Huntington Lake, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - High Sierra -

Huntington Lake is located high in the Sierra Mountain Range, just below the Alpine level, at 6,950 feet. The lake covers 1,435 acres and extends 4 miles long and 1/2 mile wide. With 14 miles of shoreline, Huntington Lake offers abundant year-round activities. Hiking, camping, cycling, horseback riding, backpacking, water sports, and sailing are popular during warmer months. And when the snow starts falling in the Sierras, outdoor enthusiasts head to Huntington Lake for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Huntington Lake is in Fresno County, about a two hour drive northeast of Fresno, California.

Upon first glance, you would never guess the beautiful mountain lake is in fact man-made. Before Huntington Lake was created, it was originally a basin used by the Western Mono Band of Indians during the summer and fall seasons. The original streambed that ran through the basin provided a plethora of natural resources for the Indians. Deer and fish were plenty as well as the local berries and nuts, such as strawberries, gooseberries, elderberries, pine nuts and acorns.

In 1886 John Eastwood saw the plentiful water source and noticed the 4,500 food drop in elevation from the basin to the San Joaquin Valley floor. He hoped to harness this natural element as a source of hydropower for Southern California. It wasn’t until 1902 that Eastwood, working for Pacific Light and Power Company, selected Big Creek as the site for the hydroelectric project. Construction began in 1909 and continued until 1929 with a total of six dams, eight tunnels, three lakes (Huntington, Florence, and Shaver), five power houses and 248 miles of steel tower transmission lines. At the time, the “Big Creek Hydroelectric Project” was considered the second greatest engineering achievement, after the Panama Canal.

Huntington Lake was completed in 1913; it was named after Henry Edward Huntington who helped finance the Big Creek Project. Three of the project’s six dams were used to create Huntington Lake. In 1919 the lake’s storage capacity was increased by raising the height of the three dams and constructing a fourth dam. Today, Southern California Edison Company (SCE) operates the project’s dams and controls the water levels of the lakes. SCE lowers the water level of Huntington Lake in the fall after the peak recreation season to prepare for snow melt and spring rains.

Huntington Lake was made famous when a World War II B-24 bomber with six men crashed into the lake in December of 1943. It is rumored that the pilot needed to make an emergency landing during a severe snowstorm and mistook the frozen lake for a mountain meadow. Two of the six men survived. Remains of the plane are still at the bottom of the lake.

Huntington Lake continues to be a beautiful destination full of opportunities for recreation and relaxation. Whether you prefer rustic camping or a cottage near the lake, Huntington has both. The U.S. Forest Service operates seven public campgrounds, mainly around the north shore, offering tent and RV camping with drinking water, toilets, and swimming facilities (Upper Billy Creek, Lower Billy Creek, Catavee, Deer Creek, Kinnikinnick, College and Rancheria). Resorts and private cottage rentals offer alternatives for visitors who prefer less rustic accommodations.

Huntington Lake has plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. In summer months visitors enjoy bike trails, equestrian trails, hiking trails, fishing, sailing, and water skiing. Day hikes in the Huntington Lake area include Rancheria Falls, Indian Pools, Black Point, and Mushroom Rock. Day hikes and overnight hikes are also available in the nearby Kaiser Wilderness Area. You can summit Kaiser Peak for great vistas of the Sierra Mountain Range or hike to nearby natural pristine mountain lakes, such as Nellie Lake, or Twin Lakes for some great fishing. Horseback riding and backcountry guided services are available through the Sierra National Forest.

Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are prime winter activities around Huntington Lake. Snowmobilers enjoy 209 miles of groomed trails around the lake and the High Sierra area. The trails are maintained by the California State Off-Highway Vehicle Program. Cross-country trails are marked with blue diamond signs and range in length and difficulty from a one-mile beginner trail to a six-mile advanced trail. All snowmobile routes are open to cross-country skiers, snowshoers and licensed ATVs. There are also 33 miles of ungroomed cross-country ski trails. Two resorts offer downhill skiing and snowboarding for visitors from beginner to advanced levels. The California Department of Parks and Recreation operates two “Sno-Parks” at Huntington Lake with snow-cleared parking lots, sanitation facilities, access to snow play areas, and access to cross-country ski and snowmobile trails.

Huntington Lake is a popular cold-water fishery. So if fishing is your passion, cast your reel to catch German brow trout, rainbow trout, and kokanee salmon with a limit of 5 per day.

Huntington Lake is one of the top sailing lakes in the world, and holds an annual sailing regatta. People come from all over the West to compete in this well-known competition. If sailing isn’t your idea of fun, the lake also lends itself to waterskiing, canoeing, kayaking, or any other water sport you can think of. If you are looking for a cool summer retreat during those hot summer months, comes up to Huntington Lake where there is always something to do!

Things to do at Huntington Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Huntington Lake

  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Huntington Lake Photo Gallery

Huntington Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Southern California Edison Company

Surface Area: 1,435 acres

Shoreline Length: 14 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 6,950 feet

Maximum Depth: 128 feet

Water Volume: 89,166 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1913

Drainage Area: 81 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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