Images Courtesy Lake County Museum and Lake County History Society
By Gene Paleno
When I decided to write Lake County History, a book that became a 450 page, three-pounder and more than a hundred stories, I had no idea what I was in for. Before I was finished I had more than my share of surprises. For starters, I discovered a hollow mountain, home-grown highwaymen, bloody massacres, and a phantom railroad that plagued Lake County for years. Now you will learn about Lake County’s past wars and riots, its crimes and its heroes, its ghosts and high adventure. Once each week, I shall tell it all, right here in The Bloom.
The story begins a hundred and forty million years in the long-ago past. Lake County’s planet-wide show opened with ear-splitting rumbles and titanic shuddering, as Earth’s rocky mantle slid about over the molten core of our planet. Tectonic plates rose and fell. Sections of the planet shifted and changed the form and shape and location of continents… all during the slow passage of time… like giant playing cards dealt by a sleepy cosmic dealer.
The Pacific Plate began its slow slide beneath the Farallon Plate, where California would one day be, leaving broken and shattered remains. The rocky contest moved northward creating the San Andreas Fault. No people yet. The Grand Theater of Mother Earth played to an empty house, as she continued her endless slow modification and alteration.
Three million years ago, the San Andrea Fault’s massive, slow-motion hiccup caused the land, east of the western edge of the Pacific Plate, to rise up. The rocks, bunched in sections like pleats of an accordion, formed parallel series of three major mountain ranges; the Outer Coastal Range, that stretches from Mendocino to Bodega Bay; the Mayacamus Mountains that reach from Cow Mountain to Mt. St. Helena; and the Inner Coastal Range, which lines the Sacramento Valley like watchmen on eternal duty.
San Andreas woke again two million years ago. This time the fault’s rumble of destruction split the center of Lake County like a wishbone. The Clear Lake Basin was created; a fifty-mile long volcanic field.
That field’s center is nine miles wide and eighteen miles long. The bubbling magma cauldron filling the field is a mere four and a third miles beneath our feet; no more than the distance from Upper Lake halfway to Lakeport.
After the quakes came quietus. Four hundred and sixty thousand years passed. The Volcanic Field, each time it came alive, spouted the semi-liquid viscus rock slowly from beneath in layered stages; toothpaste oozing from a tube. The lava continued to worm its molten way through thinner places in the crust to form Cow Mountain, Cobb Mountain, Mt. St. Helena, Mt. Hannah, Konocti, and the rest of the tall sentinels that guard the Lake today. Volcanoes sent their molten messages, sluggishly upward to the surface, every three or four thousand years until, with the passing of the centuries, eruptions grew less urgent, less often, and ceased at last. Unseen by any human eye, Clear Lake slowly filled and began, as it increased in depth, to drain into the Sacramento River.
The last Ice Age, several thousand years ago, changed the face of the globe. Centuries of snow and ice had stolen water from the sea. Like a mammoth slow-moving elevator out of control, the western sea fell hundreds of feet. Land bridges, once a part of the ocean’s bottom, were left naked and exposed. Australia linked Asia. The Bering Straits became Beringia. The new continent was a tundra land a thousand miles wide cut by roaring streams and scoured with bitter winds.
Next week: The coming of man.
Lake County History. $32. (includes. Tax & Shipping)
Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485