Mammoth Lakes, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - High Sierra -

Mammoth Lakes, in California’s High Sierras Region, is something of a misnomer. There is no lake named Mammoth. Instead, a group of small lakes southwest of the town of Mammoth Lakes, in a geological formation called the Mammoth Lakes Basin, lies beneath Mammoth Mountain. The lakes – Lake Mary, Lake George, the two connected Twin Lakes, Horseshoe Lake, Lake Mamie along with several other small lakes form the watershed for Mammoth Creek. The named lakes above are all interconnected by streams and ultimately controlled by a water control structure at the Twin Lakes Outlet to Mammoth Creek. All of the lakes lie within Inyo National Forest.

The famous resort town named Mammoth Lakes is about three miles downstream along Mammoth Creek. The town indirectly gains most of its water supply from the lakes via Mammoth Creek and a water filtration plant on Lake Mary. The Mammoth Area Water District is limited to drawing no more than five-and-a-half feet of water from the lakes, assuring a continuous adequate water level in all lakes. Surrounded by forest and reflecting towering peaks, the lakes are dotted with ski cottages and private residences hidden among the pines.

Lake Mary is the lake with the most public access and services. A public marina provides boat launch facilities, bait, snack food and rents small boats; a public boat launch is provided. A campground also provides access to Lake Mary for canoeing, kayaking, pontooning and small boating. The lake has a ten mile per hour speed limit and is extremely popular with trout fishermen. Lake Mary contains brown trout, brook trout, cutthroat trout and rainbow trout, with the rainbows planted yearly. Statistics listed on the sidebar accompanying this article refer to Lake Mary. Other lakes in the chain contain year-round resorts, principally Horseshoe Lake.

Nearly all of the lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin have access via National Forest Road. The lakes gain their water from snow-melt and some small waterfalls. As this area is an active geological area, there may be subsurface water exchange among lakes not directly connected. A fault line lies just east of Mammoth Lakes, so the area experiences small earthquakes. Active magma lies under the Mammoth Lakes Basin, evidenced by a 20-acre stand of dead conifers near the shores of Horseshoe Lake. The ground, saturated with carbon dioxide, smothered the tree’s roots. The plumes of carbon dioxide are usually vented into the air where it quickly dissipates, but can become deadly if concentrated under snow banks or in low-lying areas.

The entire Inyo National Forest provides many opportunities for hiking, camping, canoeing and fishing. The Mammoth Lakes area is known as a prime mountain biking area in summer. Several ski resorts now open specific slopes for downhill mountain biking in summer, with the convenience of taking a lift back to the top.

There is plenty to do around Mammoth Lakes in summer. The town offers several festivals during the summer months to occupy visitors. City parks provide nearly all the recreational amenities any summer visitor could want, including a community center, baseball fields, softball fields, tennis courts, soccer fields, swimming pool and natural areas for hiking. A moto-cross track operates summers with several annual events. There is even an RV camp right at the edge of town. Several music festivals occur each summer to fill the silence until the regular winter monthly music festivals begin. Short trips away from Mammoth Lakes bring the visitor to such attractions as the ghost town of Bodie, only 50 miles northeast of Mammoth Lakes. To the north, Devils Postpile National Monument showcases the amazing basalt ‘posts’ that have fractured symmetrically from the cliff. Hot Creek just east of the airport offers both hot springs and gas vents that warm the icy waters from the Sierras. Swimming is not recommended as the water temperature can change suddenly, causing serious burns. Red’s Meadows, a trailhead popular with back packers on the John Muir and High Sierra Trails, can be accessed near Mammoth Lakes Basin. And, of course, there are golf courses available near town.

It is winter when Mammoth Lakes excels. Nearby Mammoth Mountain receives up to 30 feet of snow a year, making it one of the leading winter playgrounds of the West. Skiing, snowboarding, sledding and tobogganing all find eager participants at the ski runs and snow parks. Snowmobiling is a favorite activity, with dozens of improved trails making up one of the biggest systems in the USA. The snowmobile trails are separate from the many miles of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails: 20 miles of Blue Diamond Trails, Shady Rest Trail and Knolls Trail are some of the better-marked. Ice skating and snow hiking are also quite popular, and locals hope to provide sleigh rides in the near future.

For those less interested in active sports, Mammoth Lakes is still an ideal place to relax and enjoy breathtaking scenery, even if it’s enjoyed from inside a rustic lodge with a crackling fire. The many resorts and vacation rentals in the area can provide the perfect lodging for any family or group. Many private ski cabins and condos are available as vacation rentals. Often these have lake views or lake frontage. Nearly all of them have spectacular views of the snow-capped Sierras rising above unbroken miles of National Forest. Real estate is available in the area both in town or as a ski cabin in the nearby woods. Only three hours south of Reno, Mammoth Lakes is close enough to be accessible but far enough to feel exotic. Come visit Mammoth Lakes winter or summer and experience the irresistible calling of the High Sierras. City lights will never seem the same.

Things to do at Mammoth Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming Pool
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowmobiling
  • Tobogganing
  • Waterfall
  • National Forest
  • City Park
  • Playground

Fish species found at Mammoth Lakes

  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Mammoth Lakes Photo Gallery

Mammoth Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: US Forest Service

Surface Area: 120 acres

Shoreline Length: 2 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 8,967 feet

Average Depth: 45 feet

Maximum Depth: 90 feet

Spread the word! Share our Mammoth Lakes article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.