Bass Lake, California

Bass Lake, California

Bass Lake is a small census-designated place in Madera County at the heart of the US State of California. This small community is situated at an elevation of 3,415 ft, about 4.5 miles southeast of Yosemite Forks. Initially established as "Bass Lake Village" in 1895, the community gradually developed around the Bass Lake reservoir. Well-known for being an ideal spot for water recreation activities, Bass Lake has also been voted by Sunset Magazine as one of the "West's Best Lakes." Bass Lake and its namesake community depend on the tourism industry and attract several visitors to the area every year.

Geography And Climate Of Bass Lake

Bass Lake dam located in the Sierra National Forest
Bass Lake dam located in the Sierra National Forest.

The census-designated place covers a total area of 2.488 square miles, of which 1.882 square miles is occupied by land and 0.606 miles is covered by water. The Bass Lake is situated in Madera County's Sierra National Forest on the western slopes of the picturesque Sierra Nevada Mountains, approximately 14 miles south of the entrance of Yosemite National Park, 9 miles north of Oakhurst, and 54 miles northeast of Fresno. Created by the Crane Valley Dam's construction across Willow Creek, Bass Lake, covering a surface area of 1.170 acres, has a maximum length of 4.2 miles and a maximum width of 0.40 miles. The Bass Lake reaches a maximum depth of 98 ft and holds a water volume of 45,500 acre-feet. The lake is surrounded by Malum Ridge on the south, Graham Mountain in the northeast, and Goat Mountain on the west. Releases from the Crane Valley Dam drive the hydroelectric power plant managed by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

According to the Köppen Climate Classification, Bass Lake experiences a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and cold, rainy winters. The warm season lasts from May 20 to September 21, where July is the year's hottest month, having an average high temperature ranging between 83°F to 63°F. The waters of Bass Lake generally reach a temperature of 80°F during the summer months. The cold season lasts from November 30 to March 3, where January is the year's coolest month, having an average low temperature ranging between 20°F to 33°F. Mono Winds occur in the Bass Lake area from October to April but are most common during December and January. With 267 sunny days per year, Bass Lake receives an average of 34 inches of rainfall and 29 inches of snowfall annually. The area also occasionally receives heavy snowstorms during the winter months.

Brief History Of Bass Lake

This wooden sign sits at one of the entrances to the Bass Lake area of the Sierra National Forest
Wooden sign at one of the entrances to the Bass Lake area of the Sierra National Forest.

The Bass Lake area was initially inhabited by the Chuckchansi Indians and later by the Mono Indians, who were the area's sole human inhabitants until the California Gold Rush. In 1851, shortly after the discovery of Yosemite Valley, a unit of the Mariposa Battalion came to the area. Observing flocks of Sandhill Cranes, they decided to name the expansive meadow area as Crane Valley. During the Mariposa War, many Monos were removed coercively from the Crane Valley. However, some Mono continued to traditionally live in the surrounding area until the Sierra National Forest was created in 1897.

The area's first lumber mill was established at the foot of the Willow Creek falls by Charles P. Converse and Bill Chitiser in 1854. A plan was made to harness the waters of Willow Creek in 1895 to generate hydroelectric power to serve the inhabitants of the San Joaquin Valley. In 1901, the San Joaquin Electric Company constructed the first earthen dam in the Crane Valley. The dam was enlarged in 1905, and the current dam having a height of 145 ft, was eventually built in 1910. For many years, the reservoir created by the dam's construction was called the Crane Valley Reservoir. The name was changed when a small Bass Lake lumber operation led to the pollution of the lake waters, killing all the fish in it. The Government ordered the lumber company to replace all the fish in the lake. As the chosen fish for the purpose was Bass, the lake was named "Bass Lake." Currently managed by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the waters of Bass Lake are used to generate hydroelectricity, irrigate the farmlands, and for several recreational activities.

Population And Economy Of Bass Lake

Bass lake, California
A scenic lakeside view of Bass Lake near Yosemite National Park.

As per the latest US Census, Bass Lake has a population of 575 inhabitants with a median age of 62.2 and a population density of 313 people per square mile. Bass Lake's population is growing at a rate of 0.85% annually and has witnessed an increase of 2.61% since the previous census. The top ethnic group in Bass Lake is White (Non-Hispanic) at 100%.

Bass Lake has a median household income of $96,920 and a median property value of $686,000. The economy of Bass Lake employs about 143 people. The biggest employers in the area include Professional, Scientific, & Technical Services, followed by Educational Services and Retail Trade.

Recreation In Bass Lake

fishing in Bass lake
A man fishing in Bass Lake.

The tourism industry supports Bass Lake and its namesake community, and a significant portion of the lake's area has been dedicated to this purpose. The Bass Lake area is home to two summer camps and many small resorts. The different fish in the lake include rainbow trout, bass, kokanee salmon, carp, crappie, bluegill, and catfish. Fishing, personal watercraft, swimming, wakeboarding, and water skiing are recreational activities offered here. The lake's full-service marina rents out pontoon boats, fishing boats, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and jet skis for visitors to participate in various water sports activities. Bass Lake also serves as a prominent staging location for local trips to the adjacent Yosemite National Park, multiple hiking trails leading to the surrounding Sierra National Forest, and excursions high up the nearby mountains offering spectacular scenic views.

Ringed by tall ponderosa pines, this beautiful mountain lake is a hidden gem of the Sierra. Open year-round and offering various watersports, camping, hiking, and sightseeing opportunities, Bass Lake is indeed a popular vacation destination attracting people of all ages from all over the world. Every visit to this place is unique, as each season offers a different ambiance, experience, and activities for tourists to enjoy their Yosemite adventures.


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