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Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

A place to explore the natural setting (geology, flora & fauna), people, constructed infrastructure and historical events that play and have played a part in shaping the Sierra Nevada as we know it today.
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Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Postby Shawn » Tue Jul 30, 2013 11:08 pm

Well I had considered posting this "mini TR" in the backpacking section, yet my motive for the trip was based mostly on the history of a place known as Oriole Lake. The "lake" really looks more like a large pond, which is located north west of the Mineral King Valley, below Milk Ranch Peak.

A year or so ago, "PasoAndy" posted a message on another web forum inquiring if anyone knew about a road which comes off the road to Mineral King as there are no signs indicating where it goes. Someone else had responded with a few words about Oriole Lake and other comments. This was just enough to intrigue me and soon enough I was viewing the area in Google Earth. The lake looked to be in an area which is largely untouched, except for the road which terminates about a mile from the lake. It also appeared to have a couple of man made structures near the end of the road.

Next I found myself Googling Oriole Lake hoping to find some current info. These days it seems every named place in the Sierra has a few visitors every year, maybe some photos online? Well, I couldn't find any recent info, but I did discover some interesting history.

For starters, there is a document titled "General Information Regarding Sequoia and General Grant National Parks Season of 1917". The document describes various site seeing tours into Sequoia, including the "Oriole Lodge 25S. 5,500 Wagon Tourist camp and sawmill on private holdings, near Oriole Lake; one of the attractions of the vicinity."(translated to mean that via wagon, it's 25 miles to the lodge). It includes an interesting old map of the park.
http://www.nps.gov/history/history/onli ... 7/sec2.htm

Next I found a wealth of historical information about the area on the Mineral King website. In summary, several camps were established at the lake as early as 1880. In 1909 some local merchants had planned to build a resort near the lake, to include a power plant, airstrip and all the amenities. Thankfully, the resort never manifested.
http://www.mineralking.org/Mineral_King ... e_Lake.htm

Beyond this information, there really isn't much on the web about the area, albeit I didn't go looking much further.

So a year passes and all the while I have in the back of my head how cool it would be to go explore Oriole Lake, to go visit history in person and compare it to what I had imagined. This past weekend I canceled plans to hike in the eastern Sierra due to the smoke filled air. When I awoke on Sunday it clicked - time to check out Oriole Lake.


Unfortunately, the dirt road prevents most of us from driving up it due to a locked gate one mile in. So....I walked up the road, explored the Lodge and few other items of interest at the end of the road, then hiked up a use trail to the lake.

I took a little video so others could see what the area looks like. Really a bit boring, seeing me march around in the woods, but at least now there is one other bit of information on the web for future explorers to discover.

Exploring Oriole Lake
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySekmMj- ... b63cDq-EZg[

Thanks to PasoAndy for the motivation to go see the place.
Last edited by Shawn on Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 31, 2013 11:37 am

Thanks for the video TR Shawn. Really enjoyed the other videos to, the puppy is really
adorable, how old and what is its name?
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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Postby Shawn » Wed Jul 31, 2013 7:09 pm

Hey Mav, thanks. :)

The guy has gotten considerably bigger, he's about 4 years old now. His name is "RJ".
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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Postby iHartMK » Tue Mar 04, 2014 2:17 pm

Very cool! I too have been fascinated by Oriole Lake for years. I have driven by the dirt road that leads up to it many times, but have never gone up it. I have a couple of friends that ride their mtn. bikes up it. But they mentioned cabins being up there and they felt like they were trespassing.
I need to check it out!
Was there any places to camp if one were to backpack up there, say for a quick overnight trip..
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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Postby Shawn » Tue Mar 04, 2014 5:09 pm

Yes, as you arrive at the lake the "trail" sort of naturally ends at the side of the lake next to a large (VW size) boulder. There's enough room there for a small campsite. If it's bug season, you could go beyond the lake a little into the trees, or camp down below the lake where the airstrip used to be just beyond the cabins.

The trick is finding the trail from the road. If you look at the topo, you can see where the creek crosses the road. If you follow the creek up hill you will see the obvious trail.

Apparently the lake used to have a small dam many years ago which has been removed. Consequently the "lake" is just a small swamp/lagoon compared to it's past glory.

Kind of kicked myself for not staying longer and exploring more beyond the lake, where an old overgrown trail went to MK.

PS. Here's a link to photos of the area:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/97840497@N ... 950153186/
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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Postby iHartMK » Thu Mar 06, 2014 4:53 pm

That would be cool to really spend some time exploring that area. I wonder if overnight camping is allowed.. however it looks a little creepy. Would not want to do a solo trip.
Cool pictures, it looks quite abandoned. Almost like a ghost town. I can't believe there was an airstrip up there, thats crazy! I love all the old machinery too.
Thanks again for sharing. You have reignited my curiousity about Oriole Lake.
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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Postby jamison965 » Thu Jul 24, 2014 8:39 am

greetings, just a little input on oriole lake.In the early 1900s ,my great grandparents,along with a group of lawyers purchased the oriole lake area from a logging company.I believe that there was originally 7 cabins built,,very few are left standing.If you look at the open meadow before you cross the stream,thats where the logging company existed.I have been going up there since before I was born,and its become very bad in different ways since then.We've been robbed,broken into,and nowadays the marijuana growers have made their way up there too.That is the reason for the gates,myself , i have no problem with people visiting the lake.not much of a lake there,but thats how its always been.As far as the resort idea,disney wanted to buy the property and make a resort,however it wasnt sold to him,no one wanted to make the deal ,so im told.Oh,and it looks like you took the right side path around the lake,had you taken the left,there is a huge rock which the indian tribe(kaweahs) made almost perfect holes for bathing,and grinding acorns.As far as the park stating no historical value,b.s in my eyes indian artifacts,as well as four generations of family brought up @ oriole lodge.Anyhow,a beautiful place ,however its strongly suggested that no one venture alone,there are a few rather large mountain lions living up by the waterfall,in front of the redwood ,any questions dont hesitate to ask,Im tired of people acting as if the people that have land there are snotty A** holes,because were not/
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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Postby Shawn » Fri Jul 25, 2014 11:25 am

Hey JAMISON965 - Welcome to HST.

Thanks for posting up about Oriole Lake. The area clearly has historical value, for many reasons. After the initial posting about my trip, I received multiple direct messages from people that used to hike or travel up there a very long time ago. Their accounts of the area "back in the day" were fascinating and added credence to the historical value of the area.

Should you happen to see this, I think it would be great if you could post more about your time spent at Oriole and the people and places around it. Perhaps you have some photos that others would enjoy seeing too?

Shawn
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