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BASS LAKE HISTORY

Bass Lake School Shuttle

Bass Lake School Shuttle - Photo Collection by Dwight Samuels

McDougald's

McDougald's - Photo Collection by Dwight Samuels

Wishon Airport

Old Wishon Airport - Photo Collection by Dwight Samuels

Original Pines Dock

The First Pines Marina -Photo Collection by Dwight Samuels

The Falls - Photo Collection by Dwight Samuels

Bass Lake, Ca

Bass Lake - Photo Collection by Dwight Samuels

BACKGROUND

A hundred years ago Bass Lake was not a lake at all, but a lush meadow surrounded by pine tree covered hills and mountains. Chuckchansi Indians have inhabited the area for Thousands of years. The Mono Indians came to the area about 200 years ago. A detachment of the Mariposa Battalion came across the valley in 1851 shortly after their discovery of Yosemite Valley. After observing flocks of what they thought were Sandhill Cranes, they decided to name the large meadow area Crane Valley. The large grey-blue birds were actually Great Blue Herons which still populate the area. Through Crane Valley flowed Willow Creek, a tributary of the San Joaquin River. In 1895, a plan was devised to use the waters of Willow Creek to generate hydroelectric power for residents of the great San Joaquin Valley.

 

The San Joaquin Electric Company was formed and the first earthen dam was built in Crane Valley in 1901. Mule-drawn freight wagons carried machinery and supplies up the mountain and went down loaded with timber that had been cleared from the reservoir site.

 

In 1902 the San Joaquin Light & Power Corporation was formed to purchase the electric company and later the electric operations of the rival gas company. The dam was enlarged in 1905 and the present Dam was built in 1910 (145 feet high).

The lake was called Crane Valley Reservoir for many years but the name was eventually changed when a small Bass Lake lumber operation polluted the lake, killing all the fish that were in it. The lumber company was ordered by the government to replace all the fish that were lost. The chosen fish was Bass, hence the new name - Bass Lake.

Bass Lake is now owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company and the waters of the lake are still used today to generate electricity, irrigate farmland in the Central Valley and for numerous recreational activities. The lake is considered a "warm water" lake with water temperatures reaching near 80 degrees during the summer months (written by USFS).

THE LAKE

Bass Lake was completed in 1910 to protect property downstream. Now it generates 27 megawatts of power through 5 downstream power houses and is owned by Pacific Gas & Electric. It has developed into major resort and recreation facility. This lake features year round full contact with boating, personal water craft, fishing & water sports.

WISHON BY DWIGHT BARNES

For a few years in the 1920s, Bass Lake was served by a fully accredited, common carrier railroad for which the town of Wishon was established in 1923.

Wishon was the mountain terminus of the Minarets and Western Railroad which extended 53 miles from western end of the Bass Lake Dam to Pinedale on the banks of the San Joaquin River just north of Fresno.  Solely owned by the Sugar Pine Lumber Company, the railroad’s primary purpose was to carry logs to a huge mill at Pinedale, but it was an official common carrier. A privately owned, standard gauge railroad carried the logs from Central Camp across Bass Lake Dam to Wishon.

The town was named for A. Emory Wishon, who was active in the early development of hydroelectric energy using Bass Lake water and who became executive vice president of  Pacific Gas & Electric Company, after it purchased the Bass Lake operation.

Although Sugar Pine Lumber Company failed after only eight years, the post office continued until 1986.   During those years, it was housed in what today is called Miller’s Landing.  The store had been started by John McDougald, who was Wishon’s first postmaster. Born a railroad town, for many years Wishon showed remnants of cars and other railroad material.

THE PINES TRACK

Prior to 1991, The Pines Tract consisted of 255 undivided acres of land leased by Bud Williams (Williams Resort) from PG&E on a long term master lease which expired in 2013. The Land had been informally subdivided into 550 residential lots, some commercial property and the road network.

Williams subleased these informally divided lots to persons who built cabins on the leased land. The Cabins were owned, but were built on leased land. The subleases were set to expire in 2012. Because of this arrangement, the cabins were, for the most part, modest. As 2012 was getting closer, maintenance was deferred and very few cabins were remodeled improved. It was very unclear that PG&E would grant Williams another master lease. It was equally unclear if Williams would be reasonable in renegotiating renewal of subleases.

In 1984 Henry "Barney" Bernard formed the Bass Lake Homeowners Association. With a lot of hard work and help from the County of Madera, sublease owners were able to buy out the Williams Resort. A Bond assessment program was implemented in 1989, money was raised, and over it's objections, Williams Resort was bought out for $5.1 Million Dollars.

Negotiations commenced with PG&E and again, after lengthy negotiations and bargaining, PG&E sold 125 Acres to the Bass Lake Homeowners Association for 16.3 Million Dollars. This took another bond issue to raise the money. Liens on every piece of property which went to the bond for financing were put in place. People started getting their deeds to their land in 1992. Again in this process, Madera County assisted in many ways, supporting the bond issue, serving as a facilitator, holding the land until it could be surveyed, officially subdivided and the deeds issued, etc.

Since sublease holders became real property owners without the fear of loosing their investment, the community was reborn with a boom of new building. Old cabins were torn down and others remolded. Property values have soared with Lake Front homes selling for over $2 Million Dollars.
(article written by Jim Ackroyd, edited by BassLakeCA.com)

PG&E IN THE SIERRA BY RUSSELL WESTMANN

Prior to 1991, The Pines Tract consisted of 255 undivided acres of land leased by Bud Williams (Williams Resort) from PG&E on a long term master lease which expired in 2013. The Land had been informally subdivided into 550 residential lots, some commercial property and the road network.

Williams subleased these informally divided lots to persons who built cabins on the leased land. The Cabins were owned, but were built on leased land. The subleases were set to expire in 2012. Because of this arrangement, the cabins were, for the most part, modest. As 2012 was getting closer, maintenance was deferred and very few cabins were remodeled improved. It was very unclear that PG&E would grant Williams another master lease. It was equally unclear if Williams would be reasonable in renegotiating renewal of subleases.

In 1984 Henry "Barney" Bernard formed the Bass Lake Homeowners Association. With a lot of hard work and help from the County of Madera, sublease owners were able to buy out the Williams Resort. A Bond assessment program was implemented in 1989, money was raised, and over it's objections, Williams Resort was bought out for $5.1 Million Dollars.

Negotiations commenced with PG&E and again, after lengthy negotiations and bargaining, PG&E sold 125 Acres to the Bass Lake Homeowners Association for 16.3 Million Dollars. This took another bond issue to raise the money. Liens on every piece of property which went to the bond for financing were put in place. People started getting their deeds to their land in 1992. Again in this process, Madera County assisted in many ways, supporting the bond issue, serving as a facilitator, holding the land until it could be surveyed, officially subdivided and the deeds issued, etc.

Since sublease holders became real property owners without the fear of loosing their investment, the community was reborn with a boom of new building. Old cabins were torn down and others remolded. Property values have soared with Lake Front homes selling for over $2 Million Dollars.
(article written by Jim Ackroyd, edited by BassLakeCA.com)

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