China Lake in China and Vassalboro, Maine, covers 3,937 surface acres with its two basins. The circular west basin is relatively deep with a maximum depth of 85 feet and an average depth of 33 feet. The well-forested Bradley Island is the only island in this basin. Largely undeveloped, the shoreline of the west basin is primarily owned by the Kennebec Water District. Three miles southeast of the Vassalboro boat launch, a narrow portal opens at China Neck into the elongated east basin of the lake. This section stretches 7 miles from China Village to South China. The east basin is much shallower with an average depth of 20 feet.
The lake gained national notoriety in the mid 1980s for its poor water quality which was a direct result of unsafe residential and agricultural practices, including poor septic systems and the heavy use of phosphorus-based fertilizer. The result of this phosphorus loading was nuisance algae blooms, referred to as "China Lake Syndrome." "Since then, considerable state and federal funding and local grassroots efforts (China Region Lakes Alliance, China Lakes Association, Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District, Kennebec Water District-water quality monitoring) have supported numerous well-planned and implemented lakeshore and watershed remedial projects designed to address and reduce the external loading of total phosphorus." (page 5, Final Lakes TMDL Report, October 2001)
With these active and responsible organizations in place to deal with the water quality issues, considerable time and effort have been spent assisting lakefront and watershed landowners to implement non-point source best management practices to control soil erosion. In the Summer 2009 China Lake Association Newsletter, president Dave Landry wrote: "Since the China Lake Restoration Project was started in 1990, over 300 erosion control type projects have been done in the watershed of China Lake, all aimed at improving water quality."
Landry notes that the water quality has improved over the last 15 years but more work needs to be done to control erosion and create vegetated buffer strips. "The primary mission of the China Lakes Association is ‘to preserve and protect the water quality of China Lake,' so it is great news when we can report that last year China Lake had the best water quality that we have see in 15 years! . . . One year of great water quality does not signal victory in the battle over seasonal algae blooms, but it is encouraging."
China Lake is noted for its game fish, namely big bass, brown trout and white perch. Fishing tournaments are held here throughout the year. Boat launches are located in Vassalboro, China Village and South China.
The quaint, historic village of China is home to a general store, the China Baptist Church, which maintains a beach, Albert Church Brown Memorial Library and antique shops. The China Four Seasons Club offers Red Cross affiliated swim lessons and miles of trails to explore via your ATV or snowmobile. In South China you'll find the China Dine-ah and the South China Public Library, the oldest continually operating library in the State of Maine.
Located only 15 minutes from the capital city of Augusta, 20 minutes from golf courses and within easy driving distance to Colby, Thomas and Unity Colleges, why not let China Lake be your four season lakefront destination.