Clear Lake State Park Script

SFX: Lake water lapping along the shore.

LUNDSTEN: North of Napa Valley, in the sleepy town of Kelseyville, sits Clear Lake – the biggest freshwater lake in California and the centerpiece of Clear Lake State Park. Measuring 43,000 acres, Clear Lake is also thought to be the oldest lake in North America. Most geologists say it’s at least 150,000 years old. Jennifer Garrison is Assistant Professor of Volcanology and Igneous Petrology at California State University, Los Angeles. She says Clear Lake wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for a fluke of nature.

JENNIFER GARRISON: It was formed by a landslide that blocked the drainage of this river into what is the Russian River, so it was formed by a natural dam.

LUNDSTEN: Elaine Mansell is Clear Lake State Park Interpretive Specialist. She says the park is a patchwork of landscapes.

ELAINE MANSELL: The terrain varies from flat, marshland near Clear Lake to hilly, volcanic-type land on the east side of the park.

LUNDSTEN: At one end of Clear Lake rises Mt. Konoct-Eye, an inactive volcano. Jennifer Garrison:

GARRISON: Mt. Konocti is a type of volcano called a composite volcano, which means it’s made up of alternating layers of lava flows and cinders. It started to be active over 600,000 years ago. The last activity was about 10,000 years ago, so this activity – geologically-speaking – is considered very recent.

LUNDSTEN: But, she says, there’s no sign that Konoct-Eye will be active any time soon. Clear Lake State Park is also known for its archaeology. Elaine Mansell:

MANSELL: We have seven archeology sites -- and that has been proven by the evidence of midden and some digging.

LUNDSTEN: *Midden is the remains of refuse left behind by humans – things like shells and animal bones. Clear Lake’s earliest known inhabitants are the Pomo -- Native Americans believed to have lived in the Clear Lake area starting 11,000 years ago – *four thousand years *before Ancient Egyptians lived along the Nile. Meeyo Marufo is the Environmental Coordinator for Robinson Rancheria, one of the Pomo tribes still living in the Clear Lake Basin today.

MARUFO: There are three different areas of Pomo – there’s Coast Pomo, Valley Pomo and Lake Pomo. The Lake Pomo consists of the Southeastern Pomo and the Eastern Pomo, as well as Waipo and Lake Meewauk.

LUNDSTEN: She says Lake County Pomo were known everywhere for their feather baskets.

MARUFO: Feather basketry is a three-coil basket where feathers are inserted to each stitch. The feathers used would be woodpecker, meadow lark, mallard, red-wing blackbird and quail.

LUNDSTEN: Marufo says daily life for the Pomo was full of hard work.

SFX: Sounds of gathering plants, etc.

MARUFO: In the height of gathering season – the women would be gathering tubors – hundreds of pounds of acorn. They’d be gathering the local hitch fish and the men would also be gathering the fish, carrying the acorns and hunting for the elk that were here, the tule elk.

LUNDSTEN: Marufo says she’s heard ancient stories that include tales of Pomo medicine people traveling in underground caves, lakes and rivers beneath Mt. Konoct-Eye. Even though there isn’t absolute proof, geologist Jennifer Garrison says it’s possible, if there are what are called *lava tubes inside Mt. Konoct-Eye.

GARRISON: After the lava source is exhausted and the lava flows through, it leaves behind a hollow tube where the lava used to be. There is an account that when the lake level was very low that the Native Americans could actually walk in to these tunnels and see this underground lake.

LUNDSTEN: Other Pomo lore says Mt. Konocti *breathed. Jennifer Garrison says that’s plausible, too.

GARRISON: Perhaps, you know, during periods of alternating barometric pressure, I suppose it’s possible that the equalization of air pressure within the volcano to the outside pressure could cause a flow of air in and out of those spaces and could in fact be considered a type of breathing.

LUNDSTEN: Visitors to the park can learn more about the Pomo at the Clear Lake State Park Visitor’s Center. Elaine Mansell:

MANSELL: We have a wonderful Pomo Indian Village diorama – it’s so realistic. It’s summer encampment showing the Pomo homes, there’s sweat lodges where the men would sweat in it after hunting all day.

LUNDSTEN: She says there are also examples of *toolies – which is a reed that grew around the lake that the Pomo used for just about everything – from roofing to baskets.

LUNDSTEN:  Mansell says there are tons of things to do at Clear Lake State Park – it just depends on what you’re into.

SFX: Water sounds

ELAINE: If you’re interested in history you could take a kayak and go up around the bend and there’s bubbles coming up through the water and these are gas bubbles because of the volcanism or if you’re interested in birds this has been designated an important bird area by Audobon, so there are hundreds of bird species.

SFX: Hiking

LUNDSTEN: She says there are docent and self-guided hikes that highlight the area’s geology, wildlife, history and native plants. Hikers can spot geese, ospreys, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles and may even catch a glimpse of the rare tule elk, which was recently reintroduced to the area.  There’s also plenty of opportunities for boating and fishing. For overnighters, there are lots of places to camp, with 147 campsites in three campgrounds. Future projects at Clear Lake State Park include an education center, partially funded by the California State Parks Foundation.

MANSELL: Part of it will be a classroom, the other part open. It’ll be right on the shore so we could have school groups pulling things out of the water and we’ll have room for microscopes and that sort of thing.

LUNDSTEN: One mission of the education center is to teach young people about being stewards of the land.

ELAINE: I think it’s important that we continue to sustain the integrity of this park.

LUNDSTEN: Both Marufo and Garrison agree and add that Clear Lake is an incredibly significant educational resource for California – historically, culturally, geologically and archeologically.  You can find out more about *visiting Clear Lake State Park at

OUTRO:  If you want to help out the California State Park system, join our 90,000 member-driven community by visiting the California State Parks Foundation on the web at  This podcast was brought to you thanks to a generous donation from Glen David Matthews.