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Sixty miles east of Fresno, hidden in the High Sierra Region, Shaver Lake is one of California's favorite recreation destinations. There have been many changes at Shaver Lake over the past century: the former small Stevenson Creek was first dammed in 1893 to provide power for a sawmill. In fact, Shaver Lake is named for lumberman C.B. Shaver, a logger in the area around the turn of the century. For many years the only year-round residents were a couple of hardy families who provided supplies and 'town' amenities to seasonal loggers, rangers and high country cattle ranchers. Early records of the small settlement talk of the summer visitors and the hardships of the long, isolated winters. Eventually the timber was all harvested and the lumbermen moved on. In their place came summer residents who built cottages, hunted the surrounding forest and fished the productive lake. The small local store soon adapted to the changing population, providing meals, dances and other resort-style entertainment. Services were still hard to access in these mountains; local legend tells of the cottage-owning dentist that provided needed dental services in a battered dentist's chair bolted to a wooden platform in his dirt-floored garage. A local fishing club traces its history at Shaver Lake since 1902 and is still very active.
In 1927, the dam was replaced by much a larger dam to be used as water storage for the Big Creek Power Project. Most of the Stevenson Creek outflow was diverted to a conduit directing the water into the Big Creek system. The lake was expanded to cover 2,177 acres, greatly increasing its attractiveness as a recreational and boating destination. By 1935, summer visitors were coming to Shaver Lake in increasing numbers. Summer visitors kept the lake busy with boat races and recreational activities. Shaver Lake Village consisted of a dance hall, post office, trading post and elementary school along with some summer cabins. A hand-made ski run occupied the locals after the summer visitors and deer hunters left for the season. Southern California Edison, current operators of the Big Creek system, have carefully expanded recreational facilities in the area, making Shaver Lake a popular winter destination. In addition to the cross-country ski trails managed by SCE, snow parks and snowmobile routes have been developed which draw winter visitors. Shaver Lake is as busy now in winter as in summer.
Two concession-operated marina locations accommodate boaters. Shaver Lake is a popular spot for water skiing, tubing, power boating, wind surfing and personal watercraft. House boaters float the coves and enjoy the birds and animals that inhabit the shoreline. Canoeing and kayaking are enjoyed by nature enthusiasts as well, who often look for nesting and wintering bald eagles around the lake. There are several swim areas and a Fresno County boat launch at the north end of the lake. If the visitor doesn't bring their own boat to the lake, the marinas rent most watercraft. Two campgrounds can accommodate both RV's and tent campers. Riding stables in the area provide for horseback riding in some of the most beautiful areas of Sierra National Forest. Mountain bike trails, hiking, rock climbing and jeep trails are available nearby. Only a half hour away, a ski resort makes Shaver Lake the best of all worlds; visitors here can engage in all of these activities within a few miles. It's the perfect spot for an activity and fun-filled vacation.
Fishing is still a favored activity at Shaver Lake. The lake holds a good population of catfish, brook and rainbow trout, kokanee salmon, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. Managed stocking has resulted in a population of triploid rainbow trout. The triploids - sterile and with an extra chromosome - grow larger faster and live longer than regular rainbows. Since they do not spawn, they present less competition to other indigenous species in the fishery. The lake is stocked with 50,000 kokanee fingerlings every year. Several fishing tournaments are held here annually and draw large numbers of serious fishermen. Shaver Lake Village, just west of the lake, is still small but is now transformed into a tourism-focused town with small gift shops and craft galleries, restaurants, motels and all necessities. The village has become home to a large number of upscale ski condos and cabins, many of which are available as vacation rentals year round.
The Central Sierra Historical Society, located at Shaver Lake, provides a wealth of information and history of the area. Society staff have provided oral histories from early pioneers, steam-powered logging equipment, railroading equipment from the San Joaquin and Eastern Railroad, and a newly-built working replica of a hydroelectric plant. Activities are planned for the public to take part in year round.
Shaver Lake, nearby Big Creek, Huntington Lake, and Dinkey Creek provide a variety of vacation rentals to suit every visitor's desires and budget. Some private residences exist along the lakeshore, but most vacation rentals are located near Shaver Lake Village. Bed-and-breakfasts are located in the area as are inns and resort-style hotels. Real estate is available both as existing housing and in new developments being built on the slopes surrounding the lake. At only 60 miles from Fresno, Shaver Lake is an ideal spot for a weekend getaway or as a jumping off point for forays into the Sierra National Forest. So pack the skis and spend a week at Shaver Lake, either on the water or on the slopes. Both snow and water await your enjoyment.
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