Eagle Lake is California's second largest natural lake, with 28,000 acres of surface water, and also one of its more unique lakes. It sits in a "closed drainage basin" - it has no outlet and only limited surface water flows into it. Eagle Lake hosts a great variety of wildlife, trophy trout, and a unique water quality balance amid attractive scenery - but visitors' help is needed to help keep it that way.
The lake supports a trophy fishery for Eagle Lake trout, a species unique to this one lake. No other trout species will survive in the highly alkaline lake water, but it supports other fish such as tui chub, Tahoe sucker, Lahontan redside and speckled dace. The fish are an abundant food source that attracts many birds to the area.
Visitors driving into the area from the south will top a final crest for a dramatic view of the Eagle Lake Basin spread out before them - a flat area surrounded by mountains, punctuated by the lake itself. To the south of the lake are dense pine and cedar forests. The north side is high desert, largely covered with juniper and sage.
Picture: The view from a ridge above the Eagle Lake Basin.
Animals you may see here
- Birds: Bald eagles winter here and nest in the nearby Jeffery pine forest. White pelicans, western grebes, great blue herons, osprey, and many diving ducks feed on fish in the lake. Valley quail live in brushy and grassy areas.
- In early spring, Canada geese, mallards, pintails and other waterfowl are especially numerous.
- May through June and September through October are peak months for viewing shorebirds, waterfowl and osprey, though viewing is good through the summer.
-April through September are peak months for viewing bald eagles.
- Other wildlife: Mule deer are common throughout the area, and fawn on the northern end of the basin. Pronghorn antelope cross the northern and eastern sides of the basin. Various small mammals find homes throughout the Eagle Lake basin.
Viewing tips for this area
- While circling the lake by car, look for the many wildlife viewing turnoffs along State Highway 139.
- Boat launch facilities are available at both the north and south ends of the lakes. Small boats can be launched from shoreline areas along Highway 139 and at Rocky Point, off County Road A-1.
- Numerous campgrounds can be found around the lake, some primitive. Facilities can be found at the BLM's North Eagle Lake Campground - 30 miles north of Susanville on Highway 139, then 1/2 mile west on County Road A-1 (fee area), and on U.S. Forest Service land.
- Be sure to see tips for "Ultimate Wildlife Watching."
How to get here
From Susanville, take State Highway 139 north 25 miles to Eagle Lake. Keep on Highway 139 for about another five miles as it follows the lakeshore; then turn left (west) onto County Road A-1 to continue circling the lake. Road A-1 continues south to Highway 36 and Susanville, or watch on the left for the turnoff to Gallatin Beach and marina, on the south side of the lake.
Size: The lake surface is about 28,000 acres. Much of the surrounding land is public land.
Managed by: Bureau of Land Management, Eagle Lake Field Office manages about half of the basin surrounding Eagle Lake; the BLM and U.S. Forest Service, Lassen National Forest, manage almost equally the 80 percent of lakeshore that is public land.
For more information, contact: Bureau of Land Management, Eagle Lake Field Office; or the U.S. Forest Service, Lassen National Forest at (530) 257-2151.
The BLM and the Forest Service work for the long-term protection and enhancement of the area's unique values with: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, California Department of Forestry, San Francisco Zoological Society, Lahontan Water Quality Control Board, Eagle Lake Interagency Board of Directors, and Lassen County Board of Supervisors, as well as sportsmen and ranchers. The Trust for Public Lands has been an important partner in land acquisition and development of a conservation easement.
Site 8 in the California Wildlife Viewing Guide.
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