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Rubicon Trail history is a facinating story. So many different phases of our country's history are represented in this magnificent trail that you won't believe it. Check it out. From Native Americans to stockmen to mountain men to tourists to's all here.  More here.


1844 - John Fremont sighted Lake Tahoe while leading the U.S. Army's first official exploratory expedition across the Sierra Nevada and into California. His journals brought Tahoe to the attention of the western world.
1850 - Rubicon Springs probably discovered by early day trappers, explorers, and survey parties traveling the Georgetown-Lake Bigler Indian trail.
1853 - Joseph Calhoun "cock-eyed" Johnson and an anonymous Placerville Herald correspondent broke trail from Hangtown up the Rubicon Gorges south to Lost Corner dropping down to Meeks Canyon to the creek, then bay. They were met by a band of 70 friendly Digger Indians (probably Washoe). The bay was filled with speckled trout. The Indians told them tales of how Lake Tahoe was formed. They added these to their own upon returning to Placerville.
1859 - The first bridge to cross the river at this site was built of logs.

1860 - General William Phipps staked out a 160 acre homestead on Sugar Pine Point. He was one of the first known permanent residents of Lake Tahoe.
There was a logging camp at Sugar Pine Point for awhile which explains the lack of sugar pines in the area. Phipps protected his 160 acre homestead from the saw.
1861 - John McKinney and John Wren, both Georgetown pioneers, established a hay ranch on the summit of Burton's Pass (adjoining the El Dorado - Placer County lines.)

1862 - John Mc Kinney moved to the lake at Burton Creek's outlet.
Burton and Company cut 75 tons of wild hay from meadowland flanking Burton's Creek and shipped to South Tahoe.
Stephen and Joseph Meek (Meeks and Co.) cut 25 tons of wild hay from surrounding flatlands of Meeks Bay.
1863 - McKinney established Hunter's Retreat (log cabin, tents, sapling pier & 3 fishing boats.)

1864 - The first cabin was built by a black trapper and trader. It was a favorite stopping point for travelers, loggers and trappers traveling the Rubicon Trail. Today it is a popular place for four-wheelers and other recreationists to stop and rest.
1867 - Upson Bay (McKinney's) received 8ft of snow in 12 hours
Agustus Colwell bought 900 acres lakeshore property, from McKinney's property line at Burton's Creek 1 1/4 miles east to Sugar Pine Point. He built a steam powered sawmill near the future site of Moana Villa.
cabin south of Rubicon Springs (taking credit for their discovery), bordering on Rubicon River. Their cabin was at the foot of Rubicon's frowning granite gorge. It was the log cabin that evolved into what was known as Rubicon Soda Springs Resort.

1869 - McKinney's Retreat comprised 160 acres (13 lakefront), catering to Nevada's mining nabobs for hunting and fishing.
1875 - McKinney built the boathouse on the wharf used as a clubhouse and bar.

1877 - Colwell closed his sawmill and began selling property, holding only the land adjoining McKinney's.
The Hunsuckers had added outlying shacks and a pine corral for their stock at Rubicon Springs. Word was that the hunting was excellent (thousands of mule-tail deer were slaughtered and the hides packed down to Lower Hell Hole)

1878 - George Thomas and James Andrew Murphy, winter residents of Coloma and native Californians, settled at Meeks Bay. They enter the cattle business, herding their milk cows from Coloma to Meeks bay in the summer. They saved to buy the land from the Central Pacific (who had acquired it through an extensive railroad grant.) A few days before the sale was to take place, Duane L. Bliss bought the land, representing Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company. Bliss promised the Murphy brothers that they could buy the land for the original price after it had been logged.
1880 - The Hunsuckers began bottling spring water and selling it at Georgetown and McKinney's. They had a hard time supplying the demand. Health seekers from Nevada were now beginning to come to Rubicon Springs. Water was sold as *Rubicon Water.*

1884 - the Murphys bought the Meeks Bay land for $250 in gold eagles.

1886 - Mrs. Sierra Phillips Clark, "Vade", (daughter of Joseph W. D. Phillips who owned Phillips Station on Johnson Pass road) bought the Rubicon Springs from the Hunsuckers and added Potter's Springs 1 mile away - beginning the RESORT. She got El Dorado County to make the trail from McKinney's over Burton's Pass to Rubicon into a one-way road

1888 - Phipps sold his property to W. W. "Billy" Lapham who opened a resort and called it "Bellevue" (French for Beautiful View). Rooms cost $2.50 per night.
1889 - Vade built a 2 1/2 story hotel at the Springs, with curtained glass windows, 16 small rooms and a parlor with horsehair furniture and a foot-pedal organ. She used white linens and polished silverware to serve 3 meals per days (sometimes 100 people). On busy weekends, visitors slept in tent, cabins, or under the stars. She also put in service a 4 horse six passager coach to McKinney's. It took 2 1/2 hrs to cover the 9 miles.

1892 - The Murphy bothers (from Meeks Bay) along with their sister Frances' husband, Luke Morgan, from Georgetown, leased McKinney's Resort from the Westhoff family. The Indians also relocated to McKinney's living off the tourists. For 25 cents they were given community meals (left overs from the tourists meals.)
1893 - A fire destroyed the Bellevue.

1894 - Colwell's oldest son, Ralphy Lewis C. built the Moana Villa in a dense grove of yellow pine his father had left uncut. (2 1/2 story lodge, cottages, tents, clubhouse over the water, 500 ft pier for steamer landing - a bathing house next to the white fence dividing his property from McKinney's)
1897 - Isaias W. Hellman, a San Francisco financier, purchased the property where the Bellevue had stood.

1901- Hellman built a large mansion for a summer retreat.
Vade Clark (now Bryson) sold Rubicon Springs to Daniel Abbott who replaced the friendly signs with "Enter at your own peril"
1904 - Vade leased the Springs from Abbott for 4 years.

1908 - May Ralph Colwell of Moana bought the Springs. Vade left for good.
October flash floods caused the Rubicon River to rise 8 feet overnight with mud and water rushing through the Rubicon Springs barn and nearly ripping the hotel and outbuildings off their foundations. One of the resorts best horses "Mike" drowned and floated down the river. (someone guessing he'd end up at Hell Hole, 9 miles down the gorge)
1909 - Colwell bought the Rubicon Springs Resort, combining Moana with a health resort. He was assisted by 3 sons to run the 2 resorts.

1910 - Frank Pomin leased the Moana for 3 years so the Colwell brothers could focus on the springs.
1913 - Pomin built a lodge on a knoll to the east of Tahoma.( a large rustic-finished resort hotel with cottages)

1916 - Joseph Bishop, a San Francisco chimney sweep,and Colwell's brother-in-law, bought a parcel between the Moana and Pomin's. He built a hotel and cottages and called the resort Tahoma meaning "Home Away from Home"
1920 - Mr. Hellman died and his daughter, Florence Ehrman, inherited his estate.
Tahoma Resort was leased to Mr. and Mrs. John J. Planett for 2 seasons. >From 1922-26 Tahoma see sawed between the Planetts and Bishop.
- Rubicon Springs began losing its appeal as a resort.

1925 - Tahoe Cedars track was developed by H. L. Henry, who intended to start a motion picture colony here. It included extensive 2nd growth forest south across the Tahoma Resort bounding the property of Richard Kirman and I. W. Hellman. The subdivision included nearly 1,000 lots: streets were laid out, powers lines run, and a water system installed. Some of the original property owners were: Lon Chaney, Lina Basquette, Ernest Belcher, the ballet master, and writer Francis Rawling Illes.

1926 - Frank Swind from LA bought the Tahoma and hired Marcel Maes to run it. It now had a dance hall, dining room, rocked-in swimming pool built out to the lake and a renovated 2 story hotel plus cottages and tents. (during the 30's, it passed through the hands of several owners.

1927 - May 8th the winter residents of the West Shore joined hand to hand to shovel from Tahoma to Tahoe City (including Frank Pomin, Albert and George Colwell......)
Tahoe Cedars property was sold to disciples from around the world, of Aimee Semple McPherson in the Four Square Gospel (Angelus Temple). Sixty lots were designated to be campgrounds for the followers who could not afford to buy land.
Dispute between Aimee and her mother caused plans for the Four Square Gospel settlement to dissolve.
H. L. Henry repossessed the property and began selling to the public.

1930 - Colwell sold Rubicon Springs to the Sierra Power Company.
1930's David Chambers bought Moana Villa from the Colwell's, adding it to their resort.
1939 - El Dorado County replaced the bridge.

1947 - A steel bridge was constructed by the county.
1952 - several residents of Georgetown held a meeting to discuss the possibility of an organized jeep tour from Georgetown to Lake Tahoe, via the Rubicon Trail. On August 29, 1953, 55 jeeps with 155 enthusiastic participants left Georgetown on a two day trip that is now known as "Jeepers Jamboree 1." The last weekend of July each year, four-wheelers follow the tradition of these "pioneers."

1960 - The nordic ski events of the Olympics were held over a period of seven days in Tahoma.
1960's - a summer camp for troubled boys was built with recycled wood from a Tahoe City building that had been taken down (between 6th & 7th and Fir & Alder)

1965 - the State of California purchased the Ehrman property from Esther Lazard (Mrs. Ehrman's daughter. Some furnishings were auctioned off by Butterfield & Butterfield that summer.

1970's - The California Association of 4-Wheel Drive Clubs (CA4WDC) begins working closely with the U.S. Forest Service, Placer County, and the Lahontan Water Control Board on issues surrounding the McKinney-Rubicon Road in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The goal of this collaborative efforts to insure recreational access and to protect the water quality of Lake Tahoe.

1980's - Planning for a basin-wide effort to improve the water quality entering Lake Tahoe included water shed improvements along the McKinney-Rubicon Road. These improvements were funded by State of California Bond Acts, OHV Trust Fund dollars (Greensticker funds as some of us refer to it) as well as Placer County. The improvements along this route included the construction of rolling dips, water bars, rock-lined ditches, sediment basins, hardened water crossings, and rockwork structures as well as the bridge over McKinney Creek just below the staging area. These improvements remove sediment and decrease vehicle interaction with watercourses. As a provision of receiving the funding, Placer County agreed to maintain these improvements for a minimum twenty-year period (1986-2006).
1982 - Bridge refurbished through the efforts of several volunteers and four-wheel drive clubs.

1990's Lahontan Water Quality Control Board (who have authority over all water quality issues in the Tahoe Basin) became concerned with the deterioration and lack of maintenance of these water quality improvements. Funded by the OHV Trust Fund, Placer County, and federal monies applied for and received by CA4WDC, the county embarked on the maintenance of these improvements. Additionally there were concerns from private property owners about tow vehicle parking, and people doing "highway readiness" activities in the Homewood subdivision. There were also concerns from the OHV community about the accessibility and safety of the staging area located one mile in on the route. It was determined that the best course of action was to pave the route from the subdivision to the staging area and handle all run-off using culverts under the roadway. This process took two years which included the maintenance and/or reconstruction of all the improvements between the staging area and the rim of the basin.

1997 - Bridge refurbished through the efforts of CA4WDC and several four-wheel drive clubs and individuals.

2000 - Placer County received a letter in December 2000 from Lahontan Water Control Board of Notice of Violation of Cease and Desist Order Against Placer County for Discharging and Threatening to Discharge Wastes From the McKinney Springs Road to McKinney Creek. Placer County was thereby put on notice that Lahontan Water Quality Control Board feels that Placer County has not performed its duty as rendered to ease the run-off and sedimentation off the route and has required Placer County to address these issues. A fine of $10,000 per day was threatened. Initial plans/alternatives were developed, one of which was a gate.

2001- Del Albright forms Friends of the Rubicon (FOTR), with the help of the Pirates of the Rubicon, BlueRibbon Coalition, CA4WDC, CORVA, AMA, United FWDA and several individuals who had heard about the gate option. FOTR is an informal coalition of groups and individuals dedicated to keeping the Rubicon Trail open and available to all recreationists. We are the Citizen Stewards of the Rubicon Trail.

Working with Placer County, El Dorado County, the USFS, private businesses, many organized recreation groups, and other land management agencies to ensure our famed Rubicon Trail remains as one of our crown jewels of motorized and mechanized recreation. Del was elected to the position of Trail Boss, FOTR.
2001- FOTR conducts several work days and work weekends to repair the McKinney section of the road (Placer County) in complete cooperation with the county, USFS, and several Tahoe Basin control agencies. Rebecca Bond, Placer County Road Engineering leads the efforts as Incident Commander, McKinney/Rubicon Road Drainage Repair Incident.

Other highlights: Uncle Tom's Cabin: built in 1864 by a black trapper and trader. Still used today by wheelers and trail riders.

Granite Bowl: also called the Slabs. Right outside Loon Lake entrance. Much like Moab where you're driving on pure rock (with good traction).

Rubicon Springs: this is privately owned. Please treat this property with respect. There is a group of home/landowners who own this outright and let us use it. Camping fees are required most of the time.

Syd's Grave: located at the base of Cadillac Hill, with some other *mock* graves that you might find. Originally named for Syd Mainwaring. According to the Book written by Peg Presba on "Jeepers Jamboree, The first 40 Years", Syd Mainwaring passed away in 1975. It was a solemn crowd who stood watching as the helicopter took off to scatter his ashes over the Rubicon Trail on July 22nd. 1975. The grave stone reads "A man to match our mountains", that's how everyone felt about him.

Cadillac Hill: actually named after a La Salle, the old car body might still be lying at the base of the hill where it once toppled.

2010: The Rubicon Trail continues to be the most popular iconic trail for four-wheelers in the world. Friends of the Rubicon (FOTR) and the Rubicon Trail Foundation (RTF) have adopted the care, maintenance and management of the trail with Eldorado County, primary landowners of the road/trail.Sign up for work days to help the trail and learn more about the Rubicon Trail here at these websites as well: FOTR and RTF.


Be sure to thank Mike Stoller for compiling the history

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