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About Lake Elsinore
Journey to Riverside County within California to Lake Elsinore.
The Native Americans have lived within Elsinore Valley for a long time. The earliest known inhabitants were the Luiseno people. If you journey to the Santa Ana Mountains as well as Temescal Valley you can find pictographs located on the rocks, and there have been found around Lake Elsinore as well as in the local hills and canyons.
Originally, this area was overlooked by the Juan Bautista de Anza expedition but being the largest natural lake located in Southern California it was found by Padre Juan Santiago, who was exploring the eastern areas from Mission San Juan Capistrano during 1797. It was during 1810 that the waters of the Laguna Grande were described by travelers as being a swamp that was about a mile long. It was during the 19th century that the lake had grown much larger which provided a great spot to camp and had plenty of water for Mexican rancheros animals as well as immigrants during the Gold Rush, and even American trappers. This lake would be a stop along the Southern Emigrant Trail and part of the route for Butterfield Overland Mail.
It was during January 1844 that Julian Manriquez had gained the Rancho La Laguna, which was a large parcel of land that was around 21,000 acres which did include the lake and an adobe home being built near the lake out on the south shore near the western corner that was talked about Benjamin Ignatius Hayes, who had stayed there during 1850.
It would be during 1851 that Abel Stearns would get the ranch and then sell it to Augustin Machado during 1858. Machado then would build a 7-room adobe ranch house as well as an outbuilding located on the southwest side of Lake Elsinore. It was soon after this that Rancho La Laguna had become a regular stop for the Butterfield Overland Mail which was between the Temescal station which was 10 miles north of the ranch and Temecula which was 20 miles south of the ranch. It was then that the old adobe home was used as a station house. Over the years, a second story and a framed addition was added on to the building and it was used a post office for Willard which as a small settlement from 1898 until 1902. The building continued to stand until 1964 when it was razed, which is now on Macy Street. Today there are still 3 palm trees that grow towards the front of the site on Macy Street directly in front of the property.
However, as a result of the Great Flood during 1862, the water level in the lake was very high, so it was the Union army that had created a post at the lake to water horses and for grazing. Then during the Great Drought between 1862 to 1865, most of the cattle that was located within Southern California had died off and the lake level had fallen, especially between 1866 to 1867, when there was no rain. However, it was during 1872 when the lake filled back up and it had happened to overflow into the outlet which was through the Temescal Canyon.
While many families had lost their ranches during the Great Drought, The Rancho La Laguna had remained in the Machado family until 1873, when it was sold to Charles Sumner. However, in the agreement Machado had kept 500 acres located on the northwest corner of Lake Elsinore, where his adobe home still stands near the lake on Grand Avenue.
It was during 1872, that the lake had evaporated to a really low level, and then the great rains during the winter of 1883 and 1884 had filled it to where it was overflowing again in just 3 weeks. There are descriptions of the lake during this time stated that the large willow trees that had surrounded the low water shoreline was under 20 feet of water and were large enough that they had to be more than 30 years old. This stated that the high water during the 1860s as well as the 1870s must have been short.
Then it was during April 1888 that Lake Elsinore would become the 73rd city to incorporate in California and that was just 38 years after California had officially became a state. Originally, Elsinore had been part of San Diego County and eventually it would become part of Riverside County during 1893.
The rainfall that happened during 1893 was much more than average, and the lake continued to stay high and it had overflowed multiple times during that time. The lake water was then purchased by Temescal Water Company to help irrigate land within Corona, California. It was then that the outlet channel had been deepened which allowed gravity flow through the natural channel in Temescal Canyon and on to Corona for more than a year after the water level had went below the natural elevation of the outlet. While the lake surface had continued to recede, a pumping plant had been installed and the pumping had continued for a few seasons, but the salt concentration within the lake because of the evaporation and lack of rain, soon caused the water to be unfit to use for irrigation and the project had been abandoned by the company.
Lake Elsinore was a very popular destination during the first part of the 1900s for many celebrities to escape the urban life of Hollywood. The lake had also hosted teams for Olympic training and high-speed boat racing during the 1920s. Then the Lake had went dry during the 1930s, but during 1938 it was refilled.
Then during World War II seaplanes were tested on the lake and within the city was a Douglas Aircraft plant that made the wing assemblies for the B-17 Flying Fortress bombers.
Then during 1972, the citizens had voted to rename the city Lake Elsinore. Then during 1980, after more than a week of heavy rains, the lake had flooded and destroyed many homes and businesses. It was since then that a multimillion dollar project was put in place to help maintain the water supply at a certain level which has allowed homes to be built close the lake and the overflow water within the lake will spill out at Alberhill Creek which is part of the Temescal Creek. Eventually an aeration system was put into the lake to help with the ecosystem.