Sierra National Forest

Bass Lake

Elevation 3,400'
Beginning in 2009, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) will begin a seismic retrofit project to strengthen the Crane Valley Dam at Bass Lake. The project will require that lake levels be lowered ten feet from normal summer operations. The project is expected to be completed in late 2010 or mid 2011. For more information visit PG&E website at

Nestled among tall pine trees this popular recreation area provides opportunities for camping, boating, swimming, fishing and picnicking.

Bass Lake is one of California's premier boating, swimming and sailing lakes. Located at 3,400 feet in elevation, Bass Lake is nearly five miles long and is surrounded by beautiful pine trees. Boat launching facilities, mooring and rentals are available at several Bass Lake marinas. Free public boat launching facilities are available at the Wishon Boat Launch, located at the south end of the lake. A handicap accessible boat launch is available. There is a fee to use boats and watercraft on Bass Lake. The Madera County Sheriff's Department administers the fees which are based on the horsepower of the boat or watercraft. Registration is located at the Sheriff's tower along the north shore.

There are five campgrounds located on the south side of the lake providing over 200 campsites for visitors. There are also two group camping areas that provide plenty of room for large groups. To make reservations contact the National Recreation Reservation System online or by phoning 1-888-444-6777. Reservations can be made up to one day in advance of your arrival.

Bass Lake is an ultimate destination for avid anglers. The lake has over 16 different species of fish; the most popular are trout, bass, Kokanee salmon, catfish, crappie and bluegill. The limit is five per day, 10 in possession. State fishing regulations apply. The Lake is open all year for fishing. Nearby creeks and streams have seasonal closures.

Beautiful pine forests and mountains surround this lake making it an excellent place for day hikes. Nearby you will find the Way of the Mono Interpretative Trail, as well Willow Creek, Goat Mountain and Spring Cove trails. Click here for a map of trails around the lake.

There are 10 picnic areas located around the lake for those who choose to visit for the day. A fee is charged at picnic areas. Many picnic areas are handicap accessible.

There are numerous privately owned accommodations or visitors who prefer a few extra amenities. There are also several resorts around the lake that provide an array of services They include the Forks Resort, Millers Landing and The Pines Resort.

History of 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. Mono Indians inhabited the area for centuries before 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. 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).

The lake was called Crane Valley Reservoir for many years 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.

Bass Lake is now owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company and the waters of the lake are still used today to generate electricity, irrigate farmland in the Central Valley and for numerous recreational activities.


Bass Lake is located one hour north of Fresno via State Hwy 41 and Road 222. Take Hwy 41 to Oakhurst, three miles north of Oakhurst take Road 222 turnoff to Bass Lake.