Tahoe Arts and Mountain Culture
Tahoe Arts and Mountain Culture

Glen Alpine Springs “makes great lemonade!”

Posted on July 22, 2016
Filed Under Cultural Heritage

Glen Alpine Springs“Curative” mineral spring water was discovered here in 1863.

Glen Alpine Springs, just a short easy jaunt from South Lake Tahoe.

Most people just stumble upon this historic site on their way into Desolation Wilderness via the Lily Lake entrance.  But there’s more to it, located just off the beaten path.

Glen Alpine Springs is a living museum of buildings and artifacts from one of the first leisure resorts in the Tahoe basin.

The “Soda Spring” was discovered in 1863 by Nathan Gilmore who built the resort in 1884. Nathan is responsible for introducing Angora goats to the Fallen Leaf Lake area in which Angora Peak, Angora Lake, and Angora Ridge are named after.

From the late 1890s through the 1930s, families from San Francisco and Virginia City came to relax in the plush mountain resort and enjoy the “curative” mineral spring water.

At its peak there were 25 buildings including a 2-story, 16-room hotel, dining room, kitchen, office, barn, outbuildings, ice house, and even a Post Office. Guests stayed in the hotel or in tent cabins. During the summer there were often as many as 50 tents dotting the resort.

Nine buildings designed in 1922 are still standing today thanks to architect Bernard Maybeck who built some of the first fireproof buildings in the basin.

The “arch” was emblematic of the classic Bernard Maybeck style. The rounded roof eves resemble thatched roofs, but were made out of metal. The buildings also included native granite rock buttresses both inside and out. The buildings show Maybeck’s deliberate effort to blend the design and orientation of the buildings on the site with the natural topography and materials.

Instead of walking right by, it’s definitely worth exploring these one-of-a-kind-buildings which are located a short walk off the main trail through a hidden keyhole to fantastic views and history.

While you can visit the historic site anytime, assisted resort tours are available:

  • Mid-June to mid-September by on-site docents.
  • Guided Tours at 1pm Saturday and Sunday only.
  • Interpretive Center is open daily 10:30 am – 3:30 pm.
  • You must walk 2-miles on a relatively flat road to reach the resort from the closed USFS gate located next to Lily Lake.

The “Soda” Spring at Glen Alpine

The Soda Spring, discovered in 1863 by Nathan Gilmore was covered by a pagoda in 1905 to help protect it. In the early days of the resort, the spring water was bottled and shipped out through the Tallac Wharf on Lake Tahoe.

Brownish in color because of a high amount of iron, the water has 138.36 cubic inches of Free Carbonic Acid Gas per gallon. The other major components that make up its sizzle and appeal is calcium carbonate, sodium carbonate, sodium chloride and calcium sulphate. Temperature, 39.5F.

Photography by Arthur W. Kinney

For more info, please contact The Historical Preservation of Glen Alpine Springs, Inc. at (707) 996-6354.

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