Sally Pace and I walked around Bravo Lake for the first time together on February 12. It was so empty. I darkened it to show you how sad it looked, and wrote my name in the sky so you’d know the sky wasn’t really that color. The amount of water is real.
Water managers turned on the faucets and filled Bravo Lake over the weekend. Today I picked up trash along side of five middle school students, and their teacher, my friend Courtney, and the President of Kiwanis, Tony. We split up to get the job done faster, but we didn’t get finished, in spite of having the best equipment. Can you see our little pincher pick-up things?
Bravo Lake is the main attraction in Woodlake, but it is hidden behind a levee that is built up all the way around the .46 square mile lake to prevent flooding. Right now it is filled to capacity so that the runoff from the Sierra Nevada Mountains doesn’t overpower the Kaweah River Terminus Dam I wrote about a few days ago.
Saturday at 6:15 a.m. I will go back to Bravo Lake to help register runners for the big fundraiser for Kiwanis “Round-Up for Hunger 5K/2K Walk/Run. If you are interested you can register at http://www.WoodlakeKiwanis.com., or call Linda at 559-564-2485 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everybody that sees Bravo Lake wonders why it is so undeveloped. It wasn’t meant to be that way. The picture below is from Pogue’s book covering the years 1853-1943. Can you guess the year in which this picture might have been taken?
One of my questions is when did Bravo Lake appear? I know it was a reservoir, #713 to be exact, but was it man-made or was it part of the landscape when white Americans first appeared in Tulare County in 1852? So far I haven’t found that out. Gary Davis and I poured over this 1892 Atlas of Tulare County that has been reprinted. Here is Bravo Lake, plain as day, long before Terminus Dam was built on the Kaweah River. The atlas was printed 40 years after the first white settlers appeared in Tulare County.
Notice that they have dug the Wuchumna Irrigation Ditch from Bravo Lake across the valley. Water rights in this area have been, and still are a much contested item in California. Nobody wants to share their water. Our region is quite dry most of the time receiving less that 10 inches of rain annually. However, there are many rivers, canals, and springs that are used to irrigate crops. The work of digging and redefining the landscape in Tulare County began almost as soon as settlers appeared. So settlers could have dug Bravo Lake, but did they? I still have much to learn.
I love this old atlas. I bought it from my friend, publisher, Chris Brewer. His bookstore in Exeter, the Book Garden, is the best place to get books about Tulare County. This historic atlas has the names of all the owners of all the property at that time. You can see Bravo Lake in the lower left corner and the property that belonged to Jonathan Blair just right of the lake. He was the fellow that pastored the Presbyterian church for 20 years.
“Steve R. Webb, Real Estate agent, had bought up a large tract of level land from Blair and others north and west of Bravo Lake. Now, to the utter surprise of everyone, except (Gilbert) Stevenson (millionaire from Los Angeles who had the vision to build a town around Bravo Lake),…, the lake suddenly found itself rechristened, and the town of Woodlake sprang up beside it in a phenomenally short period of time.” Pogue 37. That was in 1910. During the Great Depression, Stevenson lost all his money, and his dream died. He had spent the grand sum of $135,000. The reservoir remained, but Woodlake never became the developed resort that Stevenson envisioned.
In real life today it gets a lot of use as a walking path. Unfortunately it gets messy. We found a bur-infested coat, a shoe, lots of brittle, lake-permeated styrofoam cups that cracked into a million pieces when our pick-up tongs pinched them to pick them up, some cupcakes, an unopened bottle of beer, and lots of plastic bottles, bottle caps, potato chip bags, and plastic bags.
In 2003, Manuel and Olga Jiminez wrote a grant and started a botanical garden at the foot of the levee around Bravo Lake. On Saturday I will take more pictures of the gardens for you because I will be WALKING at the Run for Hunger. Or maybe I’ll take pictures before that if you sweet talk me. The roses behind us are just gorgeous right now. I haven’t researched the gardens just yet, but they are gaining recognition in the area. The new website, Tulare County Treasures has a nice article about the Botanical Gardens.
By the way, if you want to buy property in Woodlake now, you can always call the great real estate agent, Vince Ingrao – the honest agent I married. 559-799-9165