Trinity Lake, California, USA
Also known as: Clair Engle Lake
Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Trinity Lake.
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Trinity Lake visitor and community guide
In 1976 Tim Brady from Weaverville caught the California record smallmouth bass in Trinity Lake. The quiet lake still draws anglers today, both for the fishing and the outstanding history and recreation nearby.
Construction of Trinity Dam on the Trinity River started in 1957 and was completed in 1962. The resulting impoundment is in Trinity County, southeast of the Klamath Mountains in northern California. The reservoir is managed by the US Bureau of Reclamation and was created for hydroelectric power and irrigation. In 1964 the reservoir was named Clair Engle Lake after United States Senator Clair Engle. Area residents, however, never adopted the name, and the lake was renamed Trinity Lake in 1997. Many maps mistakenly refer to the lake as Clair Eagle Lake.
In addition to smallmouth bass, Trinity Lake has healthy populations of largemouth bass, kokanee salmon, and German brown and eastern brook trout. The rainbow trout fishing is also very good. The Trinity River Fish Hatchery below Lewistown Lake, about 15 miles from Trinity Lake, is operated by the California Department of Fish and Game. The hatchery on the Trinity River raises salmon to compensate for salmon lost because of the dams. It is open to the public.
Trinity Lake has a reputation for being peaceful and uncrowded. There are public boat launches and marinas with boat and houseboat rentals. Accommodations include lakeside cabin rentals and nearby RV parks and campgrounds. Vacation rental homes are available nearby on Cross Creek and the Trinity River. Water skiers and other water sports enthusiasts enjoy the expanse of deep blue water.
There are several miles of hiking trails near Trinity Lake, including the Trail of Trees, a loop trail at the Tannery Gulch Campground. The Trinity Lakeshore Trail is a four mile long trail that winds along the shoreline. Hikers might have a chance to see one of the ten pairs of bald eagles that nest around the lake. Bald eagles mate for life and usually nest in the same spot year after year.
Hikers can also explore historical sites near the Trinity Lake. Bowerman Barn was built in 1878 by Jacob Bowerman who moved to California from Ohio. Bowerman ran a successful ranch with his brother John. Jacob and his wife Anna had two sons, and Anna ran an inn called the “Bull Pen.” The barn is an exceptional example of 19th century craftsmanship. Today the barn is on the National Register of Historic Places. It can be reached from the trail on the shore of Trinity Lake.
Visitors interested in history may also enjoy the Joss House State Park. The state park is the home of the Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds which is the oldest continuously used Chinese temple in the California. The existing temple was built in 1874 after the old temple burned down. The temple was built to be used by the immigrant Chinese miners who worked the gold rush during the mid 1800’s. The state park is near the lake in Weaverville.
It is an easy drive from Trinity Lake to the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area and the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. At 2.1 million acres it is the largest forest in California. There is hiking, mountain climbing, horseback riding, skiing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and hunting.
With exceptional fishing, rich history, and recreation opportunities of the lake and surrounding area, Trinity Lake has something to please everyone.
Custom Trinity Lake house decor
Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.
Things to do at Trinity Lake
- Vacation Rentals
- Water Skiing
- Cabin Rentals
- Mountain Climbing
- Cross-Country Skiing
- Horseback Riding
- State Park
- National Forest
Fish species found at Trinity Lake
- Black Bass
- Brook Trout
- Kokanee Salmon
- Largemouth Bass
- Rainbow Trout
- Smallmouth Bass
Best hotels and vacation rentals at Trinity Lake
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Trinity Lake photo gallery
New photos coming soon!
Trinity Lake statistics & helpful links
Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed
Water Level Control: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Surface Area: 17,280 acres
Shoreline Length: 145 miles
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 2,370 feet
Average Depth: 142 feet
Maximum Depth: 390 feet
Water Volume: 2,447,650 acre-feet
Completion Year: 1962
Drainage Area: 692 sq. miles
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