Signs of Volcanic Activity at Bottom of Clear Lake

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When you think of volcanoes erupting, you probably think of Hawaii, or Mount Saint Helens in Washington State or even Lassen peak sending a plume of volcanic rock and ash over Red Bluff in 1915.

But in Lake County, there are hints of volcanic activity on a smaller scale. You’ve likely heard of long quiet Mount Konocti, but volcanic gas belching from the bowels of the Earth through the waters of Clear Lake are signs potential volcanic activity in Northern California isn’t close to done.

“The groundwater circulates underground and if there is hot magma below the surface that will heat the water up and create geothermal activity,” Lydia Fox, Ph.D., a geology professor at the University of the Pacific told FOX40.

It’s not a man-made special effect, but rather side effects from activity on the world famous San Andreas fault. The heavily wooded hills around Clear Lake are some of the most seismically active in the Golden State, recording hundreds of earthquakes a year.


Clear Lake, located in Lake County

While the Earth shakes, the rumors about what’s lurking under the waters of Clear Lake’s Soda Bay make the rounds through locals, like the volcanic vents being home to a trendy hot springs in the Roaring 20’s.

“The rumors are that the water was either too hot and boil up and scald people and there were fumes that killed people and that’s why there is no longer a spa here,” said Ranger Darren Conner of the California Park Service.

Even on a windy, choppy day on the lake, the cracks sending super-heated water through the crust are everywhere. The bubbles the only clue about what lurks beneath and few clues as to when an eruption could strike.

“If I knew that, I’d play Vegas,” says Fox.

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  • DrJohn

    Though Konocti hasn't erupted for 300,000 years, studies of lake sediment cores by the USGS have confirmed that there is an average of one volcanic eruption in the area every 1,500 to 2,000 years. The most recent took place near Clearlake Oaks… about 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. We are at least 1,000 years over due for the next one. There will be plenty of warning. Lots of earth quakes etc. Judging from the history of past eruptions, the next one should be somewhere northeast of Clearlake Oaks.