A Lake Tahoe Experience 100 Years In The Making

Rustic cabin porch and porch swing at Camp Richardson in Lake Tahoe

Historic photo of Frasher ShoreBefore the white man came, Lake Tahoe was the sacred center of the world for the Washoe Indians. These gentle people lived as hunter-gatherers 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 kept them alive 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, changing their lifestyle to assimilate with their new neighbors.

Earliest Historical Records

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. From there, he sold over 12,000,000 board feet of logs each year for 12 years.

Late 1800s to the 1930s

By the late 1880s, he’d logged over much of the area. E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin then bought out his holdings and began to develop the lakefront portion of the land. 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 the standards of the great European Summer resorts and, until the 1920s, was a prime attraction of the Lake Tahoe Area.

Historic photo of the Souvenir Shop at Camp RichardsonIn 1904, Joseph Parmeter and his niece, Nellie Copeland, bought the 100 x 400 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, catering 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 Zeigler, and it became “Zeigler’s Grove” until the late 1930s.

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.

The Loss of a Son Changes Everything

In 1953, the tragic death of Richardson’s son, and his own subsequent passing left the ownership and operation of the Resort to Richardson’s 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.

Saying “No” To Commercialism

People enjoying the beach at Camp Richardson in Lake TahoeIn 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, making lakefront properties 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 and Into the Future

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 almost 100 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 worked in the Resort in the early days, are now returning to build summer encampments on Taylor Creek to 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.

Experience Historic Camp Richardson For Yourself

Call 800.544.1801 or Send a Lodging Inquiry To Book Your Reservation Today!

Experience Historic Camp Richardson For Yourself

Call 800.544.1801 To Book Your Reservation Today!

Directional signs at Camp Richardson Resort

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historic photo of children at camp richardson resort