Clear Lake is a family place to play

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If You Go

EAT

Park Place: under red umbrellas with views of Library Park and the lake, bistro-style menu of pizzas, exotic sandwiches, homemade pasta, local meats and elaborate Sunday brunches; and Lake County wines. 50 Third St., Lakeport; 707-263-0444; www.parkplacelakeport.com

Blue Wing Saloon: an historic watering hole serving upscale comfort food at dinner nightly, in the bar and on the garden patio; live music most nights. 9520 Main St., Upper Lake; 707-275-2233; www.tallmanhotel.com/blue-wing-saloon

Saw Shop Bistro: sophisticated food from tempura prawns to Kurobuta pork, local lamb to gnocchi and Angus beef burgers; full bar and local wines. 3825 Main St., Kelseyville; 707-278-0129; www.sawshopbistro.com

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STAY

Tallman Hotel: luxurious guest rooms and suites in a restored 19th century landmark with swimming pool, and soaking tubs on some private patios; full breakfast. Adjacent to a top-rated restaurant/bar. 9550 Main St., Upper Lake; 707-275-2244; www.tallmanhotel.com

Featherbed Railroad B&B Resort: Nine restored, nicely decorated cabooses sleeping two, with full breakfast, small pool, dock and boat launch. 2870 Lakeshore Blvd., Nice. 707-274-8378; www.featherbedrailroad.com

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Campgrounds/RV Parks

Clear Lake State Park: 147 RV and tent sites; eight cabins. Public boat launch/marina, fishing, swimming, hiking. 5300 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville; 707-279-2267; www.parks.ca.gov

Konocti Vista Resort, Marina and RV Park: 74 spaces with full hookups, swimming pool, boat launch, marina, general store, new fitness center. 2755 Mission Rancheria Road, Lakeport; 707-262-1900; www.konocti-vista casino.com/rv-park

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INFORMATION

Lake County Visitor Center: 875 Lakeport Blvd., Lakeport; 800-525-3743; www.lakecounty.com

Vacation resorts and campgrounds dot more than 100 miles of shoreline on Clear Lake, Lake County’s hub of watery summer fun.

A family vacation destination since the 1880s, when families arrived in stagecoaches, the Clear Lake area is now a major wine region, with more than 40 wineries welcoming visitors to taste their high-elevation — and increasingly highly rated — sauvignon blancs and cabernet sauvignons.

But the lake is the crown jewel of the county. The largest natural freshwater lake in California, Clear Lake is warm and shallow, drawing visitors across the state for its swimming, water-skiing, kayaking, paddleboarding and, most famously, fishing.

Surrounded by vast marshes thick with tules, or bulrushes, where bass, crappie, catfish and crawfish hide, Clear Lake is rated the top bass lake in the state by Bassmaster magazine. The lake is home to more than two dozen fishing tournaments each year, attracting contestants from around the country. The current lake record for bass is 17.5 pounds, with 2 to 4 pounds the average for most anglers; a catfish was recently weighted in at a record-breaking 33-plus pounds.

For more than three decades, family-owned Disney’s Boat Rentals in downtown Lakeport has been the main source of bass boats and watercraft, from Jet Skis, wave runners and kayaks to paddleboards and safety gear. The popularity of the various water sports has changed, somewhat, according to Brandon Disney.

“In the past, it was water skiing. Now, it’s wave runners, Jet Skis and SUPs (stand-up paddleboards). Our canopied pontoon ‘patio’ boats are a great way for a family to cruise the lake in the shade, and the kayaks are perfect for the calm waters along the shorelines,” Disney said.

A good place to find out about fishing conditions, and get gear and advice is Clear Lake Outdoors, a tackle and bait shop near the Konocti Vista Casino.

Among the fishing guides they recommend is Bob Myskey at Bassin’ with Bob, who has been teaching beginners and guiding pros to the top fishing spots around the lake for more than 30 years. On the lake most of the year, he reports on what’s biting and where, on his website, fishclearlake.com.

In early summer, fishers focus on the Lakeport shoreline around Berger Bay.

When the hot weather sets in, bass are often caught under docks and overhanging trees. The grassy mouth of Kelsey Creek is a popular fishing spot, as are public parks, including Redbud, Library and Lakeside county parks, and Rodman Slough, near Lucerne, a tranquil waterway lined with swampy wetlands alive with fish and birdlife.

Taking four to 10 people at a time out on her pontoon boat to see the abundant water fowl and birdlife around the lake, Eyes of the Wild owner Faith Rigolisi guides bird-fanciers and wildlife photographers.

“They often come to film the amazing courting dances and sounds of the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of grebes.

This is the largest breeding area for these amazing birds. We also see Great Blue herons, cormorants, bald eagles, thousands of White American pelicans in the fall, plus osprey, wood ducks and much more,” she said.

Lakeside resorts

Hosting the larger bass tournaments, Konocti Vista Casino Resort has 90 boat slips, an RV park with a fitness center, a 74-room hotel, and, of course, a casino.

If You Go

EAT

Park Place: under red umbrellas with views of Library Park and the lake, bistro-style menu of pizzas, exotic sandwiches, homemade pasta, local meats and elaborate Sunday brunches; and Lake County wines. 50 Third St., Lakeport; 707-263-0444; www.parkplacelakeport.com

Blue Wing Saloon: an historic watering hole serving upscale comfort food at dinner nightly, in the bar and on the garden patio; live music most nights. 9520 Main St., Upper Lake; 707-275-2233; www.tallmanhotel.com/blue-wing-saloon

Saw Shop Bistro: sophisticated food from tempura prawns to Kurobuta pork, local lamb to gnocchi and Angus beef burgers; full bar and local wines. 3825 Main St., Kelseyville; 707-278-0129; www.sawshopbistro.com

_____

STAY

Tallman Hotel: luxurious guest rooms and suites in a restored 19th century landmark with swimming pool, and soaking tubs on some private patios; full breakfast. Adjacent to a top-rated restaurant/bar. 9550 Main St., Upper Lake; 707-275-2244; www.tallmanhotel.com

Featherbed Railroad B&B Resort: Nine restored, nicely decorated cabooses sleeping two, with full breakfast, small pool, dock and boat launch. 2870 Lakeshore Blvd., Nice. 707-274-8378; www.featherbedrailroad.com

_____

Campgrounds/RV Parks

Clear Lake State Park: 147 RV and tent sites; eight cabins. Public boat launch/marina, fishing, swimming, hiking. 5300 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville; 707-279-2267; www.parks.ca.gov

Konocti Vista Resort, Marina and RV Park: 74 spaces with full hookups, swimming pool, boat launch, marina, general store, new fitness center. 2755 Mission Rancheria Road, Lakeport; 707-262-1900; www.konocti-vista casino.com/rv-park

_____

INFORMATION

Lake County Visitor Center: 875 Lakeport Blvd., Lakeport; 800-525-3743; www.lakecounty.com

A more laid-back — and much smaller — resort in a tree-shaded waterfront location, Clear Lake Cottages and Marina rents waverunners, bass boats, kayaks, and pontoon boats to guests. Besides 18 super-cute, pet-friendly cabins, the resort has boat slips and a launch ramp, and a saltwater swimming pool.

“Cottages have been right here since at least 1946. New ones replaced the originals, and recently we completely renovated and upgraded them all. We have a new firepit by the lake, and bright red, brand new Adirondack chairs at each cottage. And, we have the highest TripAdvisor and Yelp ratings on Clear Lake!” general manager Bob Vander Woude said.

Scheduled to open on Labor Day weekend, the newly reconstructed Konocti Harbor Resort will offer more than 100 hotel rooms, a restaurant and outdoor bar, an indoor entertainment venue, and a marina. For decades the largest resort on the lake, famous for top-name entertainers in an outdoor amphitheater, the property is now under new ownership, with plans for expansion.

On Soda Bay, Edgewater Resort has tree-shaded RV and tent camping sites, along with cabins, a lakeside swimming pool, a marina and boat launch, a swimming beach (uncommon on this lake), and rentable water craft.

“We are just a little bit old-fashioned and we like it that way. We love kids, we love dogs, and we love families playing volleyball, horseshoes, pingpong, fishing off the pier and all the water sports,” new owner Ken McPherson said.

Public parks

Families return year after year for summer vacations at Clear Lake State Park on the leafy banks of Cole Creek, Kelsey Creek and Soda Bay, for camping and RV sites on the waterfront and on the wooded hillsides; and for easily accessible fishing, swimming, hiking and kayaking (rentals, too).

You can launch your boat at one of the largest ramps on the lake, and dock your water craft, jump into the swimming pool and the lake, or just come for a picnic. The general store is stocked with drinks, snacks, ice and bait.

A pretty park in downtown Lakeport, Library Park has a gabled gazebo where bands play, and tree-shaded lawns. You can launch a boat here, fish, dangle your feet in the water from the dock, hang out at picnic tables, and let the kids play on the little beach and in the playground.

Top of the Lake

Summer weekends are quieter on the north end of Clear Lake, anchored by the Old West-style hamlet of Upper Lake, a stage stop in the 1800s. A stately landmark on Main Street, the Tallman Hotel once housed stagecoach passengers, and early ranchers and loggers, then stood vacant for decades in the late 20th century, until it was restored by current owners Bernie and June Butcher.

“Much of the town was abandoned when we decided to restore the property about 15 years ago. Our town has now come back to life, and visitors stroll the street and browse in the antique and gift shops,” Bernie Butcher said.

Visitors and locals linger under the maple tree-shaded courtyard at the hotel, enjoying live music, libations and comfort food from the adjacent Blue Wing Saloon. Demolished during Prohibition, the original watering hole was reconstructed by the Butchers with a striking interior of old-growth redwood and black walnut, and a fancy 1870s-era back bar, to hold forth today as an architectural icon under festive striped awnings.

Across the street, the Lake County Wine Studio offers tasting of most local wines, and the works of artists from around the lake. A few steps down the wooden sidewalk, Oliveira Antiques specializes in Western history and Americana, while Upper Lake Mercantile is loaded with curios and locally created jewelry and souvenirs.

Adding to the old timey character, Live Oak Belgians leads its horses into town from time to time, offering wagon rides pulled by its gorgeous big Belgian draft horses from Main Street past the vineyards and farmlands of the Clover Valley.

The fishing is good at this end of the lake, especially in front of the Featherbed Railroad B&B Resort.

“The big bass boats rumble right up to our dock and catch award-winning fish right here. And, I often see people standing here on the shoreline, casting into the tule grasses for bass and catfish,” co-owner Paul Vijar said.

In a wooded glen across the street from the dock, the resort’s nine red antique cabooses are designed for couples, and individually decorated, with names such as Harley Davidson Easy Rider; Midnight in Paris, and for romantics, La Loose Caboose.

Two weeks after June and Paul Vijar purchased their dream of a B&B, the lake was menaced by wildfires.

“When the fires hit, we quickly saw the amazing sense of community here, and it brought me to tears. In hardship comes strength and camaraderie, so greatly illustrated here. We are proud to carry on the legacy of this lovely piece of paradise!” June Vijar said.

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