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Mammoth Lakes History

Mining was the key that unlocked the treasure chest of the Eastern Sierra. Vast deserts on three sides and an immense mountain barrier on the other kept white men away from the native Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe settlements until relatively late in California's History. But the discovery of the Comstock Lode silver ore in 1858, east of Lake Tahoe, changed that overnight. Prospectors from the gold fields on the west side flooded east across the Sierra to the Comstock. Rich gold and silver discoveries at Aurora and Bodie fueled the rumors and dreams of many and kept these prospectors searching for their lucky strike.

Mammoth Camp early hstoryFour prospectors hunting for the Lost Cement Mine organized the Lakes Mining District on Mineral Hill near Lake Mary in 1877. The following year, General George Dodge of Civil War and Union Pacific fame bought the group of claims and organized the Mammoth Mining Co.


News that the company was running four tunnels into Mineral Hill and constructing a tramway and 20-stamp mill, and rumor that this was the "largest bonanza outside Virginia City, "sparked a short-lived rush to the Mammoth gold mines. Over a thousand people flocked to Mammoth City the summer of 1878 and perhaps 1,500 the next. The prospectors followed these old paths, as did the teamsters, cattlemen, merchants, and suppliers who came after them. They also broke many new trails to the mining camps. In time, the steady march of horses' hooves and ironclad wagon wheels widened some of the trails into rough wagon roads. Many of our roads today follow these old routes. When the bonanza did not materialize, the Mammoth Mining Company shut down its mill early in 1889, company stock became worthless, and the property sold at a sheriff's sale. Just a few years later, in 1888, H.A. Whiteing reported that "...half a dozen prospectors are all that now remain of a population estimated at fifteen hundred souls in 1879."
As far as we know, during the next twenty years the only other people in Mammoth were the cowhands who drove cattle from Owens Valley up into the mountain meadows for summer and fall grazing. it wasn't until the 1900's that a different breed of pioneer discovered Mammoth. The Village of Old Mammoth was born. Fords, Chevys, and you name it - vintage 1914 on - made it through the desert, up the steep grades and into the meadow; a trip of two and one half days from Los Angeles. A hotel, store, garage, bakery, and post office were established and know as Mammoth Camp. Tent camps were set up along the Mammoth Creek or in the nearby forest. Many of the visitors were Bishop families coming for the summer; others arrived from Los Angeles. Eventually the summer visitors built cabins along the creek and in the Lakes Basin.
mammoth village street archivalOnly a few caretakers stayed to protect the properties that were here during the winter. Those few received mail and supplies by dogsled. Mammoth became a quiet and remote area until the completion of a modern highway in 1937. The camping, hiking, fishing and dynamic beauty of the area made it a sportsman's paradise. The area developed quite a reputation as a summer retreat. Mammoth got its name from the mining era, Mammoth Mining Co. In the 1990's, a different breed of pioneer discovered Mammoth. They were looking for riches that lay in the enjoyment of the Eastern Sierra. Fishing, hunting, photography, camping, hiking, horseback riding were what drew the summer visitors to Mammoth and with them came the businesses to support them.

MAMMOTH LAKES TODAY

The large meadow area bordering Mammoth Creek is to this day known as Old Mammoth, through the small village that was there disappeared long ago. Here were the beginnings of today's High Sierra resort, Mammoth Lakes- popular in winter for Mammoth Mountain's superb ski slopes and popular in summer for camping, hiking and fishing in the magnificent, wild backcountry.
The beginnings of Old Mammoth are hazy, but there is no doubt at all that the life of the small village in the meadow ended abruptly with completion of a modern highway to Mammoth in 1937. Branching off from Hwy 395 near Casa Diablo, it follows a very different route into Mammoth, north of the old road, and then swings up into the Lakes Basin in long, gradual curves. In order to survive, the village literally picked it self up and relocated astride the new highway, near the junction of the Old Mammoth Road and Hwy 203.

The name McCoy is synonymous with Mammoth Mountain ski resort history and with skiing. Dave McCoy's enthusiasm for the two has never wavered. Since his first rope tow at Grays Meadow west of Independence prior to 1936 and then his progression to Bishop, McGee Mountain, and Mammoth Mountain, his advance has been stead, forward and determined, despite the ups and downs.

It is said that people "come for the winter, but stay for the summer" in Mammoth. Mild breezes, sparkling lakes and streams, as well as cobalt blue skies beckon explorers to experience the true Eastern Sierra. Fishing, horseback riding, golfing, offloading, camping and mountain bike on more than 60 miles of single-track trails are but a few of the many diversions and adventures awaiting you this visit and for many visits to come. Mammoth Facts

The Town of Mammoth Lakes, Intrawest Corporation, Starwood, and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area are in the midst of a true Renaissance. In the next decade, planned capital investments will exceed $1 billion (U.S.) to create world class amenities, and new pedestrian village, and new on-mountain attractions that will launch Mammoth Lakes to become the #1 four-season premier mountain resort in North America. Join us in the Celebration of Life in the Mountains!

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