Shasta Lake, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - Shasta Cascade -

Shasta Lake, one of the largest lakes in California, is an outdoor paradise of fresh blue water, awe-inspiring caverns, investigative trails, first class fishing, and so much more. After 8 years of construction, the Shasta Dam was completed in 1945, creating an incredible 29,500 acre lake with 365 miles of shoreline. As the largest manmade reservoir in the state, Shasta Lake is also home to several waterfalls, including Gulch Falls, Bear Canyon Falls, and Potem Falls.

Built and operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River is the keystone of the federal Central Valley Project. Shasta Lake, located about 10 miles north of Redding, captures water from the Sacramento, Pit, and McCloud Rivers. The dam serves many purposes, including flood control in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys during the rainy season, hydroelectric power generation, water for municipal, agricultural and industrial use, fish conservation, and maintenance of navigation flows. Water levels are drawn down in the fall to allow winter and spring rains to fill the reservoir instead of flooding the surrounding land. The normal operating level of Shasta Lake is 1067 feet above sea level. Because water levels can be drawn down more than 150 feet, check with the Shasta Lake Visitor Information Center for current lake levels and boat ramp conditions.

Recreational opportunities at the lake seem to have almost no end: you can bike, swim, boat, hike, wakeboard, water ski, camp, hunt, fish, and houseboat, In fact, houseboats are so popular and welcome at the lake that Shasta is now known as the Houseboat Capital of the World. With so many coves and miles of shoreline, the reservoir is ideal for daily wanderings and nighttime anchor drops.

Mother Nature seems to have tested her green thumb at Lake Shasta, painting the scenery with deep emerald evergreens, blue skies, and towering mountains. Summer days are perfected by warm temperatures cooled off by the 77 degree waters, lakeside picnics, and hours of doing whatever strikes your fancy.

Shasta Lake is home to many caverns, and visitors will find themselves fascinated by the rough formations, graceful stalactites, and extensive natural history. Begin your cavern trip with a catamaran ride across the blue Shasta waters and learn about the lake’s geography and history. Keep your eyes open for waterfowl and, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of a Great American Bald Eagle. After the boat ride, you’ll hop a bus and keep watch for mountain lions, bald eagles, black-tailed deer, black bears, osprey, and a plethora of other wildlife. Once at the caverns, you’ll be guided through eight cavern rooms that will fill you with a sense of awe and wonder. For active travelers, you may want to try your hand at spelunking. Samwell Caves overlook the McCloud Arm of the lake, and with the help of a special visitor permit, you’ll be allowed to explore the caves and spelunk to your heart’s desire.

If caving isn’t your cup of tea, try hiking or mountain biking along Shasta Lake’s extensive trail system. Perfect for a lazy walk or heart-pumping run, the shoreline trails range in difficulty from easy to challenging, offering you access to secluded swimming holes, ideal fishing spots, spectacular views, front row tickets to the area’s diverse flora and fauna, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, and much more. Take water and your camera with you because once you’re out on the trails, you may not want to head back for quite awhile.

After caving and hiking, try your hand at some Shasta Lake fishing. Widely regarded as one of the best fishing lakes in the state, the reservoir is home to trophy quality bass, catfish, crappie, salmon, sturgeon, and trout. You’re most likely to catch a spotted bass on your hook, though smallmouth and largemouth bass are both known to make frequent appearances. Whatever your fancy, you’re sure to be proud of your Shasta catch. Just make sure you take your valid California fishing license with you!

On warm days, the lake’s refreshing waters will be your siren song, luring you to dangle your toes in, take a swim, or get out onto the lake for some aquatic fun. Take an afternoon float, hop on a tube behind a boat, or don some water skis and show off your skills while you take in the beauty and tranquility around you. Rent a boat or take your own; boat launches are available all around the lake. Open up the throttle on your jet ski or powerboat, or slow it down and enjoy the calm of a canoe or kayak. The choice is yours, so enjoy.

Shasta Lake is located in a region of great history and biodiversity. A trip here will open your eyes to natural sites both old and new, but your visit will never disappoint. Make your reservations and before you know it, you’ll be scaling caves, swimming in crystal waters, or simply enjoying a glass of wine as you watch a California sunset.

Things to do at Shasta Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Spelunking
  • Biking
  • Hunting
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Shasta Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Salmon
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Spotted Bass
  • Sturgeon
  • Trout

Shasta Lake Photo Gallery

Shasta Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Not Known

Water Level Control: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Surface Area: 29,500 acres

Shoreline Length: 365 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,067 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 857 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,076 feet

Maximum Depth: 517 feet

Water Volume: 4,552,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1945

Drainage Area: 6,665 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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