Lake Elsinore Travel Portal


The History of Lake Elsinore

Journey from the Historical Past

Lake Elsinore in 1887  and, from the same spot in 2008 For the past century, life on the shores of Southern California’s only natural lake can best be described as wild, wet and wonderful. From earliest times, the 300 natural sulphur springs that fed Lake Elsinore were believed to have curative and magical properties by its Native American Indian inhabitants. These first inhabitants called the lake Entengvo Wumoma, which meant "Hot Springs by the Little Sea."

Joining the Native American Indian inhabitants, the Spanish missionaries and soldiers, Spanish ranchers and American trappers came to the valley, all stopping to camp and replenish their supplies. They too found the lake, with its hot mineral springs, clear, fresh water and abundance of game. The Spanish padres renamed the lake "Laguna Grande."

Amidst the seemingly endless tumble of mountains, early pioneers saw the lake shimmering some 50 miles in the distance from Mt. Baldy and set out by buggy to find this blue-green "jewel" that spread out leisurely across a valley floor that was virtually unspoiled. These early settlers established a town site around this lake, which they renamed Elsinore, representing the immortality given the town of Elsinore in Denmark by Shakespeare in "Hamlet."

In the early days of the American occupation of California, Elsinore gained national importance as a campsite for travelers over the Southern Butterfield Stage route, a stagecoach route connecting St. Louis and San Francisco. Kit Carson and other scouts camped among the cottonwoods on the shores of the lake. The largest army of Civil War volunteers to leave California also set up camp on the lake’s shores.

The Chimes, Then and Now.At the time of its incorporation as a city in 1888, Lake Elsinore had attracted its own "Gold Rush" as large quantities of gold were found in nearby hills. In the early 1900s, natural mineral waters and bathhouses brought visitors from around the world seeking cures for a variety of maladies. The Crescent Bathhouse, today designated as an historical landmark known as The Chimes, contained the first artesian well where hot mineral water, as hot as 126 degrees, flowed in abundance. Lake Elsinore’s therapeutic waters were promoted throughout the world, bottled and shipped to Europe as well as the Far East. In the 1920s and 1930s, the lake became a destination for world-record-setting boat races and Olympic swim team training. Sportsmen hunted duck on the lake and deer in the hills.

Lake Elsinore played host to many Hollywood moguls and popular personages, such as President Grover Cleveland, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Buffalo Bill, Andy Devine and Lillian Russell. The rich and famous came to play in Lake Elsinore, many of whom kept vacation homes and bungalows at the lake.

Aloha PierOne popular hangout where diners and dancers could enjoy being on the water was the Showboat, a boat eatery that was mechanically rolled in and out of the water. Another favorite was the popular Aloha Pier, which stretched out into the lake and was the site of weekend dances for more than two decades. Golfers played at the Southern California Athletic Club, which was, according to the press, "The Greatest Country Club in America!"

During World War II, Lake Elsinore was used by amphibious planes as a training ground. In spite of the war, people regularly traveled to Lake Elsinore’s shores to get away for rest and relaxation. The lake offered solace to many in a time when it seemed the world was no longer safe.

The view along Lakeshore Drive, 1920sDrawn by the waters of a lake that has a colorful history, people came in the past as they still come today. Whether they came to settle or came for recreation and relaxation, through the ages, they came to Lake Elsinore. The importance of the lake cannot be underestimated. In a land that is basically high desert, water is liquid gold. The lake is the biggest and brightest jewel we have. She is polished daily by boats of various shapes and kinds, by fishermen and birds wading in her waters and along the shoreline. Our lake is reflected in the blue of the sky and gold of the sun and is filled with all of the things that made her a vision that truly became a reality with more than 100 years of tradition. Known as "The Playground of Southwest California," Lake Elsinore is proud of its heritage, which is reflected in the valley today and upon which its future will be solidly built!

Special thanks to Ruth Atkins and the Lake Elsinore Historical Society.



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