Tim I. Purdy Presents
        Exploring Lassen County's Past and more . . .

The Lake Almanor Story

The Lake Almanor Basin of Plumas County, California has historically a long association with the pursuit of recreational activities. By the early 1860s, it became a popular camping spot for vacationers from the Sacramento Valley who were escaping that valley’s hot summers.  In 1867, Dr. Willard Pratt constructed a hotel to accommodate the tourists, the first for the basin. Shortly thereafter, Pratt had a town site surveyed and appropriately named Prattville . On October 13, 18 68 the Big Meadows Post Office was established there with Dr. Pratt serving as its first postmaster. On March 2, 18 74 , the Post Office name was changed to Prattville .




In 1869, Luther Wellington “Wells” Bunnell arrived on the scene, and he too, also developed a summer resort to the west of Pratts.  Bunnell, like many of the other residents of Big Meadows, also prospered equally as well with a dairy operation.  


Bunnell's Resort

In 1882, Julius M. Howells, a civil engineer for Agassiz & Shaw was hired to study the geological features of the Feather River country. After two years of employment Howells left for the mid-West and then to Santa Fe , New Mexico where he learned about hydraulic gravity fill dams. In the 1890s, Howells returned to California , where he became involved with the development of electric power projects. In 1901, he returned to Plumas County to gather statistics and refresh his memory of the hydroelectric potential of Big Meadows and the Feather River . Shortly thereafter Howells was introduced to Edwin Earl, of Los Angeles , who had done very well financially in the citrus packing industry and was branching out into other endeavors.

Lake Almanor

It was determined that time was of the essence to acquire the rights to Big Meadows and its water resources before some one else would realize its potential too, and it nearly happened. Edwin Earl contacted his brother, Guy C. Earl, an Oakland an attorney and the wheels were set into motion. In the spring of 1902, acquisition of Big Meadow ranches and water rights began by the Earls. Yet, construction would take over a decade, one to form a corporation-the Great Western Power Company-and bond issues to finance the venture. In 1914, the first dam at Big Meadows was completed, flooding 14,000 aces and thus creating Lake Almanor . The lake was named for Guy Earl's three daughters:  Alice, Martha and Elinore.  The dam was enlarged in 1926 and more than doubled the size of the lake.

Then, of course, the nearby Red River Lumber Company at Westwood certainly left its imprint in the Lake Almanor Basin, with logging operations and camps in the Basin. As a matter of fact, one its camps at Lake Almanor was the set for the 1924 silent movie Big Timber!, starring William Desmond and based on the novel "The Heart of the Night Wind" by Vingie E. Roe.   

The Lake Almanor Story has now gone to press and will be released in the fall of 2007. For more information about this contact lahontan@citlink.net for details.


                          Tim I. Purdy


Web Visits: web counter
 Last Updated: November 21, 2014  
 Report web site problems to Attn: Web Coordinator