The naming of Eagle Lake

Eagle Lake
On March 3, 1853, the United States Congress passed the first Act for surveys of a transcontinental railroad route. During the next two years, government survey parties explored the West looking for feasible routes. Lieutenant E. G. Beckwith was in charge of one of those expeditions. Beckwith surveyed Northern California and Western Nevada in search of a pass over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. On July 3, 1854, Beckwith’s party discovered Eagle Lake. Beckwith wrote: “. . . soon after leaving our morning camp, the road led over a low rocky butte, from which we had a fine view of the lake, a few miles to the northeast. It is several miles in extent and is set beautifully blue in the mountains, which rise from 500 to 1,000 feet above it, covered with majestic pines. It has no outlet. We gave it the name of Eagle Lake.”
Local folklore is that the lake was misnamed for the ospreys, that are abundant at the lake, and that the ospreys were mistaken for eagles. That is doubtful, since the bald eagle population of the 1850s was much greater than it is today. It must also be taken into account that the early day explorers and settlers, too, were keenly aware of the variety of species of birds and animals. To substantiate the fact that the lake’s name was not a misnomer for the osprey, there are accounts in the 1920s by field scientists who asked the same question of the “old timers”, who replied that it was named for the bald eagles.

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