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Visit serene Webber Lake, Sierra County, California
Webber Lake was part of the original American road trip. As a stage stop & hotel in the mid-19th century, quite a few colorful characters passed through in their search for gold or looking for work as entertainers.
It’s been off-limits to the public since then, but the gate opened last week and a new campground opens next week. Acquisition by the Truckee Donner Land Trust made all this possible.
History of Webber Lake
I drove out to Webber Lake early in the morning on behalf of the Truckee Donner Land Trust to take some photos for a special to the San Francisco Chronicle. I really had no clue about the interesting history behind this property.
Webber Lake owes its namesake to a young doctor who passed through the area in the 1849 gold rush. As the story goes, a guide brought him through the area and staked claim to the lake that he brought Webber to. Webber fell in love with the lake and raised the guide’s pay until the guide abandoned the claim, leaving Webber to claim it as his own.
Webber built a hotel in 1860, and the building still stands today despite being battered by thousands of feet of snow since it was first built. The building served as a stage stop along the historic Henness Pass Road, and also as a summer retreat for the wealthy.
The land changed hands only three times since then.
A dairy farmer owned the land for a short time in the late 19th century until being murdered by an employee.
William Henry Johnson then purchased Lacey Meadows for sheep grazing, and his family later acquired Webber Lake. A few buildings from the Johnson’s homestead still stand today, tucked away in the trees next to the meadow.
The Johnsons leased Webber Lake as a private fishing camp in the later half of the 20th century. It remained private, gates locked to the public, until 2012.
Conservation Efforts at Webber Lake
In addition to the above history, the Lacey Meadows area is also home to many species of threatened or endangered birds & mammals. The meadow itself is touted as one of the finest spring wildflower displays in the northern Sierras. Webber Lake is also the headwater of the Little Truckee River, the largest tributary into the Truckee.
The Johnson family has always recognized the importance of this land and has taken great care of it. That’s why, despite receiving some bigger offers, the family sold these 3,000 acres to the Truckee Donner Land Trust for approximately $8 million.
Other agencies involved with the acquisition include the state Wildlife Conservation Board, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, and the Trust for Public Land. The deal was completed in 2012 but the land was to remain off-limits to the public until 2017.
Activities at Webber Lake
Thirty-six camping sites opened up on August 1st, 2017. These sites are open to tents and RVs and include picnic tables, fire pits, and bear boxes.
Webber Lake also has a nice day-use area as well. Day users and campers will enjoy fishing, boating, picnicking, and hiking.
Webber Lake is stocked with four species of trout, including the popular Lahontan cutthroat trout. Fish from your boat or enjoy flyfishing from many perfect spots along the long shoreline.
A nice, short hiking trail meanders through Lacey Meadows and along Lacey Creek. The trailhead starts at the south end of Webber Lake and continues south for 3.4 miles. The flat trail passes the remains of the Johnson homestead, through Lower Lacey Meadow, across Lacey Creek, through a wooded area, then into Upper Lacey Meadow.
Getting to Webber Lake: Head north on CA89 from Truckee (I-80 Exit 188B). After 14 miles make a left at the sign for Jackson Meadows Rd and follow the Forest Service signs for Webber Lake, another 9 miles on paved roads. (Open in Google Maps)
Learn more and make camping reservations at tdlandtrust.org.