Bass Lake, CA
Photo © Marc Sobel
Bass Lake, elevation 3,400 feet, is a hidden gem for anglers and explorers on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Best of all, you can fish the lake all year and you'll be surprised by all the species including Bass, Rainbow Trout, Kokanee Salmon, Carp, Catfish, Crappie and Bluegill.
The lake was called Crane Valley Reservoir for many years in the early 1900s, but the name was eventually changed when a small Bass Lake lumber operation polluted the lake, killing all the fish that were in it. The lumber company was ordered by the government to replace all the fish that were lost. The chosen fish was Bass, hence the new name - Bass Lake.
A hundred years ago Bass Lake was not a lake at all, but a lush meadow surrounded by pine tree covered hills and mountains. Chuckchansi Indians have inhabited the area for thousands of years. The Mono Indians came to the area about 200 years ago. A detachment of the Mariposa Battalion came across the valley in 1851 shortly after their discovery of Yosemite Valley. After observing flocks of what they thought were Sandhill Cranes, they decided to name the large meadow area Crane Valley. The large grey-blue birds were actually Great Blue Herons which still populate the area. Through Crane Valley flowed Willow Creek, a tributary of the San Joaquin River. In 1895, a plan was devised to use the waters of Willow Creek to generate hydroelectric power for residents of the great San Joaquin Valley.
The San Joaquin Electric Company was formed and the first earthen dam was built in Crane Valley in 1901. Mule-drawn freight wagons carried machinery and supplies up the mountain and went down loaded with timber that had been cleared from the reservoir site. In 1902 the San Joaquin Light & Power Corporation was formed to purchase the electric company and later the electric operations of the rival gas company. The dam was enlarged in 1905 and the present Dam was built in 1910 (145 feet high).
Bass Lake is very accessible with local accommodations for food and lodging. In the summer, warm days and cooler evenings make this a great choice for those that like moderate temperatures. Bass Lake features three types of shore line uses. One area allows for private lake front homes with their own docks or community dock, but the majority of the Lake is rimmed by the Sierra National Forest. Certain US Forest Service developed areas are available with overnight or day use campsites. Other areas are undisturbed.
There are numerous trails around the lake and several roads lead to the back country for camping, hiking and fishing. Bass Lake is also a shove off point for day trips to Yosemite National Park and the back country.
In the center of the Bass Lake community is the Pines Resort. The mini town features a gas station, post office, market, three restaurants, marina, gift shops, real estate offices and lodging. The Lake also has two other Marinas, each with gas, food and lodging. The Pines Resort is also a conference center and host numerous weddings and social events all year.
Bass Lake is accessible all year. In the winter there is some snow, but it does not stay long. Local roads are plowed and chains could be required immediately after a storm.
Fees: Bass Lake is open to the public, and is owned by PG&E. Only power boats pay fees. Parking and site fees are collected in USFS campgrounds.