Gone, but not Forgotten
Little Lake, Inyo Co., CA
Gary B. Speck
is pretty much gone. For those that remember this wonderful
little ghost, it brings back many “Road Trip” memories. Little Lake
is still well signed, still shown on maps, and still has expressway on and off
ramps with its name on them. However,
little remains to mark the site just off US 395 at the southern end of Owens Valley,
in California’s Inyo County.
Lake is named after the small, spring-fed lake
known formerly as Owens Little Lake, and now just plain old Little Lake. The lake used to be a seasonal marsh, until
it was dammed in the early 1900s as a part of the Los Angeles Aqueduct
system. It is bounded on the east and
south by tall black walls of lava, part of volcanic activity that is said to
have taken place about 25,000 years ago.
At the former resort, there was a store, gas station and post office at
the south end of the lake. There was
railroad access along the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Jawbone spur, built in
1908 (or 1911) and followed SH 14 and US 395 north from Mojave, up to Lone
Pine, where it joined with the Carson
& Colorado Railroad line.
town site of Little Lake sat on a flat section of lava west of the highway and
mostly east of the railroad line. It was
famed for its rock-faced, two-story hotel (built in 1923), gas station and a
café that served tourists and sportsmen heading north to the eastern Sierras,
or south towards urban Southern California. The old highway entered town through a cut in
the black lava walls, and that cut was adorned with advertising and graffiti
from former travelers. It was in its
heyday in the 1940s & 1950s. The
Little Lake Café and Hotel were “Open 24 Hours … to better serve you.” Sullivan’s Chevron Gas Station was next door
to the café, and their ads asked us to “Stop and Fill ’er
around 1966, US 6/395 was rerouted to the east behind
the town, relegating it to off ramp status.
Beginning in the late 1980s, small road towns like this began to die due
to more fuel efficient, air-conditioned vehicles that didn’t need to stop as
often. In 1982 the trains stopped
running through this part of the line, and in 1989 a fire ravaged the upper
floor of the hotel, and it was closed.
We passed through shortly after and noticed that the lower portion was
used as a private residence. In 1997 the
post office closed, and in the summer of 2001 I noticed the hotel and other
buildings had been torn down, and all buildings except a green cabin on the
west side of the site had been removed.
That cabin is said to have been the post office. The SP railroad tracks in this area were
removed in December 1998, and today, the quiet site is nothing like it was a
mere 50 years ago.
Lake is gone, and remembered fondly by Ghost
Town USA, although nearly forgotten by thousands of other travelers along busy
other recently departed ghost towns, visit our ANOTHER
ONE BITES THE DUST page.
was our Ghost Town of the Month for July 2004.
Sec 17, NE¼ Sec 18, T27S, R38E, Mount Diablo Meridian
35.9366936 / 35° 56’ 12” N
-117.9067408 / 117° 54’ 24” W
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POSTED: June 30, 2004
UPDATED: June 05, 2010
website and all information posted here-in is
by Gary B Speck Publications
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