The Largest Lakes In California

Sunset at the Salton Sea.
Sunset at the Salton Sea.

The US state of California is a geographically diverse region with the Mojave Desert, the Sierra Nevada, and the Central Valley making up the state's main terrain. California is home to about 3,000 named lakes, dry lakes, and reservoirs. Some of the lakes drain into the ocean while others are completely landlocked. Below are the largest lakes in the US state of California.

5. Honey Lake

Located in the northeastern region of California in Lassen County is Honey Lake, a natural endorheic sink found within the Honey Lake Valley. With a surface area of 47,000 acres, the lake is situated close to the Nevada border. During summer seasons the lake is reduced to a level of 3,000 acres due to evaporation, thus creating a dry lake. Recreational activities on Honey Lake include warm-water fishing, hiking, bird watching, waterfowl hunting, camping and picnicking. Honey Lake is part of the 2,700 square miles watershed of Eagles Lake, including the Honey Lake Basin's 2,201 square miles.

4. Mono Lake

With a surface area of 55,179 acres, Mono Lake located in Mono County, California is a large and shallow alkaline lake that was formed as a terminal lake about 769,000 years back in an endorheic basin. Since the lake lacks an outlet, there is an accumulation of high levels of salt. The high levels of salt make Mono Lake's water alkaline. Mono Lake has a unique ecosystem where brine shrimp can prosper in its waters. The lake also provides a significant nesting habitat to about 2 million annual migratory birds. The birds feed on the shrimp and blackflies which also feed on the shrimp.

3. Goose Lake

Goose Lake has a surface area of 94,000 acres, making it the third largest lake in the US state of California. The large alkaline lake is situated in the Goose Lake Valley, near the state border of California and Oregon. The southern portion of Goose Lake is located in Modoc County, California while the northern part is located in Lake County, Oregon. The southern end of the lake is adjacent to the lands belonging to Modoc National Forest while the northern end of the lake belongs to the Freemont National Forest region. The Goose Lake State Recreation Area belongs to the Oregon side of the lake. However, most of the property around the lake valley comprises of agricultural land that is privately owned.

2. Lake Tahoe

Straddling the border between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is the second largest lake in California with a surface area of 122,000 acres. The large freshwater lake is situated in the mountain range of Sierra Nevada and can be found in the counties of Placer, El Dorado, Douglas, Washoe, and Carson City. Lake Tahoe is the largest lake by volume in the US and the largest alpine lake in North America. With a depth of 1,645 feet, Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the US after Oregon's Crater Lake. Lake Tahoe which is home to summer outdoor recreation and winter sports is a major tourist attraction in both California and Nevada with amazing scenery all year long. Ski and snow resorts are an important feature to the region's economic reputation.

1. Salton Sea

A shallow, saline, endorheic rift lake, the Salton Sea is the biggest lake in the US state of California with a surface area of 240,000 acres. The lake is predominantly located in the Coachella and Imperial Valleys in California. The Salton Sea is fed by the Alamo Rivers and the New Whitewater together with creeks, drainage systems, and agricultural runoff. The lake's water has a salinity of 56 grams per liter making it greater than that of the Pacific Ocean.

Which Are The Largest Lakes In California?

RankName of LakeSurface area (acres)
1Salton Sea240,000
2Lake Tahoe122,000
3Goose Lake94,000
4Mono Lake55,179
5Honey Lake47,000
6Clear Lake43,800
7Lake Shasta29,740
8Lake Almanor28,257
9Clear Lake Reservoir24,800
10Eagle Lake21,500
11Lake Berryessa20,700
12Lake Havasu20,400
13Trinity Lake16,535
14Lake Oroville15,805
15San Luis Reservoir13,000
16Tule Lake13,000
17Don Pedro Reservoir12,960
18New Melones Lake12,500
19Lower Klamath Lake12,000
20Folsom Lake11,450

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