History of Camp Richardson Historic Resort & Marina – South Lake Tahoe, CA
Camp Richardson History
Before the white man came, Lake Tahoe was the sacred center of the world for the Washoe Indians. These gentle people lived a hunting and gathering existence moving with the seasons from the Carson Valley to the Tahoe area for fishing, hunting and seed gathering. The Taylor Creek area was their summer camp, and from it they took fish and animals, which fed them during the long, cold winters. After white men came for ranching and lumbering, the Washoe People began to work in the camps and mills of this area for cash wages, and changed their lifestyle to accommodate that of the white residents.
The earliest records of ownership of the land around the present Camp Richardson Resort and Marina are from 1875 when M.C. Gardner acquired a timber holding of several thousand acres from the U.S. Government and built a sawmill and railroad line. He paid 25 cents an acre for the land, plus $1 per acre payable over 20 years. His railroad followed the present Jameson Beach Roadway. He sold over 12,000,000 board feet of logs each year for 12 years from this location.
By the late 1880’s, he had logged over much of the area. E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin then bought out his holdings and began to develop the lakefront portion. He built a stately summer home, and sold parcels to other families (Pope, Tevis, Comstock, and Lawrence) who built the lovely homes which are now on the adjoining properties. The Tallac Hotel was built to standards of the great European Summer resorts and until the 1920’s was a prime attraction of the Lake Tahoe Area.
In 1904 Joseph Parmeter and his niece Nellie Copeland, bought the 100x400 ft. parcel that is now the Camp Richardson Marina and built tent cabins and summerhouses in Copeland’s Grove. Nellie and her husband, the hard drinking, hard-swearing J.C., also built a saloon over the water and a dance pavilion for their summer resort and catered to “Folks weary of the city”. Such was J.C.’s devotion to the saloon that the next owner of the Grove was their bartender Ziegler, and it became “Zeigler’s Grove" until the late 1930’s.
In 1921 Captain Alonzo Richardson leased a large parcel from the Comstock and Lawrence families and set up a stage service from Placerville to South Lake Tahoe. For many years his oversized, low-slung Pierce Arrow touring cars were a familiar sight in the area. In 1924, he bought the property and began to build cabins and a lakefront pavilion. By 1926 he added the hotel, dining room, gas station and other buildings of the present day resort. In 1927, the Tallac Hotel was torn down and Al Richardson moved the Tallac Post Office to Camp Richardson. He built the “long wharf” which is now the Resort pier, and operated a launch and other water services for guests. The Steamer Tahoe and mail boats called in at the wharf daily.
In 1953, the tragic death of Richardson’s son, and his subsequent passing left the ownership and operation of the Resort to his widow, Cora, and his daughter and son-in-law, Florence “Sis” and Ray Knisley. Ray Knisley was already well known and respected in both California and Nevada for his management of the Baldwin Estate and properties as well as his active roles in conservation and parks in both states.
In 1967, the operation of the Resort was becoming more difficult and less profitable, and there were great pressures on the family to sell the property for condominium or commercial development. This was the period of greatest building and development in the Tahoe Basin, and the lakefront properties were extremely valuable. Ray Knisley was determined not to allow the area to be over-commercialized, and approached the USFS to take over the entire recreational area from Baldwin Beach and Taylor Creek through Camp Richardson to Pope Beach. This conversion was accomplished without a single dollar of government money and has created one of the largest and most valuable areas of recreation ever converted to public use.
Today, Camp Richardson Resort is operated under a SPECIAL USE PERMIT from the USFS. The Camp Richardson Marina is privately owned and operated in conjunction with the Resort.
Many families have returned to Camp Richardson in South Lake Tahoe every summer for up to 70 years, making the trip with two, three, and four generations. Some older guests remember “Rich” Richardson meeting the mail steamer or driving up the road in his favorite red Pierce Arrow. (The cabins still bear the names of the automobiles and bus equipment given to them by the Richardsons.) The Washoe Indians, who were here before us and who worked in the Resort in the early days, are now returning to build summer encampments on Taylor Creek which will show visitors some of the ways of the Washoe Indians.
We hope some of the Lake Tahoe history and nostalgia of this very special place will bring you back to Camp Richardson to enjoy the beautiful lakefront setting, comfortable facilities, wealth of activities, and our great staff.