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Tulare Lake
Location San Joaquin Valley
Kings County, California
Coordinates 36°04′00″N 119°45′03″W / 36.0666184°N 119.7509624°W / 36.0666184; -119.7509624Coordinates: 36°04′00″N 119°45′03″W / 36.0666184°N 119.7509624°W / 36.0666184; -119.7509624
Lake type Flat
Primary inflows Kaweah River
Kern River
Kings River
Tule River
Basin countries United States
Max. length 130 km (81 mi)
Surface area 1,780 km2 (690 sq mi)
Average depth 10 m (33 ft)
Surface elevation 56 m (180 ft)
References U.S. Geological Survey Geographical Names Information System: Tulare Lake

Tulare Lake is a normally dry fresh-water lake that was formerly the largest in the Western United States. Except during heavy precipitation it was part of a large endorheic basin, at the south end of the San Joaquin Valley but not connected to the San Joaquin River. During wet years it was the terminus of the western hemisphere's southernmost chinook salmon run.[1] It was written about by Mark Twain. It is approximately 10 miles south of the site of the Mussel Slough Tragedy. The lake was named for tule, a giant species of bulrush that, once plentiful, lined the marshes and sloughs of its shores.

The lake and its surviving wetlands lie in the southern portion of California's San Joaquin Valley, about forty miles south of Fresno. Yokuts tribesmen built sedge-boats and fished in this lake before the arrival of American settlers. The lake and its large marshes were once an important fishery: in 1888, in one three-month period, 73,500 pounds of fish were shipped through Hanford to San Francisco. It was also the source of a regional favorite, Pacific pond turtles, which were relished as Terrapin Soup in San Francisco and elsewhere. It was also a significant stop for hundreds of thousands of birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. In the wake of the Civil War, the bordering marshes were drained, and in the twentieth century the lake was drained; it is now a shallow basin of fertile earth within the most productive agricultural region of the United States.

The land was reclaimed from the lake over a few decades as the Kaweah, Kern, Kings and Tule rivers were diverted upstream and canals were built to drain the lake. In fact, aggressive groundwater pumping since the draining of the lake has resulted in a significant lowering of the water table, causing subsidence of the land.[2]

Once touted as the largest freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes, in 1849, the lake measured 1,476 km2 (570 sq mi), and in 1879, 1,780 km2 (690 sq mi), as its size fluctuated due to varying levels of rainfall and snowfall. However, by the end of the nineteenth century the lake all but completely disappeared. Because the lake's basin remains, the lake occasionally reappears during floods following unusually high levels of precipitation, as it did in 1997.

The expression "out in the tules," referring to the sedge that lined the lakeshore, is still common in the dialect of old Californian families and means "beyond far away."

See also

References

  1. ^ R. Raines (14 October 1992). "Fishery Resources". Friant Water Users Authority. http://www.fwua.org/Restoration/Fishery-fri.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-26.  
  2. ^ Stephen Hayden (28 March 2007). "Historic Recreation: Tulare Lake, California". Google Earth Community. http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=847942&site_id=1#import. Retrieved 2009-03-26.  

External links

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