Eagle Lake is California’s second-largest natural lake and is located 15 miles north of Susanville, in California's Lassen County. This lake is entirely within the boundaries of the state of California, making it the second-largest freshwater lake in the region.
What makes Eagle Lake especially popular with visitors is the fact that one end of this vast lake is surrounded by pine forest while the other end is largely desert, offering a truly unique landscape and topography. The lake also has no natural surface outlet, making it a closed basin lake.
Eagle Lake lies at an elevation of 5000 feet and is about fourteen miles long. The lake is long and shaped like a bird’s wingspan, hence the name. However, it’s a misnomer because the lake looks more like an osprey than an eagle.
This lake is also rich in history with its natural curiosities and endless attempts made by humans to tamper with its natural state.
Long ago, Native Americans used to hunt, gather food, and fish in the lake before the settlers took over. Today the lake is managed by three organizations, but 80% of the surrounding lands are under the Bureau of Land Management.
Eagle Lake is approached by many visitors every year as it offers plenty of attractions including a nearby marina, plenty of developed and undeveloped campgrounds and recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, hunting, camping, horseback riding, wildlife, photography and so much more.
Eagle Lake is located only 16 miles north of Susanville, in Lassen County, and 63 miles from Lassen Volcanic National Park, in California’s northeast corner. From Susanville, you can head north on Highway 139 for about 30 miles in order to arrive at your destination. Alternatively, you can also head west from Susanville and get onto Highway 36. After about four miles of driving out of town, one can take a right onto County Road A1 (Eagle Lake Road) and continue driving north for another 12-miles to reach Eagle Lake Recreation Area that has both a campground and a marina.
The largest and the closest community from the lake is Spalding. It has a store and a gas station, a boat launch ramp, and an airport. Best to stock up on supplies here before venturing further into this vast BLM governed region comprising of over 1.2 million acres of land. Eagle Lake can also be approached from Reno, NV, Chico, Sacramento, San Francisco and Klamath Falls, OR.
There are numerous campgrounds surrounding Eagle Lake. Some are privately-owned while others are managed by the Bureau of Land Management offering beautiful campsites right along the lake.
North Eagle Lake Campground boasts 20 developed sites, and each of them comes with a picnic table and a fire ring. These campsites can be acquired on a first-come, first-served basis.
Other amenities at the campground include potable water, trash removal services, and vault toilets. These campsites can be used by both tent campers and RV campers. The maximum RV length accommodated at the campground is 35 feet.
Found at the north shore of the Eagle Lake, Rocky Point East Campground is a small and undeveloped campground for those seeking a more primitive camping experience.
There aren’t any facilities available at this campground except for a vault toilet. This campground is more suited to those who prefer self-contained camping. This campground is mostly sand, gravel, and packed earth. Small watercraft can be launched from the shoreline at this campground.
Rocky Point West campground is located along the west shore of Eagle Lake and is another small BLM governed campground ideal for those seeking a more secluded and primitive camping experience. Basic amenities such as a vault toilet is offered but nothing more. Small watercraft can be launched from the shoreline of this undeveloped and secluded campground.
When camping at any BLM managed campground all campers are to adhere to the seven standard leave-no-trace principles. Camping is allowed for a maximum of 14 days at a stretch. Pets are allowed at the campground.
Eagle Lake is often endearingly called a fisherman’s lake, primarily because of its rich fish population. Eagle Lake is also the only water body in the world with Eagle Lake Trout habitat, a unique species that can thrive in the high alkaline levels of the lake. It is also the most sought-after fish for its record-breaking size, delicious flavor, and fast growth rate.
Other fish species found at the lake is that of Tahoe sucker. It is an annual tradition amongst the most avid anglers to fish at Eagle Lake.
After anglers, it is the boaters who visit the Eagle Lake in huge numbers so that they can cruise along its shorelines and get to see various kinds of landscape in just one ride. In addition to boat launches found at various BLM campgrounds, there are numerous marinas around the lake. These marinas provide boat rentals, gas, and other supplies. Make sure to find out about the water levels before heading over.
There’s a lightly trafficked, multi-use trail that is almost a five mile long loop along the shores of Eagle Lake. The trail features pine and sage trees and the lake of course and is suitable for all skill levels. Dogs are also welcomed on this trail. This paved trail can be used for hiking, bicycling, and walking. This trail is also a good place to spot some wildlife. Along the trail are drinking water and restrooms.
Eagle Lake is massive and hosts some very fine beaches for swimmers. It also provides less crowded spots where you can swim in peace. The beaches are different in different spots. Some are all smooth pebbles, some are rough sand, and others are scattered with black rock lava outcroppings in the distance and is reminiscent of the beaches on the North Coast.
If you like birdwatching, then you’d love Eagle Lake because it is home to golden and bald eagles and great blue herons. Additionally, the Tui Chubs in the lake lures eared grebes, buffleheads, western grebes, diving ducks, cormorants, terns, and ospreys. The birds can often be seen taking a sweep into the lake and grabbing both small and big fish for their dinner.
Shorebirds include American white Pelicans, waterfowl, and cinnamon teal. Marshy areas around the lake are habited by muskrats and egrets.
Grab your cameras tightly because wildlife is everywhere at Eagle Lake. You can see mule deer, blacktail deer, and pronghorn antelope amongst big animals.
Small mammals like rabbits, coyotes, raccoons, and squirrels are also seen in huge numbers. Occasionally, visitors may spot a mountain lion or a bear.