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Highland Springs Reservoir – An Oasis of Beauty

Have you ever visited Highland Springs Reservoir? I can’t believe that in the over four decades of living in Lake County, I had never visited Highland Springs Reservoir until recently!  Highland Springs is located off Highway 29 between Lakeport and Kelseyville at 3600 Highland Springs Road.

Winter’s wild storm intensity abated for a time in March when I visited. Snow painted a vivid backdrop on the mountains and contrasted with the red warrior’s plume wildflowers that lined the road into Highland Springs. A variety of birds were drawn to the 3,200-acre Adobe Creek Watershed, which is controlled by Lake County Water Resources and includes great blue herons, turkey vultures, acorn woodpeckers, Canada geese, crows, and more.

Bees were busy at the lovely willow tree that was lazily swaying at the reservoir’s shores. But the highlight of my visit was when I was walking along the shoreline and noted a rippling disturbance in the placid waters. I wondered what was underneath the cool waters gamboling along. Then POP went the river otter’s head above the water! The playful critter bounded out of the water and dashed to a more secluded spot among the tule reeds not far from where he sprang up. His charming and sleek, furry presence was a delight to behold!

The reservoir here at Highland Springs is a well-liked fishing spot for many, since it is stocked with catfish, bluegill, sunfish, largemouth bass and bullhead. There are some horse and hiking trails to appreciate, but it was quite soggy when I was there! Disc golf, aka Frisbee golf is another popular activity here.

Once upon a time, in the 1800s to early 1900s Lake County was THE destination to ‘take in the waters’ and vacation at the many mineral and hot springs that dot our county.  Of course, the indigenous people of Lake County knew of and used the many mineral springs for centuries, when they made use of the healing properties of the numerous springs. Bartlett Springs, Pearson Springs, Howard Springs, Siegler Springs and so many more marvelous health resorts and vacation spots were popular for soaking, swimming and drinking in the various hot and cold natural spring waters. There were therapeutic resorts with bath houses and soaking pools; and some natural springs resorts sold their own brand of bottled mineral waters, all thanks to the unique geology that makes up Lake County as it sits within the Clear Lake Volcanic Field.

Highland Springs was one of the two main springs that invited the public to partake of the waters back then, in the Big Valley Township, although there were also smaller springs. There was a handy stage coach from Cloverdale to Kelseyville which passed in front of the Highland Springs Resort. A gentleman called Ripley, a hunter, learned of the springs in the 1860s, while later, in 1875 the hotel was constructed with accommodations for 60 tourists.

People back then gave the resort the seal of approval through word of mouth, stating that the shady, cool spot with its five cottages was just the place to relax. Alas, there is no resort here today. Highland Springs Toll Road brought people to the area in 1891 when the Highland Springs and Squaw Rock Toll Roads were constructed from south of Clear Lake to Pieta, near Hopland. The industrious construction workers consisting of 150 men, including 90 indigenous people toiled for the months of  April to September to complete the $27,000.00 road. The Highland Springs Toll Road was the chief means into Lake County for cargo, travelers, mail and more.

Next time you’re craving a nature fix swing by Highland Springs Reservoir for a picnic or a walk along the man-made lake. As the trees lean for the light, you will have it made in the shade while enjoying a chromatic spectrum of color provided by the water’s glassy swirls. Quiet and calm. Just the ticket!

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