Yesterday I published a post that has since blown up and garnered more views in a single day than my blog has ever gotten since I started. The post in question can be found here. In the post I ripped apart a sleazy article that depicted my home in an extremely unfavorable light, and I defended my home town with vehemence. Today, I think it is appropriate to post some positive info on this place that is home to many good hearted people.
We are nestled in the mountains just south of Mendocino County and just north of Napa County. See?
The towns in Lake County are small, the communities tight-knit and, according to the L.A. Times on more than one occasion, the people are uneducated, poor and most likely drug addicted. Not sure why such a large publication from such a large city located almost 500 miles south of our little piece of California is such an expert on our County, but they have no problem publishing slam pieces about our communities, as demonstrated in multiple instances over the years.
Time For Some Truth
Like most places in California, the U.S. and even the world, Lake County has its warts. We have a mutitude of dirt roads that the locals often complain about. We have a homeless problem and an unemployment problem. We have illegal dumping problems, we have crime problems and for many people here we have drug problems. Those problems exist in every town or city, big or small and are not worse here or exclusive to here by any means.
But let’s not dwell on all of the things that we have that are the same as everywhere else. Instead, we should think about the things that make Lake County different from other places.
Largest Natural Lake in California
Clear Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake located wholly within the state of California. Before you jump down my throat yelling about Tahoe, re-read that last statemtent. Lake Tahoe is located in California AND Nevada so therefore my information is accurate. Our lake has 68 sq. miles of surface area. People also argue that the Salton Sea is larger but that is not a natural lake, that was accidentally flooded by humans.
One Of The Oldest Lakes In North America
Archaeologists believe that the Clear Lake Basin has been inhabited by people for 11,000 years or more. Clearlake is believed to be one of the oldest lakes on the continent, and it gained this distinction due to a geological fluke. The lake sits on a large slab of stone that slightly tilts to the North while the lake sediment builds up at the same rate of the tilt. This manages to keep the lake depth at roughly the same levels despite other conditions such as drought.
In 1973 and again in 1980 the U.S. Geological Survey took core samples of Clear Lake’s sediment. The findings indicate that Clear Lake has 480,000 years of uninterrupted sedimentary history.
Clear Lake was once even bigger than it is today, in fact, having been connected to neighboring Blue Lakes once upon a time. Due to volcanic eruptions, that connection was cut off, along with the lake’s western drainage into the Russian River.
Interesting Geological Features
Clear Lake has several small fault lines and volcanoes, predominantly nearer the southern end of the lake. The most well known of these volcanoes is Mt. Konocti, which sits at the center of the lake’s southern shore. I grew up in the City of Clearlake since the age of six and have seen that volcano from my home every day.
The geological history of Lake County shows many events of great violence such as the eruption of Konocti and Mt. St. Helena to the south as well as the collapse of Cow Mountain that created the hills surrounding Lakeport, the county seat on the north shore.
When Spanish missionaries first came to this area they found it occupied by thousands of Native peoples, including the Pomo, Wappo, and Yuki peoples as well as some Lake Miwok tribes. The lake has always been home to an abundance of fish and wildlife, which made it a haven in the harsh terrain of the Northern California mountain lands.
During World War II the lake was used as an outlying seaplane base for the Alameda Naval Air Station. During the Cold War, at times when landing conditions were unsafe in the San Francisco Bay, Flying Boats were able to land on the waters of Clear Lake.
Rangers and docents give presentations on the rich history of the Lake County area at the two state parks in the area. Anderson Marsh State Historic Park in Lower Lake and the Clear Lake State Park in Kelseyville are wonderful places to visit and learn some of the historical details of the area. Lake County also has two county museums; The Lower Lake Historic School House Museum located in Lower Lake and the Lake County Museum in Lakeport.
I have several photos in this gallery of a visit to Anderson Marsh in the spring of this year.
Bass Capital Of The West
Clear Lake is home to a large population of aquatic life including bass, crappie, bluegill, carp and catfish. Large mouth bass accounts for about a third of the fish caught in Clear Lake and the record is currently 17.52 lbs.
Recently, our lake was ranked #3 in Bassmaster Magazine’s top 100 ranking bass fishing lakes in the United States and #1 on the West Coast. Our fishing tournaments draw competitors and spectators literally from around the world.
Wildlife in Abundance
Year round, the Clear Lake Basin is home to a prolific wildlife population that includes ducks, pelicans, grebes, blue herons, egrets, osprey and bald eagles. But it is not all just aquatic animals that call this basin home. We also have respectable populations of deer, mountain lions, bears, raccoons, elk, and many other animals.
Lake County was formed from parts of Napa and Mendocino Counties and was a leader in the wine industry at its inception. During the Prohibition Era, most of the Lake County vineyards were ripped out and replaced with the pear and walnut orchards that are still in abundance around the county. In the 1960s Lake County once again stepped into the wine making ring and has been a major player in the industry ever since.
There is also a prolific marijuana industry in Lake County, which I know that some might view as a negative but I do not view as a necessarily bad thing. I am a supporter of the legalization of recreational marijuana use for any adult over 21. I feel like marijuana should be no more illegal than beer or cigarettes. That being said, I acknowledge that there are some negative impacts to the illegal marijuana industry, including crime rates, but if it were legal those factors would recede indefinitely. But I digress. Anyone who enjoys smoking pot knows that some of the best weed is grown in Lake County.
There are also other crops grown in Lake County’s farming areas including but not limited to grain, alfalfa, hay, prunes, peaches, pears, apples, grapes and walnuts.
The American Lung Association has consistently ranked Lake County CA as having the cleanest air in the entire nation. This includes the years that fires have ravaged the countryside and billowing smoke has settled into the basin. We also have been ranked as having the cleanest air in the state of California twenty four times.
Many have made the mistaken assumption that the name Clear Lake is associated with clear water, which anyone who has spent time on the Lake knows is not the case. Actually, when settlers first came to the area they were struck by the clear air and high visibility and dubbed the area Clear Lake.
Due to the hilly, rough terrain, Lake County also has the disctinction of never having been served by a railroad. The Vaca Valley Clear Lake Railroad line reached Rumsey in 1888 with plans to build a line to service the Clear Lake area but those plans were never realized. Construction was started between Hopland and Lakeport in 1911 but were abandoned after only six miles of tracks were laid.
Like most places in rural areas that feature small communities with rich historical backgrounds, there are several local legends in the Lake County area. Some of these are legends passed down from the local native peoples and some are legends that began after the settlement of the area.
I will cover those local legends in a later post as they will take up enough space to be their own article.
Lake County is my home, Clearlake is my hometown, even though I was not born here. I grew up in this community and have spent most of my life fascinated with the local history and features that make this place unique.
So yea, perhaps we have a few issues here that also happen to exist in pretty much every other county in the nation. But Lake County is a special place to the people who live here and love it dearly.