Lake Combie, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - Gold Country -

Also known as:  Combie Lake, Combie Reservoir, Van Giesen

Lake Combie is an impoundment of the Bear River flowing along the Placer and Nevada County line in northwestern California’s Gold Country. Also known as Combie Lake, Van Giesen and Combie Reservoir, this private reservoir is owned by the Nevada Irrigation District (NID). Access to the sparkling water is limited to fortunate landowners and guests living in the Sierra Nevada foothills surrounding the lake shore. Away from the crowds of public lakes, Combie Lake offers a tranquil retreat for boating, canoeing, kayaking, jet skiing, swimming, fishing, or just relaxing.

Two dams on Combie Reservoir trap winter precipitation and Sierra snowmelt for use in irrigation, drinking water, hydropower and recreational use. Van Giesen Dam, also called Lake Combie Dam, was started in October, 1927 and completed in May, 1928 on the Bear River in Placer County. At a later unpublished date, Combie Dam was constructed north of Van Giesen Dam on the Bear River in Nevada County. The 85-foot Van Giesen Dam originally stored approximately 5,500 acre-feet of water fed by the Bear River and Wooley Creek in Placer County. Over the decades erosion and upstream sediment have reduced the lake’s volume to approximately 3,500 feet. Dredging is used to stabilize the Lake Combie’s size at 276 acres and maximum depth around 50 feet with a .3 mile width and 2.5 mile length.

Lake Combie stores water for treatment plants in the nearby communities of Lake of the Pines and Auburn. From mid-April to mid-October Combie Lake also replenishes the four lakes within the community of Lake of the Pines. Combie Reservoir drains through a canal at the north end of the lake and has two intake facilities for the hydropower plant located on the north and south side of Van Giesen Dam.

Nevada Irrigation District owns Combie Reservoir plus an additional five feet above the 1,600-foot water elevation line. Follow the rolling hills along the nine-mile shoreline and you will find five miles of shore within Nevada County and four miles of shore within Placer County. The Combie Reservoir Shoreline Management Plan states that “approximately 120 properties abut NID’s property and many are zoned for low to moderate density residential housing.” Around these properties you will find small communities, light industry and a number of subdivisions offering vacation homes and residential properties.

Warm summer temperatures make swimming a popular pastime among lakeside residents. Combie Lake is not one of NID’s recreational lakes, so visitors will not find a designated swimming area. Swimming is allowed within 200 feet of the shore anywhere except near the Van Giesen Dam.

Power boats, fishing boats and jet skis are permitted on Lake Combie. The boating speed limit is 35 mph from sunrise to sunset and 10 mph from sunset to sunrise. The speed limit drops to 5 mph within 200 feet of the dam, beaches or swimmers. Sailboats, canoes and kayaks are found skimming the quiet water or moving among the many inlets and coves that branch off from the winding lake. From the stillness of a quiet cove bird and wildlife watchers may catch a glimpse of eagles, hawks, cranes, ducks, raccoons, deer or foxes. During hunting season it is permissible to hunt waterfowl from a boat with the provision that the boat be more than 50 yards from dwellings or buildings.

Lake Combie landscape holds mixed conifers, native grasses and shrubs, but very little vegetation grows along the lake shore. As a result, shallow water warms rapidly providing less than ideal conditions for native fish species. However, the cold water that flows in from the Bear River is known to hold black crappie, white crappie, hardhead, California roach, riffle sculpin, rainbow trout, speckled dace, Sacramento pikeminnow, Sacramento sucker, largemouth bass, channel catfish, sunfish, black bullhead, brown bullhead and golden shiner.

Development is increasing among the foothills surrounding Lake Combie. The nearby community of Meadow Vista is actually a string of small rural communities starting southeast of Combie Reservoir and continuing northeast along Interstate 80 past Lake Tahoe into Nevada. Residents of Meadow Vista have formed the Lake Combie Association which promotes the care and preservation of life on and around Combie Lake.

When residents and visitors of Combie Reservoir are ready for a variety of challenging outdoor sports, they need only drive about 10 miles south to the Auburn State Recreation Area. Covering 40 miles of land along the North and Middle forks of the American River, rafters will enjoy the challenge of Class II, III and IV whitewater runs. Additional activities include trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding through the Sierra Nevada foothills. Space is provided for off-highway motorcycle riding, and there is always swimming, boating, fishing, gold panning and camping along the rivers.

Drive approximately 10 miles south of Lake Combie on Interstate 80 and you will enter the lovely community of Auburn. Once considered the crossroads of the Mother Lode, Auburn is steeped in mining history. A walk through Old Town will take you past historic architecture; a delightful selection of antique stores, restaurants and gift shops; or a refreshing break at the soda fountain at the Auburn Drug Company in operation since 1896. If you stay through the change of seasons Auburn offers local fare at the Wild West Stampede in April and Gold Country Fair in September.

An excellent selection of vacation rentals and real estate properties are found among the developments surrounding Lake Combie. Whether you select a cottage near the lakeshore or home in communities like Meadow Vista you will find a quiet retreat designed to offer rest and recreation far from the rush of city life. Located near wild rivers, historic mining communities, and less than 80 miles to the summer recreation and winter skiing at Lake Tahoe, Combie lake is waiting for you!

Things to do at Lake Combie

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Antiquing

Fish species found at Lake Combie

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Bullhead
  • Black Crappie
  • Brown Bullhead
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Roach
  • Sculpin
  • Sucker
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • White Crappie

Lake Combie Photo Gallery

    Lake Combie Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

    Water Level Control: Nevada Irrigation District

    Surface Area: 276 acres

    Shoreline Length: 9 miles

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,600 feet

    Water Volume: 3,500 acre-feet

    Completion Year: 1928

    Water Residence Time: 4.4 days

    Drainage Area: 134 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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