Gone, but not Forgotten


Little Lake, Inyo Co., CA




Gary B. Speck


Little Lake, 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.


Little 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. 


The 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 up!”


Sometime 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.


Little Lake is gone, and remembered fondly by Ghost Town USA, although nearly forgotten by thousands of other travelers along busy Highway 395.


For other recently departed ghost towns, visit our ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST page.


Little Lake was our Ghost Town of the Month for July 2004.



·        NW¼ Sec 17, NE¼ Sec 18, T27S, R38E, Mount Diablo Meridian

·        Latitude: 35.9366936 / 35° 56’ 12” N

·        Longitude: -117.9067408 / 117° 54’ 24” W





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FIRST POSTED:  June 30, 2004

LAST UPDATED: June 05, 2010




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