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Lake County, California
County of Lake
Clear Lake, the dominant geographic feature in Lake County
Clear Lake, the dominant geographic feature in Lake County
Official seal of Lake County, California
Location in the state of California
Location in the state of California
Country United States
State California
Incorporated May 20, 1861
Named for Clear Lake
County seat Lakeport
Largest city Clearlake (population and area)
 • Total 1,329 sq mi (3,440 km2)
 • Land 1,256 sq mi (3,250 km2)
 • Water 73 sq mi (190 km2)
Highest elevation
7,059 ft (2,152 m)
 • Total 68,163
 • Density 51.289/sq mi (19.803/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific Standard Time)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Area code 707
FIPS code 06-033
GNIS feature ID 277281

Lake County is a county located in the north central portion of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2020 census, the population was 68,163. The county seat is Lakeport. The county takes its name from Clear Lake, the dominant geographic feature in the county and the largest natural lake wholly within California (Lake Tahoe is partially in Nevada; the Salton Sea was formed by flooding).

Lake County forms the Clearlake, California micropolitan statistical area. It is directly north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Lake County is part of California's Wine Country, which also includes Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. It includes five American Viticultural Areas and over 35 wineries.


Lake County was formed in 1861 from parts of Napa and Mendocino counties, but the area had European-American settlers from at least the 1840s. Lake County has long been known as a farming community.

The 1911 California Blue Book lists the major crops as Bartlett pears and beans. Other crops include grain, alfalfa, hay, prunes, peaches, apples, grapes and walnuts. Stockraising included goats, hogs, turkeys and dairying.

Some vineyards were planted in the 1870s by European Americans but the first in the state were established in the 18th century by Spanish missionaries. By the early 20th century, the area was earning a reputation for producing some of the world's greatest wines. However, in 1920, national Prohibition essentially ended Lake County's wine production. With authorized cultivation limited to sacramental purposes, most of the vineyards were ripped out and replanted with walnut and pear farms.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,329 square miles (3,440 km2), of which 1,256 square miles (3,250 km2) is land and 73 square miles (190 km2) (5.5%) is water. Two main watercourses drain the county: Cache Creek, which is the outlet of Clear Lake; and Putah Creek. Both of these flow to the Sacramento River. The main streams which flow into Clear Lake are Forbes Creek, Scotts Creek, Middle Creek and Kelsey Creek. At the extreme north of the county Lake Pillsbury and the Van Arsdale Reservoir dam the Eel River, providing water and power to Ukiah in Mendocino County.

Clear Lake is believed to be the oldest lake in North America, due to a geological fluke. The lake sits on a huge block of stone which slowly tilts in the northern direction at the same rate as the lake fills in with sediment, thus keeping the water at roughly the same depth. The geology of the county is chaotic, being based on Franciscan Assemblage hills. Numerous small faults are present in the south end of the lake as well as many old volcanoes, the largest being Cobb Mountain. The geologic history of the county shows events of great violence, such as the eruption of Mount Konocti and Mount St. Helena and the collapse of Cow Mountain, which created the hills around the county seat of Lakeport. Blue Lakes, Lake Pillsbury, and Indian Valley Reservoir are the county's other major bodies of water.

Lake County has habitats for a variety of species of concern including the uncommon herb, Legenere limosa, the rare Eryngium constancei, and the tule elk. Waterfowl, bear, and other wildlife abound in the Clear Lake basin.

Due to its surrounding hilly terrain, Lake is the only one of California's 58 counties never to have been served by a railroad line.

National protected areas

  • Mendocino National Forest (part)
  • Cow Mountain Recreation Area
  • Cache Creek Wilderness and Cache Creek Wildlife Area

In 2015 President Barack Obama created the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, incorporating these and other areas.

State protected areas

Mineral springs

In the late 19th century, the worldwide popularity of mineral water for the relief of myriad physical ailments resulted in the development of mineral resorts around Clear Lake.

  • Greene Bartlett discovered Bartlett hot springs in 1870. The springs were developed into a resort and by 1900 included a mineral water bottling plant. The resort burned down in 1934.
  • Harbin Hot Springs was developed by settlers in the 1860s. Unfortunately, Harbin burned to the ground in the Vally Fire of 2015.
  • Highland Springs opened in 1891, and was destroyed by fire in 1945. During its time, Highland had an elegant dining room and a spacious hotel.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort was opened by J. J. Liebert in 1873 with several cabins, and within two decades had room for 350 guests.
  • Witter Springs Resort opened in 1873 with a hotel and guest cottages.


Lake County has a mediterranean climate with hot summer daytime temperatures in its lower elevations. Nighttime temperatures remain cool year-round, somewhat moderating average temperatures and relieving the summer heat.

Climate data for Clearlake, California (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 76
Average high °F (°C) 55
Average low °F (°C) 32
Record low °F (°C) 8
Precipitation inches (mm) 6.45



Places by population, race, and income


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 2,969
1880 6,596 122.2%
1890 7,101 7.7%
1900 6,017 −15.3%
1910 5,526 −8.2%
1920 5,402 −2.2%
1930 7,166 32.7%
1940 8,069 12.6%
1950 11,481 42.3%
1960 13,786 20.1%
1970 19,548 41.8%
1980 36,366 86.0%
1990 50,631 39.2%
2000 58,309 15.2%
2010 64,665 10.9%
2020 68,163 5.4%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2015

The 2010 United States Census reported that Lake County had a population of 64,665. The racial makeup of Lake County was 52,033 (80.5%) White, 1,232 (1.9%) African American, 2,049 (3.2%) Native American, 724 (1.1%) Asian, 108 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 5,455 (8.4%) from other races, and 3,064 (4.7%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11,088 persons (17.1%).


There were a total of 34,031 homes in Lake County in 2005. This county has gone through a growth in housing units, adding a sum of 1,414 residential structures since 2001, a change of 4.3 percent. Lake County ranks 978 of 3,141, compared to change in residential structure growth in counties throughout the Unities States.

Lake County had a median home value in the year 2005 of $255,300, according to the American Community Survey. This median is less than the overall California 2005 home median value of $477,700 and greater than median home value of $167,500 for the rest of the nation in that year. In 2005, the American Community Survey reported that 14.4% of Lake County's owner-occupied dwellings are valued over a half a million dollars.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 24.1% under the age of 18, 6.0% from 18 to 24, 23.6% from 25 to 44, 26.8% from 45 to 64, and 19.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 97.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.7 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $49,627, and the median income for a family was $55,818. Males had a median income of $45,771 versus $44,026 for females. The per capita income for the county was $43,825. About 6.9% of families and 4.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.8% of those under age 18 and 7.3% of those age 65 or over. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

The recent sharp increase in per capita income can be directly linked to those people who have recently relocated to Lake County and telecommute to their jobs in the Bay Area. In addition, real estate values have risen due to a boom from 2003 to 2006, caused by Bay Area residents' discovery that Lake County residential real estate was lower in cost than that in adjacent Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

Within Lake County are two incorporated cities, the county seat of Lakeport and Clearlake, the largest city, and the communities of Kelseyville, Blue Lakes, Clearlake Oaks, Clearlake Park, Cobb, Finley, Glenhaven, Hidden Valley Lake, Clearlake Riviera, Loch Lomond, Lower Lake, Lucerne, Middletown, Nice, Spring Valley, Upper Lake, Whispering Pines, and Witter Springs.

The income of residents of the county varies widely. The county is the largest employer thus far, followed by large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Safeway, and Kmart. Several franchised retailers have recently entered the county (up 28% since 2003) and have created a diverse employment environment. Employment statistics continue to improve, again supported by the influx of Bay Area relocations and the benefit of telecommuting. Lake County is mostly agricultural, with tourist facilities and some light industry. Major crops include pears, walnuts and, increasingly, wine grapes.


According to official estimates based on the 2000 Census, 30% of housing units in Lake County were manufactured housing units. This was the highest percentage of any California county.


Major highways

  • State Route 20
  • State Route 29
  • State Route 53
  • State Route 175
  • State Route 281

There are also several numbered county routes in Lake County.

Public transportation

Lake Transit serves all areas around Clear Lake. Local routes serve Lakeport, Clearlake and Lower Lake. Connections are also provided to St. Helena (Napa County) and Ukiah (Mendocino County). Some routes operate on weekdays only: no service is provided on Sundays and observed public holidays.


Lampson Field is the county's public airport. There are also several private airstrips located throughout the county.

Railroads (historical)

In 1888 the Vaca Valley and Clear Lake Railroad reached Rumsey, but the planned line to Clear Lake was never built. The Clear Lake Railroad started work on a line from Hopland to Lakeport: "In November 1911 first ground was broken for the Hopland-Clear Lake railroad to Hopland. Mrs Harriet Lee Hammond, wife of the president of the road started construction. ... There were six miles of track out of Hopland ...", but this was also abandoned.


Lake county usgs national map
Topological map of central Lake County


Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of Lake County.

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 Clearlake City 15,250
2 Hidden Valley Lake CDP 5,579
3 Lakeport City 4,753
4 Kelseyville CDP 3,353
5 North Lakeport CDP 3,314
6 Clearlake Riviera CDP 3,090
7 Lucerne CDP 3,067
8 Nice CDP 2,731
9 Clearlake Oaks CDP 2,359
10 Cobb CDP 1,778
11 Middletown CDP 1,323
12 Lower Lake CDP 1,294
13 Upper Lake CDP 1,052
14 Soda Bay CDP 1,016
15 Spring Valley CDP 845
16 Robinson Rancheria (Pomo Indians) AIAN 207
17 Big Valley Rancheria (Pomo Indians) AIAN 139
18 Upper Lake Rancheria (Pomo Indians) AIAN 87
19 Sulphur Bank Rancheria (Pomo Indians) AIAN 61
20 Middletown Rancheria (Pomo Indians) AIAN 56


The main crops in 2011, 2014 and 2015 (in thousands of dollars) are:

2011 Rank Crop 2011 2014 2015
1 Grapes, Wine 38,450 47,880 58,867
2 Pears, Bartlett 14,889 22,848 19,575
3 Nursery Products, Misc. 3,533 1,443 942
4 Walnuts, English 2,381 6,534 6,732
5 Cattle & Calves, Unspecified 1,895 2,174 2,176
6 Pears, Asian 1,558 -- --
7 Field Crops, Unspecified 1,136 1,397 1,810
8 Pasture, Range 405 405 720
9 Pears, Unspecified 400 1,280 1,161
10 Vegetables, Unspecified 193 344 286

Notable people

  • Benjamin Dewell, former Bear Flagger
  • Lillie Langtry, British actress and royal mistress
  • Michael Berryman, American actor

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