Lake Mendocino, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - North Coast -

With the gateway to the redwoods on one side and California’s wine country on the other, Lake Mendocino is an extraordinary vacation destination. The lake offers year-round camping, hiking, and fishing, but the lake is most popular in the summer. The quiet spring, fall, and winter seasons offer a pace to suit everyone.

Lake Mendocino is an impoundment of the Russian River created by the Coyote Valley Dam. The earthen dam, built in 1958 across the east fork of the Russian River, flooded the Coyote Valley resulting in the relocation of some residents as well as part of State Route 20. The lake is owned and operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers and is used for flood control, water conservation, and hydroelectric power in addition to recreation. Water levels in Lake Mendocino fluctuate based on the amount of winter precipitation and Russian River inflows, so check current lake levels before your visit.

Lake Mendocino is home to healthy populations of largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass, along with black and white crappie. There are also bluegill, redear sunfish, tule perch, and white and channel catfish. Anglers can fish for trout in nearby rivers.

The California Department of Fish and Game runs the Coyote Valley Dam Steelhead Egg Collection Facility at the dam. Visitors to Lake Mendocino can watch the biologists collect the trout eggs, but they don’t hatch on site. The eggs are fertilized then sent to hatch at nearby Lake Sonoma. The yearling fish come back to Lake Mendocino and after spending around 30 days in one of the eight race ways, they are released into the Russian River. Three to five years later the trout return to spawn. The Collection Facility is open from December through April. The Bill Townsend Fish Hatchery is also open for tours. The hatchery is run by the Ukiah Rod and Gun Club, and they hatch 50,000 steelhead trout each year.

Lake Mendocino has several boat launches, and waterskiing is a popular watersport. The northwest shore has a designated swimming beach, but swimming is allowed almost everywhere in the lake. There are some boat-in only waterside campsites at Miti Campground. Kyen Campground also has waterside campsites, but they are the most popular at Lake Mendocino and require reservations. There are over 300 campsites in four campgrounds as well as several covered picnic pavilions. The lake has around fifteen miles of hiking trails including some for bikes and horses. The campgrounds, trails and pavilion are named with Pomo Indian words.

The Pomo Indians were the area’s original native people. The Pomo Cultural Center, on the north end of Lake Mendocino, has an outdoor amphitheatre and is modeled after a traditional Pomo roundhouse. The Center, opened in the early 1980’s, is operated by the Coyote Band of Pomos and the US Army Corps of Engineers and has exhibits of Pomo dancing, money, basket making, and hunting.

Wildlife is prevalent in Lake Mendocino’s 700 acre wilderness area. There are bobcats, black bear and even cougars or mountain lions in the wildlife management area on the east side of the lake. The California Department of Fish and Game allows shotgun hunting for small game and migratory and game birds including ducks, doves and quail. There are both spring and fall wild turkey hunts.

Lake Mendocino is about five miles from Ukiah in Mendocino County. Originally the Pomo Indians called themselves Yokaya meaning “people of the south or deep valley.” The name was changed by the Europeans to Ukiah. Ukiah has restaurants, museums, and a variety of accommodations and amenities for visitors to Lake Mendocino. The lake is about two hours north of the Bay area and 120 miles from San Francisco.

Tucked in the foothills of the Northern Coastal Range, surrounded by wine country and redwoods, Lake Mendocino is a fantastic retreat for the entire family.

Things to do at Lake Mendocino

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lake Mendocino

  • Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Perch
  • Redear Sunfish (Shellcracker)
  • Steelhead Trout
  • Striped Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • White Crappie

Lake Mendocino Photo Gallery

Lake Mendocino Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 1,822 acres

Shoreline Length: 15 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 762 feet

Maximum Depth: 133 feet

Water Volume: 89,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1958

Water Residence Time: 57 days

Drainage Area: 105 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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