Winter can be a nice time to visit Lake County if you don't mind cold weather. Come to Clear Lake Campground in your RV or 5th wheel and enjoy the peace and solitude. While you may get some rain and very cold nights, you're likely to have some beautiful crisp days and clear, starry nights. Winter is prime season for star-gazing and bird-watching. Fishing is often very good during winter too.
Although it's too cold for swimming in winter, there are many nice days when you can go out in a boat or sit by the creek and fish. Fewer people on the creek and the lake make it easy to find a peaceful fishing spot along the shore or enjoy boating without crowds. Big tournaments don't usually start until March, the first being the Clear Lake Team Bass Tournament. You can also rent a kayak and enjoy a peaceful paddle.
At Clear Lake Campground we have great fishing spots right on Cache Creek where catfish, bass, and crappie can be caught. Water birds often put on a show along the creek, too, so you can sit by the creek and enjoy watching Blue Heron, Egrets, Western Grebes, and other water fowl. Migrating pelicans come to Clear Lake each winter and sometimes show up right by the campground, a beautiful sight. You might also spot a deer across the creek or an otter swimming along.
For more birding opportunities or for short hikes, head to Anderson Marsh State Park. It's just across the creek from the campground and a short drive to the entrance. Part of the park is an Audubon bird sanctuary. The winter bird count usually shows over 300 bird species. If you're here on New Year's Day, the First Day Hike is a great way to start the new year. There are also smaller group guided walks the second Saturday morning of the month starting in February.
While some wineries close during the winter season or have shorter hours, there are still good places to taste wine, especially on weekends. A special wine and chocolate tasting event is usually held at wineries in February. Boatique Winery, about 15 minutes from the campground, has an unusual collection of rare wooden boats along with good wines. Rosa d'Oro and Wildhurst have tasting rooms right in downtown Kelseyville and there's a brew pub, Kelsey Creek Brewing, for those who prefer beer.
Soper Reese Theater in Lakeport has concerts and special performances throughout the year, including 3rd Friday Live each month and a special New Year's Eve party. In Clearlake, the Spot sometimes has live music on weekends. Other places to look for live music include Kelsey Creek Brewing, Richmond Park Bar and Grill, O'Meara Brothers Brewing Company in Lakeport, and the Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake.
Lake County has several popular casinos too and they usually broadcast the football games on the big screen if you want to keep up with sports. Check the casinos for other special events, including New Year's Eve celebrations.
More about when to visit Clear Lake Campground:
Fall is a nice time to come to Clear Lake. Although nights start to get chilly, days are often beautiful and sunny, especially in early fall. With the summer heat gone, temperatures are usually good for hiking, biking, or kayaking in the creek. Fishing is often fantastic during fall and there are still lots of birds.
Our Saturday night paddles continue through early fall, although they're held a little earlier so we can get back to camp before dark. Special events at various venues around the lake are held most weekends in fall too.
Fall events in Lake County start with the Kelseyville Pear Festival held the last Sun in September. Pears are one of the county's top 3 agricultural products and there's a special exhibit about farming and pioneer families in the Pear Pavilion. Special pear events include a pie eating contest and pear dessert contest and there are a variety of delectable pear products available for purchase at the food booths. A parade down Main Street gets things going in the morning. The all day festival includes music and dancers on three stages, wine tasting, art, food, and other vendor booths, and kid's activities. It's a fun family event with something for everyone.
Bicyclists won't want to miss the Konocti Challenge Cycling Race the first Saturday in October. Participants can sign up for one of 4 different bicycling routes around Clear Lake ranging from a 20 mile family fun ride to a century ride. Courses start in Lakeport with the 65 and 100 mile riders starting by 8:30 AM and the more leisurely 20 and 40 mile groups starting by 10.
The Steele Wines Harvest Festival is the second weekend October. This 2-day event features fun for the whole family including a 4H BBQ, music, arts and crafts show, grape stomping, pie eating contest, games, and activities for kids. Of course there's wine tasting, too. On Saturday morning there's also a farmers' market and the annual Run for Literacy offering 5 and 10K runs and a more relaxing 5K walk.
Halloween events happen at various venues around the lake both the weekend before Halloween and on October 31. Activities for kids include the annual Trunk or Treat in Clearlake and Trick or Treat on Main St in Lakeport, both on October 31. A fun family activity is the corn maze at Renker Farms, 2297 Argonaut Road in Kelseyville, usually open from 9:00 to 6:00 through November. So if you're coming to Clear Lake Campground on Halloween weekend, be sure to bring your costume!
Arts and crafts fairs and Christmas markets start in November. One of the best is the Dickens' Faire held the last Saturday in November. Main Street in Lakeport comes alive with arts and crafts vendors, food booths, music, and activities for kids including photos with Santa. The day ends with caroling and the tree lighting at sunset. There's also a costume contest so come dressed in your vintage Dickens outfit.
Clearlake's Christmas parade is held the first Saturday of December. Starting from Redbud Park at 6PM, it runs along Lakeshore Drive to Austin Park. Santa Claus is sure to make an appearance at this event, too, which is very close to Clear Lake Campground.
Up a lazy river by the old mill run
Forget the white water swirling into blackness. It's for kids. Besides, you'd need a helmet.
You need to go up a lazy river. I mean people don't stare all glassy-eyed at roiling water, do they? You want mesmerizing? Then you want smooth water, barely movin' along. You want Louis Armstrong's version of the dream life. You want a kayak, a paddle, and a guide who can make it all dreamy and trouble-free.
Where can you have this experience? Jessica Sandage of Pedal & Paddle will provide all you need to paddle up Cache Creek. In fact, if you head on down to Clear Lake Campground on Saturday night at 6pm you can participate in a group paddle with Jessica, who will make sure you're properly equipped.
Guess what Pedal & Paddle's motto is. "Peace is a paddle away." Louis would be proud.
Jessica grew up in these parts; she is part of the Pomo tribe that enjoyed the lake and the immense variety of wildlife the wetlands support. Look to the sky for the blue heron, egrets, geese and ducks. Look down to the waterline for the grebes and their shallow-water nests as well as the turtles that jump off the rocks or tree limbs milliseconds before you poke at the camera button in futility. Don't miss the river otters and deer. You might have to go a bit out of the way to see a bear, but they're around the creek near the dam at times.
The Easy Way to Find Peace on the Still Waters
Head on over to Clear Lake Campground at 6pm on Saturday, decide on your ride (sit on top or sit inside kayaks--or a canoe for two). Bring a hat, sunglasses, camera, bug spray and water. Have a good time, get some easy exercise, and find your peace. It's getting hard to find that last bit these days, so get excited to be away from the TV or those video games without missing them. We've ignored it for such a long time that natural reality has become the new "wowza!"
More on Clearlake's Pedal & Paddle Rental Enterprise
Pedal and Paddle provides kayaks, paddle boards (and coming soon, hydrobikes) from their location at Austin Beach Park, 10477 Lakeshore drive in Clearlake. They are open every day except Wednesday from 8am to 6pm. They offer an hour of water fun for kids accompanied by a parent from 2-3 pm on Saturday and Sunday. They can deliver kayaks to your location around the lake.
See their facebook page for current hours and contact information.
If you don't want to drive and paddle, how 'bout reserving a space at Clear Lake Campground and stay the night to let your ravaged lungs get acclimated to Lake County's clean air before you have your adventure? Your kids will love the pool and might have the chance to marvel at the monster catfish folks catch off the banks of the creek.
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When we moved to Lake County from the San Francisco Bay Area, we became the butt of jokes that never seemed to end. As we planned to leave the imagined "real world", friends were convinced that we were heading toward the backwaters of California, where we would be lost and forgotten.
"What will you do there?" everyone would ask.
Well, see, that was the thing. We planned to spend 5 months in Italy, then come home and write about it. Lake County had few distractions we thought, and would thus not get in the way of our quest as travel writers. We would not be lured into cultural goings on that would deter us from plunging onward in our quest to define culture in far off lands. Lake county would be safe for work. We were sure of it.
Besides, who can find a San Francisco restaurant without loud and vacuous music putting a fence between diners who were old enough to remember when conversation was an art best honed while feasting?
Music without soul is a plague that won't go away. It's pumped out of speakers everywhere from restaurants to sweat farms.
Then we started going to the Ely Stage Stop for the fiddler's jam. It's held in a barn. Folding chairs spill out into the fields, even on a searing hot summer day. Folks who can't find chairs lean against sturdy beams. Fiddlers between the ages of 7 and 77 jam away. Your legs soon start to twitch, wanting to stomp out a tune in the dirt. Grown men dance in the aisles. Fiddlers laugh, sweat, and a woman in back sets a washboard a hummin'. "C'mon in, the backwaters are fine" is the message between the quarter-notes.
You see, everyone is engaged with the music. Where elevator music has devolved into "work" music its prime purpose is to wipe out background noise and any extraneous thought you might be having. Your boss doesn't want you to actually listen to the stuff; he doesn't want the office to break into dance or be otherwise engaged in the music. He doesn't want the music to crescendo to a heroic finish that would make you question your worthless toil in your tiny cubicle. Nope. That music is safe for work--you can be sure of it. They design it that way.
So here we are back at the fiddler's jam discovering the value of friends and the deliciousness of the home-made chocolate chip cookies you get at the back.
Then some dude in overalls with a red bandana tied around his neck shuffles toward the front of the room dragging a contraption that makes you scratch your noggin. He's dragged it from the museum. It's something the early immigrants we shamelessly call pioneers used in their daily life. The dude is John. He's a hoot.
"Who knows what this is?" John drawls while wrestling the contraption like a metal snake
There is discussion. There is hemming and hawing. Someone will have the answer. The rest will exclaim something like "my daddy had two of those!" There will be much chiming-in.
It's all part of the fun. You see, John is a bit of a celebrity, a noted archaeologist who's done some interesting work you might not think archaeologists do. Emmy award winning filmmaker Peter Brosnan contacted John and they ended up mapping the objects left from DeMille's 1923 movie The Ten Commandments for example.
Then the fiddlers, rested and provisioned with chocolate cookies, commence playing music that's not safe for work. It will stick in your head. It will make you want to get away from it all.
Like the family in the picture below, staring at the waters of Cache creek as a pool full of happy frolickers splash away behind them. There isn't a computer in sight.
Want to reserve a place to get away from it all? Click the button. It's safe for work.
Lake County Historical Society’s Ely Stage Stop & Country Museum is located at 9921 State Hwy 281 (Soda Bay Road) in Kelseyville, near Clearlake Riviera, just north of Hwy 29-Kit’s Corner. Fiddling generally happens the first Sunday of the month. Check the Facebook page for opening and event times.
Don't miss Bluegrass at the Ely on September 9th, starting at noon
On the weekend of June 24-25 the air around Middletown was alive with the pop and bang of Civil War weaponry wrapped by sweet song. Friends of the Gibson Museum and Cultural center combined with the American Civil War association put on the shindig, which was supplemented by local authors and musicians. There were too many good pictures to sort through.
The best summation came from the Lake County website:
Tour the encampments, chat with soldiers, watch a lady squirm into a hoop skirt, wear your own antebellum costume, learn how Californians were involved in the war, stroll the mansion grounds. An estimated 250 participants are expected to camp out Friday and Saturday night in the fields behind the mansion with cavalry horses as well…
We couldn't resist watching Barbara White dressing as a lady in 1860, especially as the mercury had soared towards 100 that day and the layers of clothing she and her "dresser" strapped and laced seemed endless. She's in our video, which also features clips of the Civil War battles, period music, and a short bit of the Gettysburg Address read by Voris Brumfield.
We leave you with a few moments we captured during the day.
For those who would like to attend a special festival or event when you come to Clear Lake Campground, these are five of Lake County's most popular events. Remember that the campground, and other lodging options, may fill up quickly on these weekends, so be sure to reserve your camp site well in advance.
Sponsored by Redbud Audubon Society, Heron Days usually takes place the last weekend of April in Kelseyville and the first weekend of May in Clearlake, right at Clear Lake Campground. The highlight of Heron Days is the pontoon boat tours into Anderson Marsh for a close-up look at the birds of Clearlake. These boat tours sell out quickly and Clear Lake Campground may fill up too so be sure to make your reservations early.
Enjoy this short video of a pontoon boat tour at the 2017 Heron Days event. This part of Anderson Marsh is also accessible by kayak, available for rent at Clear Lake Campground.
Lake County Wine Adventure:
Later in May, Lake County Wine Adventure is a 2-day event with more than 25 participating wineries. You can buy a passport good for one day or both days and there's a special ticket for designated drivers who can enjoy the food and fun (without the wine). Wineries offer tastings and food and sometimes music, tours or other special activities. It's a great opportunity to visit Lake County wineries.
If you don't want to come for the Wine Adventure weekend, there are still many opportunities for wine tasting. Most Lake County wineries are open on weekends and some are also open during the week, especially in summer.
Fourth of July:
Independence Day is a great time to come to Clear Lake Campground. Fireworks are spread out over several nights at different locations around the lake. Lakeport holds a big street faire at Library Park on July 4 with arts and crafts, music and food and a fireworks display over the lake at dusk. Downtown Clearlake celebrates with a small parade in the morning, followed by the unique International Worm Races at Austin Park and a fireworks display in the evening, usually on the Saturday before July 4. Clearlake Oaks holds a boat parade, also often on the weekend, with fireworks the night of July 3.
The CDFW usually schedules a free fishing day on the weekend before July 4, too, so it's a great time to try fishing if you don't want to buy a license. Clear Lake Campground is on Cache Creek so you can fish right from the campground. Be sure to reserve your spot at Clear Lake Campground in advance as July 4 is a popular time for camping!
Lake County Fair:
The Lake County Fair is held in Lakeport on Thursday through Sunday of Labor Day weekend, the first weekend in September. There's lots going on at the fair from animals, contests, and educational displays to food, music, rides, and entertainment. Saturday night, featuring top musical entertainment, is the most popular time to come to the fair but families will find lots of fun things to do during the day on Saturday and Sunday.
Kelseyville Pear Festival:
The Kelseyville Pear Festival, celebrating Lake County's agricultural heritage, is one of the county's most popular events. Held on the last Saturday of September, Main Street Kelseyville hosts more than 100 food and craft vendors and a wine pavilion featuring Lake County wines. Three stages feature a variety of music and entertainment well into the evening. A pear dessert contest, pear pie eating contest, and horse fair round out the events.
There's something happening in Lake County most weekends from spring through early fall so check the Lake County Events Calendar or the calendar tab on Lake County News for the dates you plan to visit.
While there's plenty to do at Clear Lake Campground, you may want to enjoy a few activities around the lake while you're here, too. Here's a 36 hour weekend itinerary for fun things to do near Clear Lake Campground:
Upon your arrival, take a little time to enjoy the beautiful view of Cache Creek from the campground. You may want to take a dip in the pool or do some fishing from our piers for catfish, bass, or crappie.
Friday evening is a great time for dinner at The Spot on Lakeshore Drive in Clearlake. The Spot is known for its excellent hamburgers and lakeside dining. Choose an outside table with a good view of the lake. On Friday evenings, and some Saturdays, there's often live music and dancing from 6-9PM - see the music schedule on their web site.
Saturday morning is the perfect time for a visit to Anderson Marsh State Park, just a couple minutes drive down Highway 53. If you're here the second Saturday of the month, you can usually join a free guided nature walk, starting at 8:30 AM by the Ranch House. Several trails take you through the marsh. The easiest trail, to the right of the Ranch House, goes along Cache Creek on the opposite side from the campground. There's often good bird-watching at the marsh, too, including Great Blue Heron and Egrets. You may even see some deer but watch out for rattlesnakes around the rocks when the weather's hot.
A few miles away, off Highway 29, visit Vigilance Winery. This is an excellent place for a picnic so bring some food and buy a bottle of wine. The picnic tables have fantastic views of the lake and Anderson Marsh. There's also a bocce ball court you can use and of course, wine tasting. If you'd like to visit more wineries, see Lake County Wineries for a complete list.
Spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool or renting a kayak or boat to explore the creek. Rentals are available right at the campground but it's best to reserve the day before. You can either head out toward the lake or down toward the dam. Watch for birds, river otters, and deer. Plan to have a barbecue at the campground on Saturday evening or go to The Spot in Clearlake if you didn't go on Friday.
If you enjoy Sunday brunch, try the brunch at Riviera Hills Restaurant, with nice views of the lake. Or take a drive around the lake to the historic Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake. They have live music during Sunday brunch, served on the terrace or in the garden when the weather's nice. While you're in Upper Lake, visit the Upper Lake Mercantile shop with products from local artists and craftspeople and the Lake County Wine Studio where you can taste a variety of wines.
If you're here on the first Sunday of the month, head to Ely Stage Stop Museum for the free fiddlers' jam from noon - 2PM. Ely is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 to 3:00 so even if you don't go or the music, it's a great place to explore Lake County's history. Another nearby museum for history buffs is the Lower Lake Schoolhouse Museum, open Fridays and Saturdays, 11:00 to 4:00.
Of course you may prefer to spend your remaining time at the campground kayaking or boating on the creek, fishing, swimming, or just relaxing. Whatever you like to do, there are plenty of options.
Martha Bakerjian is a travel writer who divides her time between Clearlake and northern Tuscany. She writes about Italy on her site, Martha's Italy.
Spring is a beautiful time to come to Clear Lake. The hills are green, water in the lake is high, and fishing is usually good.
Then there's the kayaking. Oh, the kayaking!
This isn't the place that sinewy, unshaven, and fearless men shoot through rapids and torpedo down waterfalls. Kayaking Clear Lake--especially along Cache Creek, can be a family affair. In spring the water is at its highest, and the flow out the dam is just enough to give you some exercise as you paddle towards the lake. On the return you can drift lazily if you wish, gazing at the great blue herons, blindingly white egrets, and, if you are lucky, Clear Lake's famed white pelicans that can fill the sky, long vees of them turning from white to silver and back again as they bank into the wind.
Smaller birds are more easily heard than seen; they fill the air with songs city dwellers probably haven't heard before.
But here's the thing about springtime along Cache Creek. When the water is high (and as I write it's very high) you can duck into places with your kayak that you can't get into at other times of the year. Anderson Marsh is flooded, leaving reedy expanses for you to explore and get lost within. You need to have a good sense of direction to avoid getting helplessly lost, but have no fear, you are hemmed in by mountain slopes planted with vineyards, blossoming walnut trees and orchards of Bartlett pears.
If you are a visual person, you might enjoy a little video we've made with an old cell phone. It starts along the main creek, then heads toward the marsh and out again as we drift past the colorful trees just awakening from their winter slumber.
Remember, you can rent kayaks from Clear Lake Campground...call a day in advance to reserve. See the Rates.
James Martin is a travel writer who scribbles mostly about European places. He spends half his year in Italy, and writes the Wandering Italy Blog from the part of Tuscany nobody knows: The Lunigiana.