Magazine article Sunset

Deeper into Clear Lake

Magazine article Sunset

Deeper into Clear Lake

Article excerpt

Deeper into Clear Lake

More than fishing and water-skiing. A new visitor center shows the lake's geology, wildlife, history Bass may be boss at Clear Lake, but landing largemouths isn't the only thing that California's largest natural lake has to offer. A new visitor center at Clear Lake State Park introduces visitors to the geology, wildlife, and original human inhabitants of the lake basin. For a more informed view of your surroundings as you hike, fish, or bird-watch in or around the park, plan to stop first at the small but well-designed center. Park and lake are at their best in spring, after winter's rains and chilly days have passed, and before summer brings temperatures that regularly top the century mark. Wildflowers and wildlife are both conspicuous now, while flocks of water-skiers and their high-decibel speedboats have yet to appear. Anglers usually have particularly good luck, too, with bass and crappie spawning in shallows.

Learn about Clear Lake's prehistory and natural history

A geology exhibit now under construction in the new visitor center explains how Clear Lake was formed, and cites evidence for the claim that it's the oldest lake in North America. Peering into a shadow-box you'll have an illusion of looking up the slope of an erupting volcano, re-creating activity on nearby Mount Konocti that last occurred 10,000 years ago (though the prominent 4,200-foot cinder cone is still considered active). Pomo Indians inhabited the lake basin for thousands of years before white men found their way over the surrounding coastal mountains. A diorama shows how a Pomo Indian village of tule reed huts might have looked at the park's present location. In front of the diorama's village mural, lifelike mannequins represent Pomos making and using the baskets for which they are justly famous. Dioramas also depict various natural habitats of the lake basin. Digger pines shade a woodland exhibit populated by deer, coyote, a black bear, and birds such as owls and woodpeckers. In the lakeshore scene, a wading heron holds a fresh-caught fish in its beak, while a raccoon frolics on shore and a turtle glides by underwater. Knotted tree roots backdrop bass, crappie, perch, and bluegill plying the waters of an 800-gallon aquarium. Through May, visitor center hours are 10 to 4 Saturdays and Sundays; it will also be open April 9 through 13, the week before Easter.

Fish from a boat or shore

According to the California Department of Fish and Game, Clear Lake rewards bass anglers with not only trophy-size fish (the lake record is over 15 pounds), but also with an average catch of a fish every 2 hours. …

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