Lake County Wine Guide
By Gaye Allen

Clear Lake: Spectacular, Ancient, Unique
Clear Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in California. It was formed as the result of powerful tectonic movements linked to the northern passage of the Mendocino Triple Junction, the leading edge of the San Andreas fault system. Five million years ago, forces that were uplifting the Coastal Ranges exerted great associated compression, heat, and faulting. In some areas, like Clear Lake, the land was stretched or pulled apart creating big depressions known as “Structural Basins.” Clear Lake is formed by such tectonic activity. The Clear Lake Volcanic Field, which is still active today, began about 2 million years ago. Geologists are still debating exactly how old the lake is and how it developed, but the initial depression is likely to have formed about 2 million years ago. The Cache Formation lakebed deposits just to the east of the present lake position are up to 3 million years old. Recent core samples (some 600 feet deep) paint a much clearer picture of the last half a million years (right). That this ancient lake has survived for so long−without filling in as most freshwater lakes do−is the result of a unique geological factor. It is thought that the underlying rocks of the lakebed are down-faulting at the same rate that new sediment enters the lake, thus creating a balance which prevents Clear Lake from silting up. The lake is warm enough to swim in from April to October, and is an extremely popular destination for fishermen.

A eutrophic lake
Clear Lake is shallow and warm (average depth 26 feet). It is eutrophic, which means it is very nutrient rich. This is good in that it supports a healthy food chain from algae to fish to birds. The lake is home to many big catfish and largemouth bass and is said to be the bass fishing capital of the west. The abundance of fish is also an important factor in attracting the impressive 319 species of birds that are found by birdwatchers in the county. Between 1900 and 1920, in the Rodman Slough and Robinson Lake areas to the northwest, levees were constructed and the land was drained to create new farmland. Today, 50% of the water that flows into the lake still comes through Rodman Slough. In recent years it has been recognized that these former wetlands perform an important filtering function to the nutrient-rich waters that enter the lake. Plans are now in place through efforts of the Lake County Land Trust and others to restore these important wetland filters. Clear Lake is one of the most studied geological basins in California.


Indigenous Inhabitants of Lake County
Native Americans have lived in Lake County for about 12,000 years and may well have
witnessed the last major volcanic eruptions here 10,000 years ago. An abundance of water and a plentiful wild food supply attracted many different tribes here. Before European colonization it was thought to be one of the most dense concentrations of Native Americans in California. Hundreds of Pomo, Wappo, Lake Miwok, Wintun/Patwin and Yuki peoples all co-existed here, living in dozens of small independent tribal groups. Many different languages were used and at least 3 of the 7 distinctly different Pomo languages were likely spoken. Mostly hunter-gatherers rather than farmers, the tribal people moved about freely using well-established trails to Napa, the Pacific coast, and beyond for trade. Without metal, they fashioned tools from local obsidian rock (volcanic glass) to hunt elk, deer, and other wildlife. Lake and woodland vegetation supplied ample raw materials to construct fishing boats, multi-family dwellings, communal sweat lodges, and dance houses.
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Top: A Pomo fishing boat constructed from tightly bound bundles of tule reeds.
Above: Tule reeds were also woven into wall and floor coverings, with white willow often used to make baby carriers.
Right: A tightly woven, waterproof, twined construction basket strong enough for cooking made from local willow and sedge root with redbud bark decoration.

Master Basketmakers
The Pomo had no pottery; instead they employed a great array of local plants to create baskets for all manner of purposes. Baskets were used for cooking, storage, transport, trapping, fishing, and many ceremonial purposes. Apart from the fishing baskets, it was mostly the women who produced these baskets. Baskets were not only functional, they were beautifully decorated. Over time the Pomo honed this art into what is now one of the most respected basket-making traditions in the world.


Left: 1900s photo of a large raised acorn storage basket/granary from the Ukiah area. Acorns were a staple in the local Native Americans’ diet. They were ground into a meal upon stone grinding bowls, then washed multiple times to leach out bitter flavors. Many storage baskets were hung off the ground to prevent spoilage.  
Right: Polly Homes, a noted local artist, and her work.


Left: A Pomo ceremonial basket adorned with bird feathers, quail plumes, and abalone decoration from the Historic Courthouse Museum collection. 
Right: A coiled construction storage basket.

Where to see more
The Historic Courthouse Museum has an excellent collection of Pomo baskets, as well as many other interesting
Historic Courthouse Museum
225 North Main Street, Lakeport, CA 95453
(707) 263-4555. Open Wed–Sat 10 am–4 pm,
Sunday noon–4 pm
Grace Hudson Museum
431 South Main Street, Ukiah, CA 95482
(707) 467-2836. Open Wed-Sat 10 am–4:30 pm
Sunday Noon–4:30 pm

Early Visitors, Pioneers, and Settlers

In the 1830s, other people began to discover the bounties of Lake County. Russian pelt and fur trapping teams arrived from the north, and a Spanish land grant given to Salvador Vallejo in 1844 brought herds of longhorn cattle from the south. In 1847 the first white settlers, Kelsey and Stone, arrived, brutally abused the Natives and paid the ultimate price. The 1849 Gold Rush and the establishment of California in 1850 brought a great wave of new settlers eager to stake a claim in the west. In 1854 the first of a succession of covered wagon trains arrived.

 Many crossed the plains from Missouri in arduous journeys in covered wagons; others arrived by steamship from the east coast. Some came to mine, but most of the permanent settlers were farmers who raised livestock, grain, and other vegetable crops.

Top: An early horse-powered hay baling machine in Lake County in the 1880's.
Center: The Copsey family arrived in Lake County in 1855; one of the sons has extracted a cart of cinnabar from their Helen Mine near Middletown.
Below: Teams of oxen haul logs at the Akers & Specks sawmill on Mt. Hannah.


Early settlers soon began putting in fruit orchards and grapevines, recognizing the climate was ideally suited, having a cold dormant season and long hot summers. The settlements grew rapidly. In 1860 there were about 1,000 people registered; by 1870 about 2,500; and by 1880 over 6,000. Wood was needed to supply this rapid expansion and sawmills flourished in the Cobb, Elk, and Pine mountain areas. There were no redwoods, but local pines, firs, and cedar trees provided good lumber. Local geology brought the mining of cinnabar (a mixture of sulphur and quicksilver), the mercury extracted being essential in gold ore processing. It was water, however, from the same ground that really put Lake County on the map, as the discovery of many hotand cold mineral springs with “medicinal” effects drew visitors from all over the world.



Top: Travelers to Lake County, c.1875, outside the Lake County House hotel and stage stop in Middletown. The horsedrawn stagecoach departed from Calistoga and took three hours to get over Mt. St. Helena on steep, winding dirt roads.
Bottom: A natural artesian well gushes water from underground in the Scotts Valley area. Early homes near such powerful wells were able to pipe water to upstairs rooms.

Where to see more
Lower Lake Schoolhouse Museum
A restored schoolhouse built in 1877 with many local settler artifacts.
16345 Main Street, Lower Lake
Tel. (707) 995-3565.
Open Wed–Sat 11 am-4 pm
The Ely Stage Stop
An original 1882 stage stop with old farming equipment and antique barns that house interesting events.
9921 Soda Bay Rd (1 mile from
Highway 29 Junction), Kelseyville.
Tel: (707) 533-9990.
Open Sat-Sun 11 am-3 pm

Tourism Erupts across Lake County


Lake County exploded as a tourist destination from the 1870s onward as word spread of
its natural beauty and the beneficial effects of the waters. The large lake, encircled by
mountains, reminded many immigrants of Europe. The reliable Mediterranean climate
and pure air drew many from the San Francisco Bay Area to fish, sail, and hike in the wide
open spaces. The unique local geology produced abundant natural springs that were hot,
cold, and carbonated, with a wide array of differing mineral properties. World-class
luxurious resorts, hotels, spas, and “sanitariums” appeared with remarkable speed all
over the county, with claims to alleviate or cure a catalogue of medical ailments. “If you
build it, they will come”–and they did, in the thousands.

Top left: An extravagantly themed Venetian Carnival held in Lakeport in 1897. The stage for Highlands Springs Resort, one of at least 18 resorts operating at the time, passes through a festival arch.
Top right: The cozy open-sided oak cabin at Hobergs Resort was where guests could gather and sample the water.
Bottom left: Adams Springs Stage traveled from Calistoga three times a week. Guests from San Francisco came by ferry, then train, and finally this stage over Mt. St. Helena. This typical journey took over nine hours, and guests often stayed for months at a time to “take the waters.”
Bottom right: Laurel Dell Resort on tranquil Blue Lakes was built by Henry Wambold in 1890. The dining room overlooked the lake and a small steamboat enabled guests to explore the lakes. He also owned the Blue Lake Bean Cannery in nearby Upper Lake. 


Top: This large hotel complex, built in 1905, was an expansion of the original Witter Springs Hotel. It boasted 100 rooms. Sadly, the 1906 earthquake–and resultant decline in guests–halted its financial success. It closed in 1915, although the Witter Springs bottled water continued to be sold until the 1950s.

Center left: A poster, circa 1885, advertising Highland Springs as “The Great Sanitarium of the West.” It boasted the “only” golf links and “The best paid orchestra in the county” (how did the others sound?). Situated on 2,500 acres near Kelseyville, it also had croquet, tennis courts, riding stables, a bowling alley, and a dance hall. It could accommodate 400 guests (for $10 a week!) and had a dining room that could seat up to 500 people. 
Center Right: A hiking party from Adams Springs Resort enjoys a healthy hike through mountain trails.


Bottom: Bathers enjoy soaking in the 86°F iron-rich pool at Newman Springs, built by a Swedish immigrant in 1898 in the hills near Bartlett and Upper Lake.

Before Wine...there was Water


Lake County was established officially in 1861. It was formed with the lake as its natural center by adjusting the boundaries of Napa, Mendocino, and Colusa counties. It had previously been known as the “Clear Lake Township of Napa County− Hot Springs
Section.” This was certainly a prophetic label as many thousands poured in from all over the world to take the waters for their health. One of the fastest growing resorts was Bartlett Springs, which turned from a few cabins in 1872 into a small town with its own shops, hotels, and cabins that could accommodate 5,000 people. The water’s popularity led to a demand for it to be bottled and shipped. Bartlett Water traveled as far as Alaska, Honolulu, and Central America. Bartlett Springs Soda Water was also served on Cunard liners.

Top: The Bartlett Springs Mineral fountain with guests, circa 1890.
Below: Contemporary advertisements. Allen Springs was close to Bartlett.


Bottom: Visitors to Bartlett, on the last leg of a very long four-part journey by ferry, train, stage, this boat from Lakeport, and then stage again. 


Below: Bartlett had a bowling alley and ballroom to amuse guests when not drinking or bathing. 

Center: The bottling line crew. Bottling started in the 1880s.The first bottles had the Bartlett name molded into the glass, but later bottles such as these had labels attached. The water was naturally slightly carbonated so it needed a firm cap to seal it.


Bottom right: Local tules were ingeniously used to protect the bottles on their long and winding road to many far-flung markets.
Bottom left: Teams of eight white mules stand ready to haul a large volume of water over the hills.

Timothy Toye and Associates
Timothy Toye and Associates
(707) 928-6900
16360 Hwy. 175 HY Cobb CA 95426
no name available Timothy Toye and Associates