Situated completely within California's Northern Coast Range, Lake County borders Mendocino County to the west, Glenn County and Colusa County to the east, Sonoma County, Napa County to the south and a very small portion of Yolo County to the southeast. Lake County was founded in 1861 from pieces of Napa and Mendocino counties. Following the completion of the state highway system in the 1920s, Lake County became a popular resort area on due to its proximity to the Bay Area and its major natural resource, Clear Lake. Lake County's endowment of natural springs (both hot and cold) gave rise to the construction of Victorian resorts and spas around the lake. The towns of Nice and Lucerne were named in the spirit of European resort communities. After Interstate 80 was completed in the 1950s, other Lakes such as Lake Tahoe and Lake Berryessa suddenly became more accessible. This greatly diminished tourism in Lake County and was further exacerbated by the fact that U.S. Highway 101 was constructed just to the west of the county, effectively isolating the county from major highways. Many retirees from other parts of Northern California have settled in Lake County on account of its relatively low housing prices, agreeable weather, and rural charm. Economic activity in Lake County is largely centered on agriculture and tourism. Water from Clear Lake serves agriculture in Yolo County via Cache Creek. Many locals resent the fact that downstream Yolo County holds appropriative rights to Clear Lake's water.
The Mendocino National Forest has a large portion of its land in Lake County called the Upper Lake District. Its ranger station is based in Upper Lake. The forest is popular for its OHV trails, camping, and access to the Eel River and Bear Creek. Lake Pilsbury is a popular lake for boating, fishing, and swimming. Many of the campsites surrounding Lake Pilsbury are owned by PG&E (in fact, they own the dam). As of July 2009, the Pogie Point campground (owned by PG&E) costs $13 a night but has ready access to the northern end of the lake and has running potable water.
In general, improved campsites owned by the Forest Service which have bathrooms and/or running water are Fee Sites. Fees can be variable but expect at least $8 a night. A recent trend in the Upper Lake District has been the addition of disposable toilet seat covers.
Bear Creek Campground is a developed Forest Service campground with bathrooms but no running water. However that is mitigated by the fact that Bear Creek, which generally flows year-round, flows right by. Since this campground is a little more difficult to access, wild and rowdy people can be a problem, but OHVers will be hard to find.
If OHV access in Lake County is of interest, Middle Creek Campground in the Mendocino National Forest is a primary staging area. It has bathrooms and running potable water though Middle Creek tends to be completely "interrupted" or flowing through the gravels in this area. So don't expect swimming. Furthermore, Penny Pines up Country Road 301 (Forest Road M-1) is popular and less so Deer Valley Campground. It and Penny Pines have bathrooms but no running water. Penny Pines and Middle Creek are primarily setup for OHVers and RV campers; there is very little shade at the Middle Creek Campground.
A popular store just south of Lake Pilsbury can be found by the Soda Creek Workstation on Forest Road M-1. It's the Soda Creek Resort and their hours are not set in stone — they're whenever. That being said it is one of the few places to buy food (such as ice cream) and other important incidents (such as beer). They have cats and dogs and they are often wandering all over the establishment which also serves food.
Founded: 1861 County Seat: Lakeport Area: 3,443 km² Population: 65,933 (2006) Cities and Towns: Clearlake, Clearlake Highlands, Clearlake Oaks, Cobb, Glenhaven, Hidden Valley Lake, Kelseyville, Lakeport, Loch Lomond, Lower Lake, Lucerne, Middletown, Nice, Whispering Pines, and Upper Lake.