Due to heavy precipitation in California parts of the state are expected to experience serious flooding. In the San Joaquin Valley, a low lying area (now highly modified) that was once part of Tulare Lake is already flooding. That's true.
Here's where it gets bumpy. Recently, many news stories contain this sentence almost word for word: Tulare Lake was once the largest freshwater body west of the Mississippi.
This can be a true statement if the necessary qualification is added: Based on surface area.
I think that without this qualification this assertion is highly misleading bordering on dishonest - excused only by negligent ignorance. Is that an excuse?
In addition, I've seen the assertion that Tulare Lake was four times the size of Lake Tahoe.
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/03/us/california-tulare-lake.html#:~:text=Once the biggest body of,by the mid-20th century.
Once the biggest body of fresh water west of the Mississippi, Tulare Lake was four times the size of Lake Tahoe...
Tulare Lake was once the largest freshwater body west of the Mississippi. In the mid-1800s, before canals diverted its water flow, the lake was a permanent feature of the San Joaquin Valley, covering nearly 800 square miles – about four times the size of Lake Tahoe.
Is this misleading? I think it is.
Stats for Tulare Lake when at high water in the 19th century. (Estimates from various sources.):
Maximum depth: 46 feet
Average depth: Between 30 and 40 feet
Volume: 6.5 million acre feet
Surface area: 790 square miles
And Lake Tahoe:
Maximum depth: 1,645 feet
Average depth: 1,000 feet
Volume: 122 million acre feet
Surface area: 191 square miles
Historic Tulare Lake four times larger than Lake Tahoe... Really?
It should be noted that Tulare Lake was part of a complex system of rivers, sloughs, marshes and terminal lakes, and water levels were seasonal and annual.
List of natural freshwater lakes in the U.S. west of the Mississippi larger than historic Tulare Lake by volume:
I'm leaving out Pyramid Lake at 23,660,000 acre⋅ft because it is 1/6 as salty as ocean water.
I'm also leaving out lakes in Alaska.