Bass Lake is a small artificial lake in the Sierra National Forest, of Madera County, California, approximately 14 mi (23 km) south of the entrance to Yosemite National Park.The lake is formed by the construction of the Crane Valley Dam across Willow Creek, a tributary to the San Joaquin River, and is referenced as Crane Valley Lake. Releases from the dam drive the hydro-electric powerplant operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The concrete gravity dam, 145 feet tall, was completed in 1910 by Pacific Gas and Electric.
Most of the land around the lake is part of the Sierra National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service designated the lake an official Recreation Area and has developed campgrounds and picnic areas on the south shore of the lake. The north shore of the lake is primarily made up of private cabins and homes of the unincorporated community, Bass Lake, California, with a year-round population of 2,195.
Much of the area surrounding Bass Lake is devoted to the tourism industry. With daytime temperatures regularly topping 100 °F (38 °C) in summer, the lake water typically reaches 80 °F (27 °C) during those months. Fishing, swimming, water skiing, and personal watercrafting are popular.
In 1963, Bass Lake became a yearly destination for the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC), attracting hundreds of bikers from across the state. A first-hand report of the 1965 Bass Lake Run was reported by Hunter S. Thompson in his first book, Hells Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga.
Most locals viewed the run as an annual menace that brought crime and frightened tourists away. Each year roadblocks, curfews, and campground restrictions were enforced by law enforcement from throughout Madera County and its surrounding areas in an effort to block, or at least control, the Hells Angels activity. The run peaked in the 1970s before slowly fading away altogether by the late 1980s.