Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gold Lake in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area

Surrounded by the Plumas National Forest and Plumas-Eureka State Park, the Lakes Basin Recreation Area is a sub-alpine landscape with glacier-carved lakes east of the Pacific Crest. Gold Lake is the largest of these lakes. A network of hiking trails (including mountain biking and horse riding trails) is connecting the Basin lakes and other scenic places within this North Sierra terrain—at elevations between 6,000 and 8,000 feet. Unfortunately, Gold Lake has not been integrated into this system of hiking trails. The forest-covered lake surroundings feature a campgrounds [1], some private property and rocky roads for four-wheeling adventures. Occasional hikers and mountain bikers are traveling these roads as well.

For many visitors, Gold Lake means fun along its shores and on the water. A boat ramp is found near the campsites [2]. Canoeing, kayaking, motorized boating and waterskiing are common summer activities on the lake. Along the lake shore, fishing, picknicking, sunbathing and swimming are popular. A lakeshore stroll away from the boat launch will take you to the boulder tongue with views of rocky lake islands (top picture).
For pioneers and explorers of the past, Gold Lake meant wealth and/or disaster. Gold rush immigrant Thomas Stoddard and a partner are said to have been stumbled upon large gold nuggets gleaming in the moss at the water's edge, while the next day they were surprised by attacking Indians [3]:

Stoddard was injured, and his companion was never heard from again. Stoddard worked his way through the mountains until he at last reached the North Fork of the Yuba River and the gold camps in the Downieville-Nevada City region. Stoddard told his tale to the miners and the search was on for Gold Lake. A multitude of anxious miners swarmed into the mountains seeking Gold Lake, in what would become Plumas and Sierra Counties.

Is the legendary Gold Lake identical with today's Gold Lake? Last weekend, I searched the shores of Gold Lake for something gleaming in the moss at the water's edge. What I found was yellow-gold blooming primrose monkeyflowers, holding morning dew and hugging the ground. The present Gold Lake is at least worth its name and worth to visit!

Getting there
Gold Lake is located on the west side of Gold Lake Highway (County Road 519), about half-way between the old mill town of Graeagle and Bassetts Station at the junction where a dirt road (County Road S501) is leading north into the Frazier Creek valley and to the Frazier Falls trailhead

[1] USDA Forest Service: Gold Lake Campground [www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/plumas/recreation/recarea/?recid=11197&actid=82].
[2] California State Parks, Division of Boating and Waterways: Gold Lake Ramp [www.dbw.ca.gov/maps/facilityinfo.asp?facilityID=709].
[3] A Brief History of Plumas County [http://www.cagenweb.com/plumas/hist.htm].

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