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The NEW Tulare Lake

Kevin R

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So, everybody has probably heard about the epic winter season out here on the left coast this year. One of the interesting side effects is what happens to all that snow when it melts. Here in California it's created a new lake in the San Joaquin valley. May I present to you the new Tulare Lake. It's huge!


I took a ride out from San Jose to the small town of Corcoran a couple weeks ago, right after the water level was reported to have peaked. It was said at the time that this lake is now about the same size as Lake Tahoe. From what I saw just cruising along the north shore I would agree. I had originally thought I would just head out and circumnavigate it, but no way - unless I wanted my 400mi day to turn into a 600mi day!   🙂


The overwhelming amount of snow melt gushing down from the Sierra Nevada mountains this spring has swamped the existing system of canals, levees, and irrigation ditches. This is/was/will-be-again-someday prime agriculture land.


Unfortunately, something like this doesn't happen without people suffering so my heartfelt sympathies go to the farmers who are impacted by this disaster.



All across the north shore of the lake where I rode are miles and miles of fresh levees constructed in an attempt to contain the slow creep of the water.


Some of my route took me along the top of those new levees because they were actually constructed on top of existing farm roads. At intersections there were large piles of dirt left to seal up the levee in case the water rose further.



Above, near the town of Corcoran. Massive, newly enhanced levee on the left stretches outta sight to the south.


Historically, there once was a Tulare Lake on this spot until about 100yrs ago. It was, I think, the largest fresh water lake west of the Mississippi. Then, the rivers feeding it were dammed and diverted for agriculture and drinking supplies. The lake slowly went away (unfortunately, something that California has done on more than one occasion). Once dried out, the fertile land left behind became prime farming acreage.

The lake may persist for at least a year or so (also depending on what happens next winter!). I'll be heading out from time to time to check it out!

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