Lake Yosemite took shape in the late 1800s, but did you know that recreational activities on the water were prohibited prior to 1917?
As one of the major projects of the Crocker-Huffman irrigation company, Lake Yosemite was created to supply water to the City of Merced.
The construction of Lake Yosemite Reservoir commenced in February 1883 and was completed in February 1888. First domestic water connections made in 1889 when a 16″ cast iron pipeline, with its inlet at the still existing tower at Lake Yosemite (seen in historic photo above), was extended to the north end of Canal Street and then southerly to about 11th Street.
Interestingly, the pipe was manufactured in Belgium in 1887 and shipped around Cape Horn to California.
This conduit was utilized from 1889 to 1917 until the city sunk its first well in 1917.
Lake Yosemite is currently owned and operated by the Merced Irrigation District (MID), which supplies irrigation water to farms in Merced County. Recreation on the lake is managed by the Merced County Parks and Recreation Department. The county manages the Fish and Game building, Scout Island, Veteran’s Cove, Rotary Cove 1 & 2, and all can be utilized as rentals. It costs $6 to enter the lake recreational area by car, but there are options for annual pass rates.
The lake is also home to the Lake Yosemite Sailing Association (LYSA), which was founded in 1988. LYSA hosts youth camps and weekly sailboat races during summer months.
In recent years, there has been talk about cooperation between the county and UC Merced — the lake’s relatively new neighbor — to modernize and transform some parking and recreational areas alongside the southern shore of the lake.
For those interested in paranormal phenomena, the lake’s tower is said to be haunted by the “Lady of the Lake.” According to reported horror stories, the ghost has long flowing white hair and wears a long white gown. She is said to walk around the tower catwalk and on the lake’s surface looking for her lost child or lover. The ghost has also been reported to walk along Old Lake Road, occasionally stepping into the path of oncoming traffic.
The Times is publishing historical photos and information about the development of irrigation systems, and the growth of the Merced Irrigation District. The district and the Merced County Historical Society are planning a community celebration and exhibit in recognition of MID’s 100-year Anniversary on Nov. 7. The date coincides with the formation of the District: MID was established in November 1919. More information can be found online at: MIDisThere.com or mercedmuseum.org.
Also, if you have a story, a photo or an artifact related to the history of Merced Irrigation District, the organizers of the exhibit want to know about it. Contact Museum Director Sarah Lim at (209) 723-2401 or by email at: [email protected]