Lake Tahoe might never be aware of the smaller but very beautiful Fallen Leaf Lake that is located just one mile south in El Dorado County, California. This glacial freshwater lake, at 2.9 miles (4.6 kilometers) long and 0.9 miles (1.4 kilometers) wide, is the second largest alpine lake in the Tahoe Basin. It is more secluded and difficult to access than Lake Tahoe, as Fallen Lake Road is a one-lane road. Fallen Leaf Lake is a hidden gem that features serenity and fun for the whole family. The U.S. Forest Service and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit lease most of the land surrounding Fallen Leaf Lake to private homeowners, so there is limited access to the lake for the general public, but there are still plenty of opportunities for enjoyment.

Fallen Leaf Lake is supplied with water from the Glen Alpine Creek, flowing in from the south end of the lake. Although other smaller sources contribute, Glen Alpine Creek is by far the most significant and responsible for the majority of the water. Depths at the lake’s south end increase rapidly not far from shore. From the north end of Fallen Leaf Lake, Taylor Creek is the only outflow. It flows north and eventually enters Lake Tahoe by way of the popular Baldwin Beach. The northern end of Fallen Leaf Lake deepens much more gradually and is a swimmer’s delight. Average depth in this lake is 240 feet (72 meters) and maximum depth is 415 feet (126 meters).

A concrete dam that sits at the north end of the lake controls water levels in Fallen Leaf Lake; the dam is low in height and was constructed with an adjustable spillway. This dam is reinforcement for the natural glacial moraine that was deposited here and keeps this lake from being merely another extension of Lake Tahoe. Visitors enjoy the pedestrian bridge that allows them to cross the lake over the dam, taking them from the eastern shore to the western, or vice versa.

Fishing is a popular pastime year-round at Fallen Leaf Lake. The U.S. Forest Service stocks Glen Alpine Creek with several species of fish, so fishing is good. Early October draws many visitors for the local Kokanee Salmon Festival. From brown trout, rainbow trout, Mackinaw trout and lake trout to Kokanee salmon, Tahoe suckers, Lahontan redsides and Tui chub, the large-sized fish and good variety are both draws. A current species restoration project being undertaken involves reintroducing the native Lahontan cutthroat trout in these waters. The project is in its earlier stages but seems to be working to replenish a species that had previously died out.

Spring Creek is a half-mile from Fallen Leaf Lake, making it the closest populated community. Located just a half-mile from the Lake Tahoe airport and near Routes 89 and 50, Fallen Leaf Lake is accessible to many of the area’s other attractions and activities. Tahoe City is only 30 miles (48.2 kilometers) to the north. Although it is often overshadowed by Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake has a large following and is becoming more popular for its wide variety of recreational activities and less crowded vistas.

Vacationers enjoy swimming, day hiking, backpacking, biking, water skiing, windsurfing, boating, horseback riding, nature walks and nature viewing activities, outdoor learning classes and workshops, canoeing, kayaking, rowing and tubing. Campgrounds attract outdoor-loving vacationers who appreciate the choices and the lovely surrounds in which they can make camp. Kiva Beach is a free public beach on Lake Tahoe just north of the Fallen Leaf Campground; the beach is pet-friendly and contains picnic tables and barbecue grills for public use.

The very clear water of Fallen Leaf Lake is of excellent quality. Although the lake is surrounded by private permanent homes, summer homes, and vacation rental properties, efforts have been made to keep the area pristine. No large outboard motors are allowed, but that doesn’t keep the residents from enjoying time on the lake. Pontoon boats, water ski boats, sailboats, wakeboard boats and a variety of smaller engine craft are at home on Fallen Leaf Lake. Fallen Leaf Marina has a 60-boat capacity, and boathouses and docks surround the lake. Sailing is a common activity here, yet it’s often not an easy task to accomplish. On many days the lake is buffeted by strong winds and unpredictable gusts.

Hiking in the High Sierras is always an adventure, and the opportunities around Fallen Leaf Lake are no exception. The rugged and impressive rock formations are a thrilling sight, and the roughly 7.8-mile (12.6-kilometer) shoreline is home to trails that allow walking along level paths or strenuous hiking. Tallac Point is a popular two-mile level-elevation hiking loop north of Fallen Leaf Lake, close to Lake Tahoe; Silver Creek–South Fork is a thrilling whitewater spot during the right conditions, with a series of short but tricky waterfalls in its course; Sawmill Cove on the northwestern shore is a restful and scenic picnic spot on the fairly level Moraine Trail, which crosses over Fallen Leaf Lake Dam. The Hawley Grade Trail is another hiking opportunity not to be missed; for more than 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) it follows part of a Pony Express trail, passes through Echo Summit and can be a great challenge during the spring months when streams appear along the route. Mount Tallac lies to the west of Fallen Leaf Lake, and just a bit farther west is Desolation Wilderness.

With its proximity to Lake Tahoe and other well-loved vacation areas, vacation rental opportunities are in good supply in the area of Fallen Leaf Lake. Chain hotels and motels are within a short driving distance, as are privately owned accommodations including resorts, inns, bed and breakfast and lodges. Along the lake itself, vacation homes abound. Small renovated cottages, cabins, and retreats can be rented; some are fully equipped for a long vacation and some are self-servicing types that provide only the basics. Some smaller homes are perfect for singles or couples, but many of the available larger houses can sleep 8 to 10 vacationers. In many cases, the homes have been renovated from their original states to include state-of-the-art appliances, large windows to enjoy gorgeous views and tasteful rustic furnishings to bring some of the outdoor beauty inside.

Things to do at Fallen Leaf Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Waterfall

Fish species found at Fallen Leaf Lake

  • Brown Trout
  • Carp
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Lake Trout
  • Mackinaw Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Sucker
  • Trout

Fallen Leaf Lake Photo Gallery

  • Fallen Leaf Lake is a spot my parents love to visit. You drive down a somewhat winding road, through a gorgeous high Sierra forest, with occasional glimpses of the lake as you go. The marina was quiet and the few people there were very laid back and friendly. As there was still snow nearby in shaded areas only a hundred or so feet above us, we didn't do more than dip our fingers into the chilly water. For more information about Fallen Leaf, see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallen_Leaf_Lake_(California)

Fallen Leaf Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Surface Area: 1,285 acres

Shoreline Length: 8 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 6,377 feet

Average Depth: 240 feet

Maximum Depth: 415 feet

Water Residence Time: 8 years

Lake Area-Population: 35,000

Drainage Area: 16 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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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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