Author Topic: Little Lake  (Read 63667 times)

wshawkins

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Little Lake
« on: December 16, 2013, 04:46:16 PM »
Little Lake


For those of you coming to the Eastern Sierra from the north, you probably never seen or heard of Little Lake.  For the rest of us that drive up from Southern California, Little Lake is the starting point of the Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway.  There was the town of Little Lake and of course the Lake itself.



Little Lake (2013)




I say “was” as the town of Little Lake is now gone.  For those of us that remember this little town, it brings back many an Eastern Sierra trip memories for me.  My folks would stop here often for water for the cars radiator or get a bite to eat on our family camping trips to the Eastern Sierra.  Little Lake is still well signed, still shown on maps, and still has an expressway on and off ramps with its name on them.  However, little remains to mark the town site just off US 395 at the very southern end of Owens Valley.



Little Lake Property Before the Town Was Built (1905)




The lake itself first started long ago as a seasonal marsh, as it’s spring-fed.  In the beginning, prospectors and other hopeful settlers of the Owens River, Cerro Gordo and Darwin communities stopped and rested overnight here.  The lake was known as “Owens Little Lake” then but was changed to Little Lake when it was dammed up in 1905 as a part of the Los Angeles Aqueduct system.  The city of Los Angeles had its eyes upon the abundant waters in the Owens Valley.  LADWP considered Little Lake a natural holding pen for a 250-mile long aqueduct that was being built to divert the water to Los Angeles.  While building the aqueduct, Southern Pacific Railroad built the "Jawbone Branch" from Mojave to Lone Pine, which they completed in 1911.



Building the Jawbone Branch (1909)



« Last Edit: December 16, 2013, 04:47:50 PM by wshawkins »
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2013, 04:54:32 PM »
The town of Little Lake first got its start once the lake was dammed up.   Back in the day, it would take two or three days to get to the Eastern Sierra from Southern California.  Travelers would stop overnight to rest.  There was a store, auto repair garage, and gas station in the early days.  The post office came later in 1909 and located at the south end of the lake.  There was also railroad access along the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Jawbone spur, which followed SH 14 and US 395 north from Mojave, up to Lone Pine, where it joined with the Carson & Colorado Railroad line. 



Carson & Colorado Railroad line being built (1909)





Little Lake Hotel (1926 Frashers)





Little Lake Hotel Lobby (1928 Frashers)




The pride of Little Lake was the Little Lake Hotel with its rock-faced, two-story hotel built in 1923.  The gas station and a café would serve tourists and sportsmen heading north to the Eastern Sierra, or south towards Southern California.  Later, especially after World War 2, sportsman traffic heading northward along US 395 considered Little Lake an important stop to spray cooling water on boiling radiators, feed hungry stomachs or to get gasoline.  The old highway entered right through town through a cut in the black lava walls, and that cut was adorned with advertising and graffiti from former travelers.  The tall black walls of lava were formed by part of volcanic activity that happed some 25,000 years ago.  Little Lake was in its heyday in the 1940s & 1950s.  The Little Lake Café and Hotel were “Open 24 Hours … to better serve you.”  Sullivan’s Chevron Gas Station was next door to the café, and their ads asked us to “Stop and Fill ’er up!”



Graffiti on the Black Lava Walls (2013)




Old Graffiti dated back to 1906 (2013)




Auto Repair Garage, Gas Station, Store and Hotel (Frashers 1936)





Open 24 Hours…to Better Serve You





Stop and “Fill ’er Up!”

« Last Edit: December 16, 2013, 05:03:50 PM by wshawkins »
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2013, 04:57:16 PM »
Sometime around the late 50’s to early 60’s, Little Lake was bypassed when US 395 was made a divided 4-lane highway and US 395 were rerouted to the east behind the town, relegating it to off ramp status.  Beginning in the 1980s, small road towns like Little Lake began to die due to more fuel efficient, air-conditioned vehicles that didn’t need to stop as often.  In 1982 the trains stopped running through this part of the line, and in 1989 a fire ravaged the upper floor of the hotel, and that closed the hotel for good.  In 1997 the post office closed.  In the summer of 1998, two flash floods that year wiped out what little were left to the town.  The Southern Pacific railroad tracks in this area were removed in December 1998 and in the summer of 2001 the hotel and other buildings were bulldozed down, and all buildings except a green cabin on the west side of the site had been removed.  That green cabin is what is left of the post office.   



Fire Damage to Little Lake Hotel (1989)





Post Office Building (2013)





What’s left of Southern Pacific Railroad Tracks (2013)





More Tracks looking north (2013)



"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2013, 05:00:15 PM »
Today the old town is nothing more than a flat place in the desert.  But when I’m driving north up 395 and I see the sign “Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway”, my hearts starts to beat a little faster as I pass Little Lake as I know I’m back into the Eastern Sierra! 



Where the Town of Little Lake was (2013)




Scenic Byway (2013)







Most of the information for this story is from the book “Ghost Towns” by Gary Speck.






"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2013, 05:01:29 PM »
Would be great to hear any memories anybody has of Little Lake before it closed down for good?  Pictures would be great also.  :twothumbs:
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

87corvetteking

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2013, 06:01:08 PM »
Wow! That was great. I wish I could have seen the town of little lake. Unfortunately, I was born in 1990. Thanks for the history though wshawkins. Even though I didn't know the town, I still get that same feeling when I see the Eastern Sierra sign.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2013, 10:57:37 PM by 87corvetteking »

Little Hardrock

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2013, 07:21:22 PM »
i love that old hotel!      (frashers postcards are so much fun)

and you are right...  i always stop way before little lake when i make a journey down from the north:).  but us northerners get eastside feeling too, for me its just south of gardnerville...  or maybe a bit north of there, as the smell of the sage hits you hard just south of carson city:)
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retired96

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2013, 05:59:38 AM »
I was driving to Rock Creek the day the hotel burned down,,, It was fully engulfed in flames as I drove by....

saudust

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2013, 07:29:14 AM »
I remember passing the hotel after the fire had ravaged it and feeling so sad.  I had heard that the owner was either under insured or had no fire insurance and lost everything he had as he had invested his life's savings into it and trying to restore it. 

Amazing, R96, that you witnessed it burning first hand.  That must have been quite a site, a sore and empty sight I would think.

Good history, wshawkins, and as always very much appreciated.  I'd never seen the pictures before. 

It used to be that coming down from the Red Mountain 395 side was our first inkling of almost getting to the ESN, but now we come up 14 and it is that Scenic Highway sign and Little Lake itself that sets the tone.  Up until then it is purely "escape" and past that it is all about anticipation.
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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2013, 07:44:02 AM »
I think I remember a sign with Bates Motel on it? Am i wrong? I remember as a kid being kind of freaked out when my dad would pull over for a quick relief stop. Do you know of any fish in the lake? Got to Bass. No fishing allowed I'm sure.

wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2013, 07:47:00 AM »
Wow! That was great. I wish I could have seen the town of little lake. Unfortunately, I was born in 1990. Thanks for the history though wshawkins. Even though I didn't know the town, I still get that same feeling when I see the Eastern Sierra sign.


You’re the same age as my daughter 87corvetteking, now that makes me feel old.  But that Scenic Byway sign and Little Lake gives me an exciting feeling I'm back in the Eastern Sierra!
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2013, 07:48:31 AM »
i love that old hotel!      (frashers postcards are so much fun)

and you are right...  i always stop way before little lake when i make a journey down from the north:).  but us northerners get eastside feeling too, for me its just south of gardnerville...  or maybe a bit north of there, as the smell of the sage hits you hard just south of carson city:)


Thank goodness for Frashers Photos, would not have much of a report without them!
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2013, 07:52:33 AM »
I was driving to Rock Creek the day the hotel burned down,,, It was fully engulfed in flames as I drove by....


Yeah, it was a shock to see that burned out hotel when I drove past.  I stopped by a few years later before they tore it down.


Lousy photo I know but no digital them days. 
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2013, 07:54:32 AM »
I remember passing the hotel after the fire had ravaged it and feeling so sad.  I had heard that the owner was either under insured or had no fire insurance and lost everything he had as he had invested his life's savings into it and trying to restore it. 

Amazing, R96, that you witnessed it burning first hand.  That must have been quite a site, a sore and empty sight I would think.

Good history, wshawkins, and as always very much appreciated.  I'd never seen the pictures before. 

It used to be that coming down from the Red Mountain 395 side was our first inkling of almost getting to the ESN, but now we come up 14 and it is that Scenic Highway sign and Little Lake itself that sets the tone.  Up until then it is purely "escape" and past that it is all about anticipation.


Thanks saudust.  I heard about the same thing.  Once the fire started the owner - a real decorated Navy Swiftboat Commander in Vietnam - could not get assistance from any of the area fire depts., so he had to watch it burn. He was in no man’s land as they called it then.
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

fshrsmn

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2013, 09:43:15 AM »
Thanks for the pics and history. I remember the hotel when it was there. My wife and I looked forward to seeing Little Lake as this was the half-way point for us to Rock Creek Lake. Like you stated, we were also shocked to see that it was torn down after the fire damage. Would have liked to have seen it a part of a historical site where it was protected for generations to come to enjoy.
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wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2013, 12:35:18 PM »
I think I remember a sign with Bates Motel on it? Am i wrong? I remember as a kid being kind of freaked out when my dad would pull over for a quick relief stop. Do you know of any fish in the lake? Got to Bass. No fishing allowed I'm sure.


No fishing allowed.  They have a large sign designating it as a wildlife refuge area.  I believe it was fished before, but not for a long time now.  If I find anything, I’ll post it. 

Don’t recall any Bates Motel sign; it’s always been the Little Lake Hotel as far as I know.  That would be creepy!


Little Lake Overview - You can drive here
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #16 on: December 17, 2013, 12:36:16 PM »
Good Views of Little Lake from here


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wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #17 on: December 17, 2013, 12:38:13 PM »
Little Lake Hotel 1980 - No Bates Hotel here


"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #18 on: December 17, 2013, 12:39:37 PM »
Little Lake Hotel 1989 - last picture I know of before Hotel burned out.


"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #19 on: December 17, 2013, 12:52:42 PM »
Thanks for the pics and history. I remember the hotel when it was there. My wife and I looked forward to seeing Little Lake as this was the half-way point for us to Rock Creek Lake. Like you stated, we were also shocked to see that it was torn down after the fire damage. Would have liked to have seen it a part of a historical site where it was protected for generations to come to enjoy.


There are some organizations trying to save the old post office.  The problem is L.A. (Property Owner) wants them to move it out of there but the building is not strong structurally.  So not sure what’s going to happen with the old post office.
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #20 on: December 17, 2013, 12:53:35 PM »
Little Lake Post Office Building 2013


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wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #21 on: December 17, 2013, 12:55:32 PM »
Postcard of Little Lake Post Office in it's hey day. 

On the back it says:  Among the nation's smallest, the Little Lake (Calif.) Post Office has served the sparsely populated desert and mountain area around it for over half a century. The Post Office was established as Narka on July 17, 1909 and its name was changed to Little Lake on June 13, 1913. In the early 1900's, Little Lake was a stage coach stop between Keeler and Mojave, California


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bj

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #22 on: December 17, 2013, 03:16:03 PM »
Would be great to hear any memories anybody has of Little Lake before it closed down for good?  Pictures would be great also.  :twothumbs:

Great post on the history of Little Lake. My parents and grandparents used to stop there on hunting and fishing trips when I was a wee tad asleep in the car. My first actual memory was I think 1943 when my mom and dad and I were in the cafe  for breakfast on a deer hunting trip to Bridgeport. These three guys came running into the cafe in a big panic saying one of their party had been shot in a deer hunting accident. I remember it wasn't too serious but the guy did need medical help. I think he had been shot in the butt with a .22.

Later in the'50's I used to stop there at night for coffee on my way to and from Susanville on breaks from Lassen JC.

I always honk at the Sierra Byways sign. It's been a long tradition.
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wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #23 on: December 17, 2013, 05:26:21 PM »
Thanks bj.  That’s more of what I was hoping for.  Hunting accidents happen more than most people believe.  Shooting your buddy or shooting yourself, I’ve seen just about it all. 

That would be a long drive from Susanville! :trailer:
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wshawkins

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Re: Little Lake
« Reply #24 on: December 17, 2013, 05:27:19 PM »
Old Photo from 1920 of the store and hotel


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