The City of Clearlake - Clearlake Park - Lower Lake
Rancho Villa - Twin Lakes
Hidden Valley Lake - Middletown
REMEMBER "The Highlands"? Lots of people have fond memories of childhood experiences along the southern shore of Clear Lake and on Cache Creek. For, time was, this area was just chock full of intimate little resorts catering to families from the Sacramento Valley and the greater Bay Area. Many of the resorts are still here and they still offer a quiet, relaxing weekend or longer stay to busy folks looking for a respite from life's stress and strain. Others have been acquired by new owners with new enthusiasm, who are modernizing them as the city of Clearlake emerges from the valley of its recent past, rising like the Phoenix from its own ashes. Lake Escape Resort is a case in point. Here, the old Ship'n Shore Resort has undergone a total renovation of both the buildings and grounds. The results are quite remarkable.
Further out Lakeshore Drive in Clearlake Park, Randy Zumalt has transformed an old store and trailer park into Pine Dell Resort. He has erected an all-steel pier and dock, a completely remodeled and enlarged store (with a full-service deli), and a new gas station (with bait and other fishing supplies). An elevator for handicapped access to the store is an impressive feature, and the view of Mt Konocti across Clear Lake is spectacular! Randy's future plans include overnight accommodations for fishermen and vacationers, too.
The signs of rebirth are everywhere as contractors and entrepreneurs pursue a remodel here, a tear down and rebuild there, an entirely new development down the street. It's going to take some time, but Clearlake's coming back!
The City of Clearlake offers three waterfront parks - Redbud, Highlands, and Austin - all fronting on Lakeshore Boulevard. At Redbud and Highlands Parks boaters have free access to Clear Lake and families may enjoy picnicking, athletic games and a playground. At Austin Park there's a children's playground on the waterfront side of Lakeshore Boulevard and across the street an excellent skate park your teenagers will enjoy. An unique spot in the City is Borax Lake, adjacent to Sulphur Bank Road. Once mined for borax, and more recently shouldered by homes, the lake is a national archaeological site. The Clear Lake Campus of Yuba College offers a number of cultural and educational outlets to residents and visitors alike.
One of Lake County's most fascinating natural wonders lies adjacent to Highway 53 between Clearlake and Lower Lake. Anderson Marsh State Historic Park protects several habitats including freshwater marsh, oak woodland, grasslands and riparian woodland. Each year, the park hosts popular events including the Bluegrass Festival in September. For information, call 707 994-0688.
Five hundred and forty acres of wetlands or tule marsh within the 1000-acre park have been designated a natural preserve in an effort to protect this fragile habitat which provides protection, food and breeding areas for many fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Large mouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish spend at least part of their life cycle among the tules. Birds such as mallard, western grebe and American coot also frequent the tules. You may even see a northwestern pond turtle sunning itself on a log. Other wildlife here includes garter snakes, frogs and toads, raccoon, skunks, opossums, mink, muskrats, river otter, gray fox and bats. Tules filter the water that flows into the lake, helping to decrease the level of nutrients which contribute to algae growth. Both valley and blue oaks dominate the drier woodland area of the park and serve as home for Cooper's hawks, woodpeckers and other birds. Black-tailed deer, western gray squirrel, California ground squirrel and black-tailed hare live here as well, alongside rattlesnakes and western fence lizards. The grasslands, with their abundance of spring wildflowers, attract house finch, American goldfinch and ring-necked pheasant. Also present are American kestrel, black-shouldered kite, meadowlarks, killdeers and red-tailed hawks. Coyotes pursue mice, voles, gophers and ground squirrels. And Newts, toads, lizards and snakes also make the grasslands their home. Nearest the water, in the dense lush foliage, a diverse population of animal life includes bald eagles, Peregrine falcons, great blue herons, red-shouldered hawks, mourning doves, great horned owls and Anna's hummingbirds.
Southeastern Pomo, one of the largest groups of people in prehistoric California, knew this land as home, and their descendants still live nearby. Archaeological sites here are more than 10,000 years old. The Pomo were expert basket weavers and also made tule boats, nets and bows and arrows. They used various tools made from stone and obsidian. Several undeciphered petroglyphs (rock engravings) have been found within the park.
European hunters and trappers first came to this area in the 1820s but the first settlers were Achilles Fine and John Grigsby in 1855. They came by ox team from Tennessee to raise livestock and produce, and built the central portion of the house and the oldest of the barns. Damming of Cache Creek by Clear Lake Waterworks Company caused floods in both 1866 and 1868. In response, Grigsby brought suit and won initially, but an appeal to the State Supreme Court reversed the decision on legal technicalities. In 1870, Grigsby sold his holdings to the water company. In 1885, John Still Anderson, with his wife and six children, bought the land and operated a cattle ranch. They added the tallest portion of the house in 1886. Their descendants lived in the house until the late 60s.
Lake County's first jailhouse, built in 1875, is located on the left side of Main Street just as you enter Lower Lake turning south at the intersection of Hwys 53 and 29. Meant to house just two inmates, it was occupied the night of its completion by its over-zealous builders. It has been designated California State Historical Landmark #429. Lower Lake Historical Schoolhouse and Museum has been designated a state historical site and is a part of the Lake County Museum system. The two-story structure with its distinctive mansard roof was designed and built by Leslie P. Nichols in 1877 with funds raised by the townspeople. It was constructed with locally manufactured brick and lumber and was used as a grammar school until 1935. An auditorium with a large stage and facilities for performances and social gatherings is located on the second floor. Exhibits include a geology display donated by Homestake Mining Company with a sample of raw gold, artifacts from pioneer families, and an example of an early classroom. Arrangements can be made for educational tours and a research area is available, 995-3565.
HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE
The homes are off limits, but a few of the community's amenities are open to all. That's Hidden Valley Lake in a nutshell. Visitors to Lake County owe themselves a visit to this gated community that began as one more in a series of second-home land ventures and blossomed into the "current great thing" for young moms and dads looking for a more relaxed lifestyle and a healthier environment in which to raise their children. Meanwhile, part of what enters into their decision - the golf course and its attendant facilities - remain open to the public. And, not just open, but eager to please! You'd be hard-pressed to find a better conditioned course anywhere. Designed by golf architect Billy Bell (best known for his creation at Torrey Pines), Hidden Valley Lake Golf Course is challenging and visually compelling. There is a driving range, putting green, chipping area, fully stocked pro shop, restaurant and lounge. Lessons are available from an excellent staff of professionals headed by PGA professional, Andy Gonzalez, 987-3035 (page 66). Also available for public use is the Hidden Valley Lake RV Park and Campgrounds.There are shaded sites for both tents and RVs (with hookups), a baseball diamond, a basketball court, a picnic area, and group sites. Hidden Valley Lake now has its own Postal Zip Code - 95467. No longer an extension of Middletown, it has its own schools, and a growing shopping center. All entrances to the residential areas of Hidden Valley Lake are gated and manned at all times.
Things change. That pretty much says it. In the beginning, Middletown was the "Gateway to Lake County," it was half way to Lower Lake or Cobb Mountain. It was ... well ... in the middle. There were a few stores and a post office and a couple of real estate offices all designed to serve a scattered, mostly agrarian community of souls who, one imagines, settled here for the quiet and the solitude.
To be sure, there is some history to the place. After all, the lovely and glamorous Lillie Langtry built a home in Guenoc Valley where she lived for a number of years, growing wine grapes and amusing herself with the production of fine varietal wines. Today, Langtry Estates and Vineyards showcases the restored historic home and wine produced from grapes she planted in the late 1800s. Arrangements for tours, picnics and wine tasting are available by appointment (987-9127).
THREE GOLF LAYOUTS
If golf is your game, Middletown is right up your alley ... er, uh ... fairway. In addition to the aforementioned Hidden Valley Lake Golf Course there are two layouts atop Cobb Mountain that are well worth your attention. From the center of town, turn on Hwy 175 and just a few minutes up the road you'll find Rob Roy Golf and Country Club which was built in the mid-50s by Don Emerson and the late George Hoberg, Sr, as part of a vacation home subdivision. The hospitality here is beyond belief. Great food and great golf, too. 928-0121 (page 3, 51). Adams Springs Golf Course is one of the last courses designed by Jack Fleming, better known for his design of the San Francisco Olympic Club's Lake Course, Lake Merced Golf & Country Club, and Almaden Country Club. If you like challenge, this is the course for you. 928-9992
Calpine Corporation, operators of The Geysers, world's largest geothermal energy source, operates a visitor center just off Hwy 29 at the southern edge of Middletown where they offer interactive geothermal displays, a gift shop, and a picnic area.
WHERE TO SHOP
If you're looking for something "borrowed" or something "old," stop by The Crossroads on Hwy 29 just north of its intersection with Hwy 53 in Lower Lake (on the way to Kelseyville). What a spot to find that perfect gift for the person who has "everything"! 994-9440
WHERE TO EAT
A new entry among Clearlake's "have fun while eating" establishments is Pogo's Pizza. Drop in for an hour or so and down a beer with your pizza. Bring friends and have a party! Or call ahead and order to go. Great pizza and burgers, too! 994-6777
The Greenview Restaurant in the clubhouse at Hidden Valley Lake Golf Course serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also offer a full bar. For reservations, call 987-3138
WHERE TO STAY
At the Travelodge on Old Hwy 53 in the City of Clearlake you'll enjoy a comfortable stay in clean, modern rooms with all the anticipated amenities. For reservations, call 800 990-8880
Eagle & Rose Inn on Calistoga Road in Middletown is a wonderfully renovated place where you can be sure of clean, modern and comfortable accommodations. 987-7330
You might also consider a vacation rental. For information about homes available throughout Lake County, call Lake Vacation Rentals, 866 587-LAKE.
Adventist Health Redbud Community Hospital (see map) is a modern acute care facility offering 24-hour emergency services. An excellent staff of doctors and nurses stands ready to serve you in the event you require attention for any sort of injury or health need.The hospital is located on 18th Avenue between Clearlake and Lower Lake, off Hwy 53.