A history of :
During World War II, Clear Lake was designated as the auxiliary or emergency landing base for the big flying boats or “Clipper” ships that were used extensively in transporting American soldiers and civilians from the Philippines to the United States.
Nearly every day there would be one to four or more of these big air ships landing on the lake due to the fogging in of the San Francisco Bay, the Alameda Air Base and Treasure Island. What a sight it was to see these “gigantic birds” out bobbing around on Clear Lake, and on several occasions the huge MARS, or then known as the “Sacred Cow,” would be forced to land here. The waters of Clear Lake were so calm, the smaller planes would have to taxi up and down for a half hour to ruffle the surface of the lake enough so this flying giant could take off. On several occasions diplomats or “top” secret personnel were landed on Clear Lake along with anywhere from 35 persons or many more (depending on the size and number of aircraft and their starting points). Buses would be sent up from the city to transport the “VIPs” and passengers down to the Bay area that was fogged in for hours, and on occasions for days on end.
Lampson Brothers had a contract to refuel these big airships while anchored here, and the Lampson’s would take the aviation fuel out in containers, via boat, and fill the ships. This was quite a production, and entertained the “townsfolk” on many occasions.
Historic Look at Clear Lake
& Mt. Konocti
At first glance the sheer size of Clear Lake tends to overwhelm you. With its 44,000 surface acres it is the largest lake in California. But more important it is the oldest lake in North America. The lake has existed for millions of years, long before man walked on earth. Nearby majestic Mount Konocti stands as a sentinel over the lake. Local Pomo Indians have always considered Clear Lake and Mount Konocti to be a sacred place and they hold it in reverence. . Clear Lake is the center piece of Lake County and it draws more than a half a million visitors a year. Scientists place the age of the lake at more than two million years, making it the oldest lake in North America or even in the Western Hemisphere.
Clear Lake is classed as a eutrophic lake, meaning it is extremely rich in nutrients. Clear Lake got its name in 1877 when European settlers discovered the air to be the clearest they had ever seen, not because the clarity of the water. According to the American Lung Association, Lake County has the cleanest air in California. Clear Lake was originally named “Lypoyomi” which is the Pomo Indian word for Big Water. It is a shallow lake and has been for more than 475,000 years. The reason that it hasn’t filled up with silt and become a landmass is because the bottom is constantly shifting and the silt is filtered through cracks.
The lake is home to more than 300 species of birds and it holds more fish per acre than any other lake in the country. The lake is world famous for its outstanding bass fishing but there are other recreational opportunities as well. It is considered to be one of the top bodies of water in the country for bird watchers. For years, visitors came to the lake for its outstanding fishing but that has changed. Many visitors now want to kayak on the lake and view the abundant bird and wildlife. It’s not uncommon to see thousands of nesting western grebes, herons, eagles, osprey, white pelicans, egrets and other bird life. Mountain lions have been seen strolling along the shoreline as well as bobcats, deer, otter and other wild critters.
Overlooking Clear Lake is majestic 4,300-foot Mount Konocti. The name “Konocti” is derived from the Pomo words “kno”, for mountain, and “htai”, for woman. The mountain is still considered an active volcano although the last time it erupted was 10,000 years ago. In 2011 the county purchased 1,500 acres on the summit of the mountain and turned it into a park. The Mount Konocti County Park is now open to the public and offers breathtaking views from its summit. The hike to the summit is approximately four miles. Along the way you will pass through a grove of canyon oaks. Some of the trees are believed to be more than 500 years old. This is a great place to take a break and reflect on the mountain. In the middle of the grove of oaks you turn down a dirt road where you will see a homesteader cabin. The cabin was built in 1903 by Mary Downen who homesteaded here. The story goes that every sunny day at precisely 2 p.m. she would communicate with her daughter in Lakeport by flashing a mirror. She used the mirror to inform her daughter that she was okay.
Splash In Trivia
The first Splash In reportedly was held at Lake Oroville in 1973. It was a beautiful setting in all respects, lots of water (important), friendly community and cooperative weather. The only downside was that the lake could (and did) fluctuate in depth by a significant measure in a very short period of time.
Apparently on one occasion Splash In revelers retired for the night only to wake up the next morning and find that the airplanes that had moored offshore the previous evening were sitting high and dry at sunup. For the uninitiated, when in the water, seaplanes have their wheels tucked neatly in the “up” position. When on land the wheels are in the “down” position for obvious reasons. The pilots weren’t sure if they had to wait for the next year’s snow melt to retrieve their planes – the experience prompted a search for a new Splash In location.
With the assistance of the Cal Trans Division of Aeronautics, the search team happened upon Clear Lake, the quaint little hamlet of Lakeport and the very interested owners of the Skylark Motel who made the seaplane group an offer they couldn’t refuse. The year was 1979, and this year the event celebrates its 41st consecutive Splash In. We look forward to 41 more! Oh, and what became of those land-locked seaplanes of “Lake” Oroville? You’ll have to ask one of the “old salts” in the group to find out!
For more information call :
Lake County Chamber of Commerce
875 Lakeport Blvd.
Lakeport, CA 95453