By Dr. Ginger Gabriel
Special to the Alpine Mountaineer
When my friend Mary asked about the rapid drop in the Lake Gregory water level and wondered where the water went, I looked into it.
The water released from the lake flowed out of Lake Gregory via the new $24.6 million dam, over the spillway that goes under the Lake Drive bridge. The spillway is equipped with boards that can be inserted to retain water in the lake to raise the level of the water or removed to lower the water level.
From the spillway, lake water flows into Huston Creek. From Huston Creek, lake water joins the Mojave River and flows into Silverwood Lake. Silverwood Lake is part of the State Water Project (SWP) and provides water to Inland Empire cities, such as San Bernardino and Riverside.
Lake Gregory has a colorful history. Originally work began in 1937 under a Works Progress Administration (WPA) grant to dam the east and west forks of Huston Creek. Those waters have always drained into the tributaries of the Mojave River. There were some starts and stops in the lake construction.
Our Mountain History Museum highlights the “Miracle March” where rains filled the lake in three days in l938. The lake had more construction that still needed to be finished and the engineers believed it would take three years before rainwater could possibly fill the lake. History repeated itself at Lake Gregory in 2023.
Those of us who lived on the mountain during the renovation of Lake Gregory, which began in 2017 and finished in 2019, remember Lake Gregory looking more like a marsh than a lake. If we complained, we were told, “The current dam does not meet state requirements. You have two choices: Empty the lake or renovate it.” Our then county supervisor, Janice Rutherford, defended Crestline and Lake Gregory and won the battle for the mountain. The Lake Gregory Dam was rededicated on April 26, 2019.
During Snowmageddon 2023, we had eight to 10 feet of snow at the lake. That was followed by 12.4 inches of rain and the lake rose 4-1/2 feet above the high water mark, causing the boat house to flood. Many sections of the walking path around Lake Gregory were under water. Beach acreage shrank.
Despite lake water streaming over the flash boards, the water level stayed too high. Recently, the boards were taken out so the water level could be lowered. Within a day of the boards being gone, the trails were walkable with no more flooding.
If you are walking the lake, don’t miss the giant rock and plaque on the Lake Gregory Dam that reads, “Lake Gregory Improvement Committee: Aaron Creighton, Rick Dinon, Mick Hill, Conrad Newberry, Kyle Schulty, John Short, Leslie Dodge Taylor.” These citizens volunteered hundreds of hours making sure that Crestline got the best possible Lake Gregory Dam.
Where would Crestline be without beautiful Lake Gregory?