Meadow Lake, Nevada County, California

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Meadow Lake
Excelsior, Summit City
Former settlement
Meadow Lake, Nevada County, California.jpg
Meadow Lake is located in California
Meadow Lake
Meadow Lake
Location in California
Coordinates: 39°24′12.6″N 120°29′53.88″W / 39.403500°N 120.4983000°W / 39.403500; -120.4983000Coordinates: 39°24′12.6″N 120°29′53.88″W / 39.403500°N 120.4983000°W / 39.403500; -120.4983000
Country  United States
State  California
County Nevada County
Township February, 1866
Elevation[1] 7,293 ft (2,223 m)

Meadow Lake (previously: Excelsior; Summit City) is a former settlement in Nevada County, California, USA. Situated at an elevation of 7,290 ft (2,220 m) above sea level,[2] the reservoir of the same name is one of the highest lakes in elevation within the Tahoe National Forest.


The demand for water to work the auriferous claims scattered in the foothills and valleys of Northern California's Nevada and Sierra counties brought attention to the Meadow Lake region as there was an inexhaustible supply of water, which could be collected in reservoirs and conducted by aqueducts to lower elevation mining locales. In the summer of 1858, the first permanent structure was erected in the Meadow Lake area, consisting of a stone wall across a 900 feet (270 m) ravine, forming the Meadow Lake reservoir. From it, Nevada City and southwestern Nevada County, obtained their principal supply of water during several months of the year. It measures 50 feet (15 m) in height, 15 feet (4.6 m) width at its apex, and is built of granite.[3]

In 1860, Henry Hartley arrived in the locale to trap. By 1863, he noticed some quartz ledges, and incorporated the "Excelsior Company". The town's heyday occurred during the period of 1865 to 1868 with the economy built on the prospect of finding substantial gold ore. In 1866, Meadow Lake was founded as the county's ninth township.[3] Orion Clemens, older brother of the author Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain), resided in Meadow Lake for a time after 1866.[4]

Also known at one time as Summit City, an excursion vessel took revelers up the lake to hurdy-gurdy houses.[5] Hurdy-gurdy halls were apparently so-called because of the presence of the "hurdy-gurdy girls". They appear to be the upper level of the dance hall girls of the American frontier fact and fiction. At its peak, there were 500 buildings and the population numbered up to 5,000 residents. By 1868, the population had dropped to fewer than 100 residents.[6]

Not much of the townsite remains. However, there are several mining sites, a few foundations, the cemetery, and the dam.[6] A campsite is located near the shore of the lake, and available activities include canoeing, fishing, and hiking. The Ranger Station is located in Sierraville.[7]


The township was bound on the north by Sierra County, on the south by Placer, on the east by the state of Nevada, and on the west by the townships of Eureka and Washington. It is reachable via California State Route 89 northbound from Truckee, though the last nine miles are on a logging road.[6] About 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Meadow Lake lies another reservoir called French Lake.

The reservoir lies within the town limits and is discharged by a small gate at the dam. It is about 2 miles (3.2 km) long and approximately .75 miles (1.21 km) wide. Its depth ranges between ten and thirty fathoms.[3]

Prominent landscape features include immense forests, luxuriant grasses, huge boulders, and masses of granite.[3]


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Meadow Lake, Nevada County, California
  2. ^ "Meadow Lake Fishing in Nevada County, California Webber Peak Area". Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Bean's history and directory of Nevada County, California: Containing a complete history of the county, with sketches of the various towns and mining camps ... also, full statistics of mining and all other industrial resources. Printed at the Daily Gazette Book and Job Office. 1867. pp. 305–306. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  4. ^ Richard Moreno (2011). A Short History of Carson City. University of Nevada Press.
  5. ^ "#61 Name: Meadow Lake". E Clampus Vitus. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Perez, Jim. "Meadow Lake". Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  7. ^ "Meadow Lake Campground, California". Retrieved 18 April 2011.