Lake Temescal

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Lake Temescal
Temescal 24.jpg
Location Oakland, California
Coordinates 37°50′52″N 122°13′53″W / 37.84778°N 122.23139°W / 37.84778; -122.23139Coordinates: 37°50′52″N 122°13′53″W / 37.84778°N 122.23139°W / 37.84778; -122.23139
Type reservoir
Primary inflows Temescal Creek
Primary outflows Temescal Creek
Basin countries United States
Max. depth 20 ft (6.1 m)
Surface elevation 433 ft (132 m)

Lake Temescal is a small reservoir in the Oakland Hills, in northeastern Oakland, California. It is the centerpiece of Temescal Regional Recreation Area, also known as Temescal Regional Park (and originally, Lake Temescal Regional Park). It is a part of the East Bay Regional Park District.


The lake received its name from the stream which is its source, Temescal Creek, which was dammed in 1868 to create a reservoir to provide drinking water for the greater East Bay area, pumped by the Contra Costa Water Company, owned by Anthony Chabot. Prior to being dammed, Lake Temescal was a sag pond, a depression caused by the Hayward Fault. The bulk of the manual labor of removing soil and digging to bedrock was provided by Chinese immigrants, who probably immigrated to build the railroads.[1] Herds of wild mustangs were used to compact the tons of dirt that were brought to create the dam. The dam is 600 feet (180 m) long and 16 feet (4.9 m) wide and rises 105 feet (32 m) above the creek.[1]

The shores of the lake were a popular camping spot with bohemian artists and writers in the late 1800s.[2] The British painter J.H.E. Partington lived here in a tent with his family when they arrived in Oakland in 1889.[3]

During the first half of the 20th century, the tracks of the Sacramento Northern Railroad ran along the eastern side of the lake. At that time, an electric train called the Comet crossed directly over the lake.[4]

In 1936, Lake Temescal opened to the public as one of the first three parks established by the East Bay Regional Park District. Its early amenities included a beach-like shore for swimming, a boathouse built by the WPA, a well established trail around the lake, and numerous picnic benches.

Present-day function[edit]

The lake currently supports an artificial recreational beach and is stocked periodically with rainbow trout, largemouth bass, redear sunfish, bluegill, and catfish. The park is open to all visitors from 5 am to 10 pm, and receives around 200,000 visitors a year.

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has developed a safe eating advisory for Lake Temescal based on levels of mercury or PCBs found in fish caught from this water body.[5]

The lake is constantly becoming shallower due to sediment runoff and must be periodically dredged. Today it is approximately 20 feet (6.1 m) at its deepest point;[6] previously it was 80 feet (24 m) deep.[7]

Since the dam crosses the Hayward Fault, there is a possibility of dam failure in the event of an earthquake, which would cause serious flooding in parts of Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville. However, due to the additional fill placed between the dam and Highway 24, any hydraulic failure is now unlikely.

During the 1991 Oakland firestorm, water-equipped helicopters refilled at Lake Temescal, largely draining it.

The building is available for event rentals, such as weddings.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chinese Workers and the East Bay's Early Water Systems
  2. ^ Schenck, Marvin A. (1991). Maurice Logan, Artist and Designer. Retrieved on 2006-16-09.
  3. ^ Oakland Museum of California (March 9, 2002). Exhibition label: Scene in Oakland. Archived 2007-03-12 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2006-16-09.
  4. ^ Mailman, Erika (2004). Images of America: Oakland Hills. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 0-7385-2926-5. 
  5. ^ Pham, Huyen Tran (2017-11-07). "Lake Temescal". OEHHA. Retrieved 2018-06-13. 
  6. ^ Perry v. East Bay Regional Park Dist. (--- Cal.Rptr.3d ---, 2006 WL 1620299, Cal.App. 1 Dist., June 13, 2006).
  7. ^ Mailman, Erika (2004). Images of America: Oakland Hills. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 0-7385-2926-5. 

External links[edit]