Draining of Shaver Lake reveals history

FRESNO, Calif.

The lake has been drained while crews repair the Shaver Lake dam.

The exposed lake bottom is providing a view of things unseen for nearly a century.

Shaver Lake is a scenic spot in the Sierra, but the view is quite different now.

Instead of a shimmering lake, there's a moonscape dotted with boulders, tree stumps, and the ruins of days gone by.

It's a scene that Mike Pyle just had to get a picture of.

"The spillway is still running water, it's unique, it's still operating after 90 years under water," Pyle said.

Pyle drove up from his home in Exeter to get a shot of the old Shaver Lake dam and spillway, unseen since the 1920's when the current dam was built.

For Patrick Emmert the biggest surprise was seeing what looks like a house on the lake bottom.

"You can look to the dam and you can see a little building at the base of the dam. Inside the little building are the control valves for the outlet of the sawmill mill pond. The gears are still there there's a couple light bulbs still in the sockets inside," Emmert said.

Emmert is a forester for Southern California Edison, the company that owns the lake.

"It's wonderful to see the old Shaver Lake sawmill, the old dam," he said.

The original dam was built to form a mill pond on what was Stevenson Creek. Timber from the surrounding forests was floated down the pond to the sawmill, then the water was diverted down a flume to carry logs 40 miles down to the valley.

"The mill was built in 1893 and it sustained a lot of local families up here. A flume was built down to Clovis, most of the lumber was shipped down the flume," Darinda Otto of the Shaver Lake Historical Society said. "It actually helped build a lot of the San Joaquin Valley, a lot of the homes in Clovis, Fresno and the Valley."

The lake bottom is closed to the public because of the danger posed by the mud, which is said to be as deadly as quicksand. From the road you can see the remains of the sawmill. Old boilers, building foundations. We also spotted the remains of a boat, and a rusty bed frame.

Shaver Lake was drained so crews could make repairs to the main dam, and the new liner they're installing is supposed to be good for one hundred years, so it will be a long time until this glimpse of history will be seen again.

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