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The Oldest Lake in the United States

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Are you looking for the oldest lake in the united states?

There are many majestic lakes present on the premises of the United States. Each one has its history and origins. The oldest lake of them all is Clear Lake which is located in California. 

oldest lakes
“Freibergsee” near Oberstdorf is a perfect example of a lake

A lake is a basin whose circumference is surrounded by land. The basin is filled with water. Lakes are different in make and are not connected to rivers and oceans. 

In simple terms, a lake is like a pond but only deeper. Lakes usually get their water supply from nearby streams and rivers. Natural lakes are mostly found in elevated mountain areas, rift zones, and in glaciers. 

Some lakes have a natural origin whereas some are artificially manufactured to aid domestic water supply and create hydroelectric power. They also serve the purpose of aesthetic appeal and recreation. 

As discussed above, a lake is simply a larger version of a pond. The difference between them lies in the area of the aquatic body. A body containing water in a basin of five to twenty acres qualifies as a lake. 

Now that you have a good understanding of what a lake is. Let’s talk about the oldest lake in the United States in detail.

Clear Lake: The Oldest Lake In The United States

Situated in California, Clear Lake is the largest and oldest freshwater lake in North America. It covers a geographic area of sixty-eight square miles. It is the lake that goes back 2,500,000 years in history. 

There are various kinds of aquatic life present in the lake. The popular aquatic animals found in this lake are bluegill, largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and carp. 

aquatic life in the oldest lake in the united states
A curious catfish – one of the aquatic dwellers of the lake

The fish that is fetched from this lake is largemouth bass which covers a ratio of two-thirds of the entire lot. There is a record for the largest and heaviest bass being caught weighing 17.52 pounds. 

There are other animals found in this lake other than fish. Animals like ducks, grebes, pelicans, egrets, osprey, blue herons, and bald eagles are also found on the premises of this lake. 

Land animals such as mountain lions, deer, raccoons, bears, and other such animals are found near this lake. 


The culture and natural history of Clear Lake are still preserved and maintained by the rangers of Clear Lake state park

It is believed by the archeologists that this lake was occupied by the native Americans for almost 11,000 years. The fish found in this lake was in abundance which aided the survival of individuals in the tough conditions of California’s mountains. 

The fish hitch was so common in this lake that it used to clog the lake’s opening during the drier seasons. 

The people of cast Pomo, Wappo, Yuki, and individuals belonging to Lake Miwok used to reside near the basin of Clear Lake. They used the fish and water of the lake to make a living in the area. 

In 1845 the European settlers came to the region and exploited the Pomo people living there. In an incident of a bloody massacre in 1850, many pomo people were abused and enslaved by the European settlers. 

The Pomo eventually took their revenge by killing their leaders Charles Stone and Andrew Kelsey after which the town of Kelseyville is named even today. 

Another incident happened where the United States army which was under the control of Lieutenant Nathanial Lyon at that time killed around two hundred individuals from the Pomo community. 

They succeeded by cornering the Pomo people and slaughtering them, including women and children.

Later on, individuals of the Pomo community were forced to reside in the small Rancherias which were designated for them by the federal government. The basin of Clear Lake was used as a seaplane base during World War 2. The flying planes used to land here during the cold war when San Francisco bay was declared unsafe.

The culture and natural history of Clear Lake are still preserved and maintained by the rangers of Clear Lake state park and the state historic park of Anderson Marsh. 

Geographic Distribution

oldest lakes lake carnegie
Ephemeral Lake Carnegie as seen from above – fills with water only during periods of significant rainfall. In dry years, it is reduced to a muddy marsh.

Clear Lake is the oldest in the United States situated in North America. The lake sits on a huge rock and the sediments tested from the depth of the ocean made it clear that the age of the lake is at least 480,000 years old. 

The Clear Lake is thirty-one by thirteen kilometers having a surface area of around 43,785 acres. The depth of the lake is twenty-seven feet and the maximum depth of Clear Lake is around sixty feet. 

The temperature of water ranges from four degrees Celsius to twenty-four degrees Celsius in summers and winters respectively. 

Weather Conditions

It is very common for the temperature to drop at freezing points during the winters and go to high ranges during the summer season. During the summers, thunderstorms are experienced in this region sometimes. 

During the winter season, the mountains surrounding the lake are covered with snow. The snow can fall into the lake but it is highly unlikely that snow will build up in the lake.  

The average temperature in this region is thirty-three degrees Celsius during the summer season while the average temperature is zero degrees Celsius during the winters. 

July is the hottest month while December is the coldest month of the year. Rain is expected during January and December with an average rain of hundred and fifty millimeters per month. 

Recreational Activities

Floating in a boat on a lake surrounded by snowy mountains.

Clear Lake is a famous spot for water-based activities as the shoreline covers an area of a hundred miles. 

According to the yearly census of California Boards, Clear Lake indulges fifteen thousand boats for recreational activities. Free boats are available at the lake for individuals to rent and use for personal water-based activities. 

The California department of fish and wildlife plants and farms the largemouth bass in Clear Lake therefore it is also known by the name “Bass Capital of the West”. 

Other fish like catfish, rainbow trout, bluegill, and crappy are also commonly found in the lake. Fishing boats are rented in the lake for fishing these fish. There is the availability of fishing-related gears in nearby stores. Fishing tournaments are carried out all year round.

The boats that enter the boundary of Clear Lake are thoroughly checked for traces of zebra mussels and quagga which pose a threat to aquatic life in the lake. 

Traces of hydrilla is also checked at the entry of each boat. The authorities of the lake have controlled the existence of hydrilla in Clear Lake. 

Wilderness and Plant life

oldest lake in the united states - animals
The lake supports a huge variety of living creatures, including the mountain lion

There is a range of species found in the land circulating Clear Lake. Mountain lions, opossums, turkey vultures, ringtails, and red-tailed hawks are seen often in this area. The basin of Clear Lake is an attraction to coots, mallards, geese, western grebe, ospreys, mergansers, and many other animals. The northern spotted owl is one of the endangered species found in this domain. 

Reptiles such as the pacific gopher snake, northwestern pond turtle, northern pacific rattlesnake, California king snake, garter snakes, common bullfrog, and rare breeds of giant salamander are often found in this area along with many such animals. 

The Clear Lake is fed by the streams containing fish such as rainbow trout, Sacramento pikeminnow, and California roach. 

The forests around the lake are dense in trees of oak-madrone, manzanita, chaparral grasses, and sage shrubs.  

The trees which are commonly found in this region are valley oak, pacific madrone, blue oak, interior live oak, and California scrub oak. A few trees of tanoak and redwood are also found in this area. 

Environmental Issues 

Many issues are faced despite the apt maintenance and care the authorities provided to Clear Lake. The problems are penned down below:

Wetlands and Agriculture

Wetlands are vital ecosystems and are the subject of many environmental issues

The Clear Lake comprises the vernal pool and freshwater marshes. Around fifteen hundred pools have been discovered in this region by ecologists. 

These wetlands provide a natural habitat for aquatic life and wilderness. The water naturally filters the presence of sediments when it enters the premises of the lake through streams. 

Since these wetlands have been used for urban and agricultural development by the locals the habitat of wetlands has reduced to a percentile of seventy-nine. This land has been used for agricultural development since the middle of the nineteenth century. 

Equipment used in the development of agricultural land increases the sediments in the lake. Sediments are residues that are carried among the water polluting the water for aquatic life to survive. 


During the year 1949, gnats which are small flying insects were found in numerous amounts in the lake. This drove individuals away from the lake. 

To boost tourism, the locals put heavy doses of pesticides in the water. This aided in the removal of pesticides for two years but during the second year, a great number of western grebes were found dead in the lake. 

When their bodies were autopsied to know the cause of death, a large number of pesticide chemicals were found in their tissues. After that the management authority carefully took measures to eradicate gnats from the lake. They are still present but in a minor amount.

Disturbing Species

Precautionary measures are taken to eradicate the presence of hydrilla in the lake. This is a plant that spreads in the water and survives in sediments causing a lot of problems for aquatic life. 

The presence of hydrilla in the water affects the fish stock and causes hindrance during recreating activities and boating. 

Monitoring and Maintenance

Checks are done to maintain the quality of the water. These checks are done from time to time to ensure that the water quality standards are up to the mark. 

In 1955, a middle creek project was initiated to restore the land of the Clear Lake area. This project was carried out so that no amount of wetland is wasted due to the increase of shoreline. 


Sulphur mines contaminate the environment and threaten the plants and animals that live there

The water of the Clear River Lake is contaminated with mercury due to the presence of a Sulphur Mercury Mine. This mine has been abandoned but still had traces of mercury in it. 

In 1990, this mine was declared a polluted and contaminated site, which is still going through the process of clean-up. Pregnant women and children are advised not to consume fish captured from this lake.

Oldest Lakes Around The World

Clear Lake is the oldest lake within the geographic boundaries of the United States. Other lakes around the world are marked million years old. Here is a list of a few of them:

1. Lake Zysan

This lake is about sixty-five million years old and situated in the region of Eastern Kazakhstan. The total area of the surface of this lake is around 700 sq. mi. The maximum depth of this lake is forty-nine feet, having a volume of 12.7 cu mi. 

2. Lake Baikal 

Lake Baikal. Olkhon Island in the summer
Lake Baikal, Olkhon Island in the summer.

This lake is twenty-five million years old and located in the area of Southern Siberia. The geographic surface of this aquatic body is 12248 sq. mi having a volume of 5670 cu mi and a depth of 5378 feet.

3. Lake Maracaibo 

The age of this lake is around twenty to thirty-six million years old. The lake is situated in Venezuela and has an aquatic area of 5100 sq. mi. The maximum depth of this lake is 200 feet with a volume of 67.17 cu mi. 

4. Lake Tanganyika 

Lake Tanganyika, Tanganyika
The calm beauty of Lake Tanganyika

The oldness of this lake is around nine to twelve million years. This lake is located in the region of Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

The geographic surface area of this lake is 12700 SW. mi with the volume of 4500 cu mi having a maximum depth of 4820 feet.

5. Caspian Sea

This lake is 5.5 million years old. It is located between Asia and Europe. The exact geographic location is from Russia to the north-western side, Kazakhstan to the North, From Turkmenistan to the southeastern side, and Azerbaijan to the western end. 

The surface area of this lake is 143200 sq. mi with a maximum depth of 3360 feet and a volume of 18800 cu mi.

6. Lake Biwa

Lake Biwa Bridge, Otsu, Japan

This lake is four million years old. It is located in Japan having a surface area of 258.8 sq. mi. The maximum depth of the aquatic body is 341 feet and a volume of 6.6 cu mi.

7. Lake Titicaca

The lake is three million years old having a surface area of 3232 sq. mi. It is located on the border of Peru and Bolivia.  The maximum depth of this lake is 922 feet with a volume of 214 cu mi.

8. Lake Malawi 

The age of this lake is one to two million years located between Tanzania, Mozambique, and Malawi. The surface area of this lake is 11400 sq. mi having a maximum depth of 2316 feet with a volume of 2000 cu mi. 

To read more information regarding the oldest lakes around the world, click here

The Final Word

Clear Lake is the oldest lake in the United States. It is one of the unique lakes in the region of California. The lake has numerous aquatic animals and wilderness in the region. You can commonly find largemouth, carp and catfish, crappie, and bass in the aquatic world of this lake.

Land animals include mountain lions, ducks, grebes, blue herons, pelicans, osprey, bald eagles, deer, bear, and egrets. 

During the summer and spring seasons, water-based activities are carried out for recreational purposes. Boats are rented all year round by individuals to fish in the lake.   

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