Tule Lake, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - Shasta Cascade -

Tule Lake, located near the California/Oregon border, comprises about 13,240 acres of the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The Tule Lake Basin has a rich but sad history, once home to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center. Today, the Tule Lake area is recognized for its diverse natural beauty, laid back feel, and perfect summer days.

The Tule Lake Basin, part of the larger Klamath Basin, has had human presence for over 12,000 years. Remnants of the last ancient tribe, the Modocs, are still to be found throughout the region. The site of lava flows and desert brush, the Modocs’ domed homes painted the countryside as the tribe fished, hunted, and foraged for their living. Today, Tulelake town is populated by quiet Californians who enjoy 290 days of sun each year, panoramic mountain views, and a wide variety of outdoor activities.

Tule Lake has been an oasis for migratory birds since the end of the last ice age, providing critical resting and feeding grounds over 100,000 acres of wetlands. Fluctuating periods of drought and flooding produced nutrient- rich marsh land. Early settlers to the area quickly realized that if water could be diverted away from the wetlands, the rich soil on the lake’s bottom could be farmed. In 1902 Congress passed the Reclamation Act with the goal of reclaiming the Basin’s wetlands for farming. The Bureau of Reclamation built dams and canals along the Klamath River and Lost River for water storage and flood control. Between 1907 and 1960, 75% of the wetlands in the Klamath Basin had been reclaimed for agriculture. The size of Tule Lake shrank to its current 13,240 acres. Today, the Tule Lake area is cooperatively managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Tule Lake Irrigation District. The agencies have been working to restore some of Tule Lake’s wetlands to improve the habitat for waterfowl and migratory birds.

The Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1928 over concern about the area’s wildlife and migratory birds. Covering more than 39,000 acres, including Tule Lake, the refuge is partially leased out to area farmers who grow cereals and alfalfa. These crops provide sustenance to many of the migrating and wintering waterfowl that stop to rest at this important wildlife reserve. The Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge strives to maintain a protected habitat for endangered, threatened, and sensitive animals. A trip to the refuge should start with a visit to the Visitor Center, which will educate you on the basics of the habitats, animals, and viewing opportunities. Different species are present at different times of year, so the season in which you visit will greatly affect which animals you see. Throughout the year, you can see more than one million waterfowl, including white-faced ibis, American white pelican, black tern, golden eagle, western and eared grebes, tri-colored blackbird, American bald eagle, Canada geese, and many other less populous species. In fact, the Refuge has the highest concentration of wintering bald eagles (500) in the lower 48 states.

Just ten miles from the lake, you’ll find the Lava Beds National Monument, run by the U.S. National Park Service. For the last 500,000 years, volcanic eruptions have forced the continued change of this northern California region. Because of this, Tule Lake and its surroundings are sprinkled with caves (the greatest concentration in North America), Native American rock art sites, unique campsites, historic battlefields, stunning views, and desert flora. A visit to the park is filled with cave exploration, challenging hiking trails, once-in-a-lifetime photo ops, walks through history, and so much more.

While you’re exploring the area, you owe it to the country’s history to visit the Tule Lake War Relocation Center, an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. The center was one of the largest internment camps in the country, and many say it was one of the most controversial, though it did not close until after the war. Japanese Americans who refused to promise their undivided loyalty to the U.S. were sent to this “Segregation Camp”. Today, the site serves as a pilgrimage for many, serving primarily as a learning experience to its visitors.

The Tule Lake region is peppered with hiking trails, ideal for those who want to get close to nature and find the perfect perch for a breathtaking view. The Volcanic Legacy All American Road weaves its way from Mt. Lassen to Crater Lake, passing right through Tulelake. The Emigrant Trail Scenic Byway promises amazing vistas as it weaves its way through the California scenery. There are also over 30 miles of manicured hiking trails at the Lava Beds National Monument, and the Klamath Basin Birding Trail begins in the Tule Lake Basin.

Back at Tule Lake, canoes, kayaks, and windsurfing rule the roost, with canoe trails promising hours of excitement or relaxation, whichever is your heart’s desire. Pack a picnic and take it with you, because exploring the lake and wetlands is something that will take more than just a few hours.

The Tule Lake Basin is truly an amazing, varied landscape of lava flows, caves, and ancient artifacts colored by blue skies and emerald green mountains. Whether you take a day or a week or a lifetime to explore this gorgeous lake, you will find your days as full as you want them to be.

Things to do at Tule Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • National Park

Fish species found at Tule Lake

  • Perch

Tule Lake Photo Gallery

Tule Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Tule Lake Irrigation District

Surface Area: 13,240 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 4,035 feet

Average Depth: 2 feet

Maximum Depth: 4 feet

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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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