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As it turns out, Clear Lake has a volcano

June 22, 2021

On our way to the coast on Friday we passed through Lake County and drove around the eastern shore of Clear Lake. I do want to say up front that I managed to drive all the way through the town of Nice without making even one stupid joke about the very Nice Motel or the very Nice Diner. Because even if those jokes had ever actually been funny my kids would be really sick of them by now.

Anyway here is something I did not know about Lake County, and when I say I didn’t know this I mean I’ve driven through Lake County a couple of dozen times and I never noticed that there’s a very large volcano on the west bank of Clear Lake. I mean, it’s not smoking or anything, which would have made it pretty hard to miss, but it is totally looming over the lake and meanwhile I’ve always just been like, “Oh haha this is a NICE town!” And then all the townspeople roll their eyes and go, “Yeah we’ve never heard THAT one before.”

Mount Konocti is a 4,305-foot volcano that has, apparently, always been on the shores of Clear Lake. Who knew? I mean, besides literally everyone except me.

The volcano is called Mount Konocti and it’s been dormant for around 11,000 years, but it’s also number 33 on the U.S. Geologic Survey’s Volcanic Threat Assessment list, which means out of 161 American volcanoes it’s actually substantially more likely to erupt than most of the rest of them. Of course California also has numbers five and 11 — Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen — which have both erupted fairly recently (1786 and 1917, respectively), so Mount Konocti doesn’t actually seem that sinister in comparison but still, if it erupted I’m thinking it could pretty easily take out the very Nice town that’s just on the other side of the lake.

Another interesting factoid about volcanic activity in Lake County: Konocti isn’t actually that dormant — there are sporadic earthquakes in the area that happen whenever the volcano wants to remind people it’s there, and Clear Lake’s Soda Bay appears to be boiling, though the bubbles rising to the surface are just volcanic gases. Not really “just,” though, when you consider that some parts of Soda Bay are signposted to warn boaters of the dangers of getting too close — all that carbon dioxide can (and has) caused death by asphyxiation.

Anyway, evidently, Lake County is more than just dumb Nice jokes and the county you have to pass through on your way to the coast. Nice, Lucerne, and neighbors, my apologies. Your county is very Nice.

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