Whiskeytown Lake, California, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Whiskeytown Lake.

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Whiskeytown Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - West - California - Shasta Cascade -

Pristine Whiskeytown Lake is located 8 miles west of Redding in the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, a portion of the larger Shasta-Trinity Recreation Area. It is formed by Whiskeytown Dam on Clear Creek as part of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Water Project, providing water for agriculture, and it was dedicated by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Additional water comes from Whiskey Creek and from the Lewiston Reservoir, which is supplied by the Trinity River, coming through the Clear Creek Tunnel from the bottom of Trinity Lake. As the water enters and exits Whiskeytown Lake through a series of tunnels and penstocks, it generates hydroelectricity through the Judge Francis Carr and Keswick Powerhouses.

Because Whiskeytown Lake is located at the junction of the Klamath Mountain range and the northern edge of the Sacramento Valley, it is home to a unique collection of animal and plant life. In fact, the locals often choose Whiskeytown for their outdoor activities because of the wildlife that surrounds the lake. There are numerous breeding pairs of bald eagles that nest on the lake’s sparkling shores. If you find yourself on one of the back country trails and are a careful observer, you just might find brown bears, mountain lions, blacktail deer, turtles and racoons sharing the habitat.

Whiskeytown Lake provides outdoor enthusiasts with many options. Camping is available near the water at Oak Bottom Campground, as well as in other more remote campsites for the more adventuresome camper. Hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking are popular on the many trails at Whiskeytown Lake, some of which tour historic sections of the park, such as Gold Rush Era buildings, mines and miner’s ditches. Ranger guided programs are offered during the summer months, including gold panning and kayak tours. You don’t need to be an expert hiker to enjoy Whiskeytown’s trails. One of the most popular is the Crystal Creek Trail, which takes you to one of the largest waterfalls in Northern California.

For watersports, Whiskeytown Lake provides 36 miles of shoreline and 3,200 surface acres for fun and recreation. The lake’s placid surface is excellent for swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, and rowing. Sailing, water skiing and boating are extremely popular during the hot north-state summers, although personal watercraft are prohibited. The Oak Bottom marina offers year-round moorage or slip rentals and a snack bar, hot showers, and a marina store during the summer months. Brandy Creek Beach offers a rare treat for swimmers, with daily lifeguard service and a snack bar.

If you’re an angler, you’re going to love the 30-foot visibility of Whiskeytown’s waters. Whiskeytown has relatively stable water levels and less water traffic than other area lakes, making it the perfect home for Largemouth, Smallmouth, and Spotted Bass. This lake is known for its Kokanee Salmon and year-round Brook and Rainbow Trout population for shore anglers. Other local fish include Sunfish, Catfish, and Sacramento Pikeminnow.

Overall, if you’re looking for a great getaway, Whiskeytown Lake is one of the best destinations in Northern California. Whether you want to learn a little about California history, experience wildlife in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, indulge in some spectacular photography opportunities, play in the clear blue water, or simply relax on the beach, Whiskeytown Lake is the spot for you.

Custom Whiskeytown Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Whiskeytown Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Scuba Diving
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Whiskeytown Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Spotted Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Whiskeytown Lake

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Whiskeytown Lake photo gallery

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Whiskeytown Lake statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Surface Area: 3,200 acres

Shoreline Length: 36 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,210 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,176 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,220 feet

Maximum Depth: 264 feet

Water Volume: 241,096 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1963

Drainage Area: 203 sq. miles

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