On Tuesday afternoon, July 17, 1951 residents of Susanville were alarmed with smoke billowing over the town. It was soon reported the smoke’s origin was from a forest fire on Gallatin Peak at Eagle Lake.
The fire started along the lake shore just past the Gallatin House. Over 400 men fought the fire, many from the logging crews of Fruit Growers and Paul Bunyan Lumber Company. It was believed the fire’s origin was that of a careless cigarette smoker. The fire was contained the next day and was stopped just 300 feet before it would have spread into virgin timber. Of the 760 acres burnt, most of it was owned by the former Red River Lumber Company, which the Shasta Forest managed those lands. The peak had been logged over two years earlier by the Paul Bunyan Lumber Company.
By 1875, Capt. C.A. Merrill began work in earnest to tap Eagle Lake for irrigation in the Honey Lake Valley. He first formed the Lassen County Land & Flume Company, but within four years that endeavor failed. Continue reading Where are we – Merrill Tunnel→
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Exploring lava beds, which there is plenty around Northeastern California, there is no telling what a person might find. The Brockman Flat Lava Beds on the west side of Eagle Lake is no exception. Continue reading Eagle Lake Ice Caves→
Gallatin Beach has been one of the lake’s popular spots. Visitors were fortunate in the aspect that Malvena Gallatin not only allowed public access, but there were no fees or any other restrictions. Another property owner, especially if it was a timber company, would not have been so gracious. After all, others would have been concerned about fire danger. Fortunately, no problems were encountered.
It should be noted that Malvena Gallatin owned over forty miles of Eagle Lake’s 100-mile shoreline. In 1944, Malvena’s only grandchild passed away and Eagle Lake lost its special appeal as a family summer retreat. In 1946, she sold all of her Eagle Lake property to the Lassen Lumber & Box Company for $100,000, though she retained a small parcel that contained the summer home. The future of public access looked bleak. Lassen Lumber was only interested in the timber. Later in 1946, the Lassen National Forest reached a deal with Lassen Lumber to exchange timberlands elsewhere in exchange for the Gallatin property. The two agreed, and that is how Gallatin Beach became a public beach on public property.
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This is certainly a tale of two Gallatins—Albert and Malvena. Last year I wrote about Albert and how he acquired the properties around Eagle Lake primarily for ranching purposes, i.e, summer grazing range. Malvena saw the lake for its aesthetic and recreational attributes. While she could have easily denied public access to the south shore, after all she owned nearly all of it, along with some 40 miles of shoreline, she did not. The south shore that later became known as Gallatin Beach was popular with the locals. This was to her benefit, more lake visitors equaled more complaints about the road conditions to the south shore. In 1913, she did a first at Eagle Lake—she built a summer home. More about the Gallatin House in the future. Yet, it was the increasing water level at Eagle Lake, that she accommodated Leon Bly and his proposed project to tap the lake to provide a water supply for the Honey Lake Valley. Years later she had regrets when the lake level dropped so low, reducing her property values. She sued and lost, to prevent further tapping of the lake. After all she had plans to sale the property, in the 1930s, for over a million dollars to developers for a recreational resort. The reason she lost was that the agreement she signed with Bly, the lake had not reached agreed upon lake level, but then no one thought the lake would ever drop so low.
Depending upon the water level of Eagle Lake, it can be an island. The pelicans at the lake were a popular early day attraction, though others perceived them and the cormorants (sometimes referred to as shags) detrimental to the lake’s fishery. At sundry times the birds were slaughtered, their nests and eggs destroyed. A prime example is found in the columns of the Lassen Weekly Mail of June 11, 1892: “In Eagle Lake there are two islands (Pelican and Shag) on which large numbers of fowl, known as Pelican and Shag, build their nests and rear their young. The consequences are that vast numbers of fish from the lake are destroyed each year for food for the young birds. Recently a party visited these islands and killed the young birds and a good many of the old ones, hoping by means, if continued persistently for a number of years, to prevent the yearly destruction of the fish of the lake.”
P.S. Some may be interested in the May issue of the Northern California Traveler is my story about the Eagle Lake Bass.
Remember last fall how the weather gurus were predicting a “Godzilla” like El Nino? While the water flows into Shasta and Oroville lakes have been spectacular, the same does not hold true Eagle Lake. You may recall, last October I attended the Eagle Lake Interagency Board meeting, and of course, water levels were discussed. You can review that post here. While the water flow in Pine Creek has been impressive, the lake level has not risen that much. The current lake level as of April 1, 2016 stood at 5092.56. When it reached its historic low last October the level was 5090.60. There you have it the level of the lake so far has only risen two feet.
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During the 1860s, a state of uneasiness existed between the Indians and the new settlers. Because of the hostilities, the settlers were suspicious of unusual Indian activities. In June 1866, Joe Hale, who had been hunting in the mountains, returned to Susanville and stated that he had seen some Indians who might be selling ammunition to another group of renegade Indians. The latter group, purportedly, were planning a possible attack in the Summit Lake country of Nevada. The following day, a party of men from Susanville consisting of Joe Hale, Byron B. Gray, Charlie Drum and E.V. Spencer went to investigate Hale’s observation. On the return trip from the rendezvous they stopped at Papoose Meadows where they found a group of Indians camped. Continue reading Papoose Meadows Conflict→
Today brings a smile to face, for it marks at least one turning point of the winter season, even though it takes a few weeks to actually see it progress. One of the things I dread about winter are the short daylight hours and now knowing that the pendulum will start working its way to bring more daylight. Actually, for those serious folks, on December 15, the sunset locally not starts to get later, by a minute on that date. However, the sunrise keeps getting later, and does not reverse the trend until January 9.
Around these parts, historically the coldest and snowiest months are just ahead in January and February. Nearly all the record breaking snowfalls occur in mid-January. For those interested in forthcoming storms and especially the snow conditions I recommend The Tahoe Daily Snow. On a final note, most forecasters call for the first El Nino storms to begin sometime in the week of January 11.
Finally, those interested in Eagle Lake conditions can see the web cam at Spauldings here.
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In the 1800s and early 1900s there were a lot of dreamers and schemers whose desire to transform the sagebrush lands of eastern Honey Lake Valley into productive farm lands. It first began with Capt. Charles A. Merrill, who in 1878, proposed to use water from Honey Lake to irrigate the same. It should be noted that this is the same Merrill who worked relentlessly for twenty-five years to tap Eagle Lake for irrigation of the Honey Lake Valley. By 1891, there were so many reclamation projects underway, it was remarked that the Eagle Lake water would not be needed for irrigation, but it could be used to keep Honey Lake full for the pleasure of the members of the Amedee Yacht Club, among others.
In the future, we will explore a number of these projects such as Lake Greeno, Skedaddle Dam and the Standish Water Company’s Honey Lake pumping plant.