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Elizabeth Lake (Los Angeles County, California)


Lake Elizabeth as seen from the air.

The lake, at 984 m (3,228 ft) in elevation, is within the Angeles National Forest. It is a natural perennial lake, but may dry up entirely during drought years. It is south of the western Antelope Valley.

Elizabeth Lake is one of a series of sag ponds created by the motion of the Earth's tectonic plates along the San Andreas Fault in the area, with others including Hughes Lake and the Munz Lakes.[1] They are part of the northern upper Santa Clara River watershed.[2]

The community of Elizabeth Lake is a census-designated place on the shores of the lake. It is administratively within the unincorporated community of Lake Hughes, and shares the same zip code.



In 1780, the Spanish explorer-priest Junipero Serra named the lake La Laguna de Diablo (English: Devil's Lake), because some who lived nearby believed that within it dwelt a pet of the devil, which later came to be known as the Elizabeth Lake Monster.[3] The creature is said to resemble a dragon, with leathery wings and scaly skin.

Sometime after 1834, the lake was called La Laguna de Liebre (English: Rabbit Lake) for a short time. Then in the 1840s it became known as La Laguna de Chico Lopez, for Francisco "Chico" Lopez, who grazed cattle on its banks.[4]

In 1849, Elizabeth Wingfield was camping with her family beside the lake. Walking on a log to fill buckets for cooking and drinking, Elizabeth slipped and fell in. She was not injured, but several other vacationing families witnessed her mishap, and in fun they began calling La Laguna de Chico Lopez Elizabeth's Lake. The name caught on and locals started referring to it as Elizabeth Lake, later becoming the official name.

Native AmericanEdit

Elizabeth Lake once marked a dividing point between the territories of the Tataviam, Kitanemuk, and Serrano tribes of Native Americans. The Tataviam may have called it Kivarum. [5]

Spain and MexicoEdit

As early as the 1780s the main inland route between southern and northern Spanish colonial Las Californias province was El Camino Viejo a Los Ángeles (English: the Old Road to Los Angeles). It became a well established inland route, and an alternative to the coastal El Camino Real trail used since the 1770s.[6] Locally it ascended the Sierra Pelona Mountains via San Francisquito Canyon, crossed through San Francisquito Pass, ran north to the lake, and then skirted it and continued northwest to Aguaje Lodoso (Mud Spring) in the Antelope Valley and westward to Cow Springs and the Cuddy Valley, and then down Cuddy Canyon to the San Joaquin Valley.

Another inland route diverged from the El Camino Viejo at Elisabeth Lake, going north to cross the western Antelope Valley and then up Cottonwood Creek canyon, to cross over the Tehachapi Mountains via Old Tejon Pass, and down Tejon Creek canyon to the San Joaquin Valley. After 1843 much of that section was within the Mexican Alta California land grant of Rancho Tejon.[7] From 1849 to before 1854 it was the main road connecting the southern part of the state to the trail along the eastern side of the San Joaquin Valley to the goldfields to the north.[8]

The Mexican land grant Rancho La Liebre was established in 1846 in Alta California, with its southeastern section in the Sierra Pelona Mountains near the lake.

United StatesEdit

In the early 1850s the vicinity of La Laguna de Chico Lopez was a frequent haunt of California grizzly bears—so numerous that cattle ranching was considered impossible.[9]

In 1854 the route to the San Joaquin Valley shifted away from the Old Tejon Pass route to the Stockton - Los Angeles Road, using the Fort Tejon Pass, and the Grapevine Canyon. The later Butterfield Overland Mail shortened the route to Cow Springs avoiding Mud Springs, skirting Elisabeth Lake to its north westward via the San Andreas Rift to Oakgrove Canyon then north via Pine Canyon to Antelope Valley and westward again to Cow Springs.

The first building at the lake was La Casa de Miguel Ortiz, an adobe built by Miguel Ortiz, a muleteer, on land given him by his employer, Edward Fitzgerald Beale. Southwest of the Ortiz Adobe was the Andrada Stage Station adobe, sited where the old Fort Tejon Road entered San Francisquito Canyon.[10]

In 2013, wildfires swept through the Lake Elizabeth area. The lake has been dry ever since 2013, unrelated to the fire but because of a drought.


In 1869 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors designated the Elizabeth Lake School District to serve the area, which had the only established school between Los Angeles and Bakersfield. Land for the school was donated by Samuel and Almeda Frakes from their ranch lands.[11] Children from the Lake Hughes, Elizabeth Lake, and Green Valley areas are still served by this school district.[12] The 1869 wooden schoolhouse lasted until it was replaced by an adobe structure in the early 1930s, located on the east side of Elizabeth Lake Road, ¼ mile north of Andrada Corner at the intersection of San Francisquito and Elizabeth Lake Roads.[citation needed]

Lake HughesEdit

In 1924, Judge Hughes[clarification needed] renamed the sag pond to the west of Elizabeth Lake to Lake Hughes, and created a recreational resort area around it.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Forest Service (May 2004). "Draft Land Management Plan: Part 2-Angeles National Forest Strategy" (.PDF). R5-MB-041. U.S. Department of Agriculture: 47. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
  2. ^ State Water Resources Control Board, Los Angeles (LARWQCB): Documents for the Santa Clara River Lakes (Elizabeth Lake, Munz Lake, Lake Hughes) Nutrient TMDLhomepage + links.
  3. ^ "Mysterious L.A.: The Monster of Elizabeth Lake?". Los Angeles Almanac. 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
  4. ^ Mildred Brooke Hoover, E. G. Rensch and H. E. Rensch, Historic Spots In California: The Southern Counties, Stanford University Press, 1932, pp.85-86
  5. ^ Johnson, John R., Earle, David D., Tataviam Geography and Ethnohistory, Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.191-214 (1990)
  6. ^ Latta, Frank F. (1976). Saga of Rancho El Tejon. Exeter, California: Bear State Books. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-892622-30-3.
  7. ^ Map of Passes in the Sierra Nevada from Walker's Pass to the Coast Range: from Explorations and Surveys made under the direction of the Hon. Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, by Lieut. R.S. Williamson Topl. Engr. assisted by Lieut. J.G. Parke Topl. Engr. and Mr. Isaac Williams Smith, Civ. Engr. 1853. Explorations and Surveys for a Rail Road Route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. War Department. Routes in California to connect with the routes near the 32nd and 35th parallels. Engraved by Selmar Siebert.
  8. ^ Where Rolls the Kern: a History of Kern County, California; Herbert G. Comfort; Enterprise Press; Moorpark, Ca; 1934; (#255); Chapter IV, "The Founding of Fort Tejon; pp. 21-52. "Before 1854, the' main line of travel into the valley was straight North from Elizabeth Lake across Antelope Valley, entering the San Joaquin by way of the original Tejon Pass, at the head of Tejon Creek, above the present headquarters of Tejon Rancho. The establishment of the Fort Diverted this general travel to the West almost 29 miles to the present Tejon Pass, then known as Fort Tejon Pass. As the Tejon Creek Pass was abandoned, the name Tejon Pass came to be used solely for the pass leading into Canada de las Uvas."
  9. ^ Horace Bell, Reminiscences of a ranger: or, early times in Southern California, Yarnell, Caystile & Mathes, printers, Los Angeles, 1881, p. 250
  10. ^ Hoover, Rensch and Rensch, Historic Spots In California: The Southern Counties, p.85-86. — via Google Books.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Ameluxen, Jack and Louise. Discover Green Valley Local History, Folktales and Facts (Second ed.). p. 36.

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