Success Lake, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - Central Valley -

Also known as:  Lake Success, Success Reservoir

Feeding America’s families is just one of the quiet duties of Success Lake in California’s fertile Central Valley region. Since the Tule River was dammed in 1961 just outside Porterville, Success Lake has stored water for release to the valley farms that grow grapes, citrus, nuts, olives, apricots, plums and that raise dairy cattle. The lake also acts as a reservoir to store excess spring run-off from the nearby Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, thus avoiding flooding downstream. Since 1989, the Success Dam has also been generating electrical power. All of this occurs in the background as campers, boaters, fishermen and wildlife lovers come to enjoy the expanse of water. Success Lake is the perfect example of putting water to work to serve multiple needs.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers does an exceptionally good job of assuring public recreation at the lakes they create. Success Lake offers two separate camping areas. The Tule Campground provides sites with electricity, grills, dump station, restrooms, showers, playground and boat launch. Campfire programs are presented here at the amphitheater on Saturdays throughout the summer months. These campsites are so popular that reservations are recommended. Rocky Hill Campground offers only non-electric sites, but has another boat launch ramp and a picnic area. Day-use Bartlett Park has picnic shelters and a playground. All three sites provide a lovely view of the lake against a backdrop of the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills. There are no designated beach areas, but informal swim areas are located nearby.

A 1,499-acre wildlife refuge protects a portion of the northwest shoreline and is considered to be one of the best bird-watching sites in Tulare County. American pelicans and Canada geese are often seen on the lake, while mallards, grebes and coots shelter closer to the shore. Bald eagles soar over the lake, while migratory shorebirds wade in the shallows. Wetlands along the shoreline provide habitat for herons, egrets and kingfishers. The surrounding grasslands and pothole ponds are a fine place to view blacktail deer, California quail, cottontails and jackrabbits. Some areas are open for hunting in season. Trails make access to the wildlife area easy for hikers and add considerably to the natural experience.

Boating is a favorite activity at Lake Success. All types of watercraft are allowed, so on hot summer weekends the waters are a beehive of activity with water skiers, jet-skiers, power-boaters and sailboats sharing space with fishing boats, canoes and kayaks. A 5 mph boat speed limit is imposed from dusk to dawn, and water skiing and jet-skiing are forbidden during those hours. The quiet waters of the many coves along the irregular shoreline make canoeing and kayaking especially popular. The lake is considered one of the best lakes in the Valley for largemouth bass, and tournaments are often held here. The bass aren’t usually lunkers but are plentiful. In addition, bluegills, crappie, channel catfish and occasional trout are caught. Until recently, a floating marina was available on Success Lake. Due to a safety-imposed drawdown of the water levels, the marina was moved to another lake. The lake has since been refilled as the dam has passed all inspections, but the marina has not yet been replaced.

Success Lake is only eight miles from Porterville, so camping supplies are never far away. Porterville is also the location of the Sequoia National Forest headquarters. The Southern Sequoia National Monument area is just a few miles beyond Success Lake. Although there is primitive camping available within the National Forest, the lake can offer improved campsites as a base camp for forays into the ‘big trees’. The City of Porterville holds a variety of sights of interest to visitors, including the historic Main Street with a wide variety of shops, galleries and restaurants. The Porterville Historical Museum holds artifacts of both the miner-pioneers who settled the area and the Yokuts Indians. Historically significant Zalud House Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The arts are well represented through the Porterville Multicultural Art Center and the Barn Theater. Throughout the year, Porterville hosts a Cinco de Mayo Celebration, a local fair, and a community festival.

Success Lake faced an uncertain future in 1999 when surveys indicated that Success Dam might fail in an earthquake. The lake level was drawn down to 28,000-acre-feet in 2004, contributing to the loss of the marina and seriously interfering with water recreation. Later study proved those fears to be unfounded, and the reservoir has since been refilled to 65,000* acre feet. The public is slowly starting to realize that Lake Success is back in all its glory. There are hopes that another marina will soon fill the gap left by the loss of dock space and fishing bait and supplies. Until that time, the lake likely will get a bit lighter boating use. There is no real estate available directly along the shoreline, although some properties overlook the lake and its buffer zone of public property. Real estate can be found away from the lake, and plenty of alternative lodgings are available in the area, from motels to cabins, bed-and-breakfasts and private rentals. So grab the fishing tackle and the binoculars, and come spend some time at Success Lake.

*The reservoir can hold up to 82,300 acre-feet of water, but the normal level is set at 65,000 acre-feet.

Things to do at Success Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest
  • Museum
  • Playground

Fish species found at Success Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Trout

Success Lake Photo Gallery

Success Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: US Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 2,450 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 652 feet

Water Volume: 82,300 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1961

Drainage Area: 393 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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