The lake was created by the construction of the C L Tilden Park Dam in 1938. It was named by the East Bay Regional Park Board in honor of Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza.
The lake is open for swimming from May to September. During this time there is an entry fee required, lifeguards are on duty, and a snack bar is open. The swimming area is restricted to the water alongside a sandy and grassy beach area which is about 70 yards (64 m) long. There is an adult swim area with a length of 44 yards (40 m).
The lake area includes amenities such as changing rooms, bathrooms (toilets), and large parking areas. There are areas around the lake reserved for waterfowl, and other areas for dogs.