NAME: Little Lake
CLIMATE: Hot summer, cool to cold winter. Occasional snow.
COMMENTS: The old Hotel, though partially burned, is still inhabited. UPDATE: In June of this year I noticed the old hotel building has been demolished and the ground bulldozed.-Jeanette Wilson.
REMAINS: Hotel, gas station, other buildings and cabins.
Little Lake as a rest stop for travelers has a long history. Once called Little Owens Lake, its sparkling surface water stands in stark contrast to the black basalt lava formations surrounding it, nestled tightly between the foot of the Sierra Nevada and the Coso Range at the northern fringe of the Mojave Desert. Situated along a natural corridor leading travelers to Owens Valley, Little Lake has always beckoned with its restful environment, which entrepreneurs capitalized on. At first, prospectors and other hopeful settlers of the Owens River, Cerro Gordo and Darwin communities stopped and partook of the overnight accommodations. Then in 1905 the City of Los Angeles cast its eyes upon the abundant waters streaming down the Sierra along its eastern spine, Little Lake was considered a natural holding pen for a 250-mile long aqueduct that was built to divert the liquid gold to a thirsty city. While building the aqueduct, Southern Pacific built the "Jawbone Branch" from Mojave to Lone Pine, completed in 1911. Later, especially since World War Two, sportsman traffic threading northward along US395 considered Little Lake an important stop to spray cooling water on boiling radiators, feed hungry stomachs or to get gasoline. The pride of Little Lake was the Little Lake Hotel, which still stands today, although somewhat battle scarred. A fire in 1989 destroyed the upper story, although the post office still held its door open on the ground floor and the owners of the building still lived in their apartment in the next room. The "Jawbone Branch" continued service through 1982, when the line was abandoned north of Searles (junction with the Trona Railway). The tracks continued to stay in place and rust until salvage operations were commenced by Union Pacific in 1998 and completed in 1999. Two separate flash floods occurring two weeks apart in the summer of 1998 attempted to bury what is left of Little Lake. The Little Lake post office closed in 1997, although a few residents in the old town and surrounding Rose Valley still get rural delivery via Inyokern. Today, Little Lake was somewhat bypassed when US395 was made a divided 4-lane highway in 1958, although an access road (the old highway alignment) still goes by for a short distance. People speeding by in their fancy SUVs have other northern sights in mind, Little Lake has dropped from importance as a stop for provisions - David A. Wright - Great Basin Research.

Overview of Little Lake from the west. Largest building is the old Little Lake Hotel. October 15, 1998.
Courtesy David A. Wright

Little Lake from the south. Scene was taken prior to the removal of the rails of the former "Jawbone Branch" of the Southern Pacific, the rails finally removed in December 1998. October 15, 1998.
Courtesy David A. Wright

Scene of Little Lake's former main street, viewing south. The Little Lake Hotel is the third building from the left. October 15, 1998.
Courtesy David A. Wright

Little Lake c.1908, just after completion of the Southern Pacific branch to Lone Pine. David A. Wright collection.

Advertisement for the Little Lake Café and Hotel from the 1957 INYO-MONO GUIDE, a sportsman's publication from the Eastern Sierra region. David A. Wright collection.

Advertisement for Sullivan's Chevron gas station at Little Lake. This business was likely that shown in the photo of Little Lake's main street, the center building. From the 1957 INYO-MONO GUIDE, a sportsman's publication from the Eastern Sierra region. David A. Wright collection.

This is Little Lake after it burned, before it was demolished. Once the fire started the owner - a real decorated Navy Swiftboat Commander in Vietnam - could not get assistance from any of the area fire depts., so he had to watch it burn. He had a caretaker on the site for a few years following. (from a personal interview, he now lives in Vista, Ca.)
Courtesy Bill Cook