Given the breathtaking views that Bass Lake provides to visitors of The Pines Resort, you might be surprised to learn that the lake is actually man made, created in 1901 when a creek running through the area was dammed to create a hydroelectric power plant. But the builders and planners that created the dam were far from the area’s first visitors; in fact, the land on which the lake now sits has a history dating back thousands of years before the resort as we know it today was created.

The Chukchansi Indians and the Mono Indians


The first inhabitants of the grassy meadow that would later become Bass Lake were the Chukchansi Indians, an indigenous tribe whose descendants still reside in California today. While no one knows for certain when they came to the area located near present day Fresno, it’s believed that they lived in the region for several thousand years. Next came theMono Indians, a tribe that lived in the foothills of the region where the climate was milder, but used the valley to hunt and Willow Creek, a tributary of the San Joaquin River, which ran along the valley floor, to fish. They would remain in the valley until 1851, when a detachment of the Mariposa Battalion discovered the tribe.


The end of an era: The California Gold Rush and the Mariposa Battalion

The California Gold Rush and the Mariposa Battalion in Bass lake

The discovery of gold in California in 1848 spurred a mass migration to the area, and within a year, thousands of emigrants were traveling to the Yosemite area by way of the California Trail. By 1850, fights were beginning between the miners and the indigenous tribes of the area. The Mariposa Battalion, led by James Savage, began to move through the area, convincing tribes to sign a peace treaty and move to reservations, or, for those who refused, removing them by force. The Mono Indians were no exception, and in 1851 they left the valley for good.

New Beginnings: Crane Valley and the first dam

Crane Valley and the first dam in Bass lake

When the Mariposa Battalion first came to the valley, they observed flocks of what they believed to be Sandhill Cranes, and aptly named the area Crane Valley. The birds were in factGreat Blue Herons, which still populate the area today. With the growing population of miners, their families, and other businessmen drawn to the increasingly popular area, the need for a new source of power became apparent, and plans were drawn in 1895 that would lead to the damming of Willow Creek to create a hydroelectric power for the San Joaquin Valley and its inhabitants.


Building a lake: From Crane Valley to Bass Lake

Crane_Valley_to_Bass_Lake The San Joaquin Electric Company, later the San Joaquin Light & Power Corporation was formed, and in 1901, the first earthen dam was built on the creek. The dam was enlarged in 1905, and again in 1910, forming the 145 foot structure that still exists today. The San Joaquin Light & Power Company would merge with Pacific Gas & Electric in 1936, which continues to operate the dam today. The lake that formed above the dam was first called the Crane Valley Reservoir, but following the devastating pollution of the lake by a nearby lumber company, all of the lake’s fish died, and the government ordered the company to replace them. They introduced a non-native species, Bass, and a new name was born. The sparkling, warm waters of Bass Lake continue to generate electricity and provide irrigation to residents and farms in the regions surrounding the lake, and the population of Bass makes the lake a popular fishing destination.

The start of The Pines Resort

In 1901 an actor by the name of William Day and his partner, a land Developer by the name of William Haskell came across the area and decided the beauty of this place would be a perfect setting for an artists’ retreat. They built a sawmill on Willow Creek, constructed cabins, and built The Pines Resort. This is the first resort at what was then called the Crane Valley.

A destination is born: Bass Lake Lodge

Bass Lake as a tourism destination took off in the 1930’s, when the picturesque views of the lake and the surrounding mountains made it a popular vacation destination. The Pines Resort and Ducey’s on the Lake has been a hub of activity since 1931. The restaurant that would become Ducey’s came first, when it was founded along with the Bass Lake Lodge by Buddy Freeman. The lodge and restaurant were located about a mile from Ducey’s current location. The property was sold in 1947, and again 1950, when it fell into the capable hands of Maurice and Marie Ducey. They renamed it Ducey’s Bass Lake Lodge, and would spend the next twenty years expanding it.

The Pines Resort as we know it today

The Pines Resort in Bass lake

In 1975, The Pines Resort  purchased Ducey’s Bass Lake Lodge, and two years later, business partners Robert Stern and Rudi Schulte came together to begin creating the full-service, year-round destination that The Pines Resort remains today. However, in 1988, a grease fire in the kitchen burned the structure to the ground. The resort was rebuilt, and The Pines Resort reopened in 1991. In 2007, the resort was purchased by Southern California’s Greenlaw Partners, and in 2010 it was sold again, this time to Mr. and Mrs. Kyusun Choe, who set about renovating and improving the property.


The Tradition Continues

The Tradition Continues in Bass lake

Don’t be fooled by its rich history and quaint charm; The Pines Resort features updated guest rooms and amenities, including a full service marina, The Pines Spa Facility, an art gallery, gift shops, and more. It’s mountain lodge ambience and proximity to the lake, combined with stunning views has even attracted several movie makers over the years, beginning as early as 1932 with the film “Carnival Boat,” starring William Boyd and Ginger Rogers.  Located just 17 miles south of the south entrance to Yosemite and 55 miles north of Fresno, The Pines Resort offers a rustic escape within driving distance of some of California’s greatest attractions.

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