Bravo Lake Is All Filled Up

Sally Pace and I walked around Bravo Lake for the first time together on February 12.  It was so empty.  I darkened it to show you how sad it looked, and wrote my name in the sky so you’d know the sky wasn’t really that color.  The amount of water is real.

Bravo Lake in Feb.

Water managers turned on the faucets and filled Bravo Lake over the weekend.  Today I picked up trash along side of five middle school students, and their teacher, my friend Courtney, and the President of Kiwanis, Tony.  We split up to get the job done faster, but we didn’t get finished, in spite of having the best equipment.  Can you see our little pincher pick-up things?

Good bass, catfish , and trout fishing in Bravo Lake
Good bass, catfish , and trout fishing in Bravo Lake

Bravo Lake is the main attraction in Woodlake, but it is hidden behind a levee that is built up all the way around the .46 square mile lake to prevent flooding.  Right now it is filled to capacity so that the runoff from the Sierra Nevada Mountains doesn’t overpower the Kaweah River Terminus Dam I wrote about a few days ago.

It's about a 3 mile walk around the lake.
It’s about a 3 mile walk around the lake.  See how clean it’s getting?

Saturday at 6:15 a.m. I will go back to Bravo Lake to help register runners for the big fundraiser for Kiwanis “Round-Up for Hunger 5K/2K Walk/Run.  If you are interested you can register at http://www.WoodlakeKiwanis.com., or call Linda at 559-564-2485 or email linda.441@hotmail.com.

Everybody that sees Bravo Lake wonders why it is so undeveloped.  It wasn’t meant to be that way.  The picture below is from Pogue’s book covering the years 1853-1943.  Can you guess the year in which this picture might have been taken?

Fish Fry at Bravo Lake
We saw a huge dead fish today, April 9, 2013 hovering against the bank of the lake trapped in the tule weeds.  I’m guessing it’s one they either missed or threw back.

One of my questions is when did Bravo Lake appear?  I know it was a reservoir, #713 to be exact, but was it man-made or was it part of the landscape when white Americans first appeared in Tulare County in 1852?  So far I haven’t found that out.  Gary Davis and I poured over this 1892 Atlas of Tulare County that has been reprinted.  Here is Bravo Lake, plain as day, long before Terminus Dam was built on the Kaweah River.  The atlas was printed 40 years after the first white settlers appeared in Tulare County.

Notice that they have dug the Wuchumna Irrigation Ditch from Bravo Lake across the valley.  Water rights in this area have been, and still are a much contested item in California.  Nobody wants to share their water.  Our region is quite dry most of the time receiving less that 10 inches of rain annually.  However, there are many rivers, canals, and springs that are used to irrigate crops.  The work of digging and redefining the landscape in Tulare County began almost as soon as settlers appeared.  So settlers could have dug Bravo Lake, but did they?  I still have much to learn.

from the Official Historical Atlas Map of Tulare County Thos. H. Thompson.  Tulare, California. 1892
from the Official Historical Atlas Map of Tulare County Thos. H. Thompson. Tulare, California. 1892 Reprinted by Bear State Books in Exeter, CA

I love this old atlas.  I bought it from my friend, publisher, Chris Brewer.  His bookstore in Exeter, the Book Garden, is the best place to get books about Tulare County.  This historic atlas has the names of all the owners of all the property at that time.  You can see Bravo Lake in the lower left corner and the property that belonged to Jonathan Blair just right of the lake.  He was the fellow that pastored the Presbyterian church for 20 years.

Closer view of Bravo Lake
Closer view of Bravo Lake  Up at the very top right hand corner of this small part of the map you see the name T. H. Davis.  That is the edge of Gary Davis’s great-grandfather’s property.

“Steve R. Webb, Real Estate agent, had bought up a large tract of level land from Blair and others north and west of Bravo Lake. Now, to the utter surprise of everyone, except (Gilbert) Stevenson (millionaire from Los Angeles who had the vision to build a town around Bravo Lake),…, the lake suddenly found itself rechristened, and the town of Woodlake sprang up beside it in a phenomenally short period of time.” Pogue 37.  That was in 1910.  During the Great Depression, Stevenson lost all his money, and his dream died.  He had spent the grand sum of $135,000.  The reservoir remained, but Woodlake never became the developed resort that Stevenson envisioned.

In real life today it gets a lot of use as a walking path.  Unfortunately it gets messy.  We found a bur-infested coat, a shoe, lots of brittle, lake-permeated styrofoam cups that cracked into a million pieces when our pick-up tongs pinched them to pick them up, some cupcakes, an unopened bottle of beer, and lots of plastic bottles, bottle caps, potato chip bags, and plastic bags.

Here is the Kiwanis/Builders Club de-trashers standing in the Botanical Gardens.
Here are the Kiwanis/Builders Club de-trashers standing in the Botanical Gardens.

In 2003, Manuel and Olga Jiminez wrote a grant and started a botanical garden at the foot of the levee around Bravo Lake.  On Saturday I will take more pictures of the gardens for you because I will  be WALKING at the Run for Hunger.  Or maybe I’ll take pictures before that if you sweet talk me.  The roses behind us are just gorgeous right now.  I haven’t researched the gardens just yet, but they are gaining recognition in the area.  The new website, Tulare County Treasures has a nice article about the Botanical Gardens.

Vince Ingrao, Realtor

By the way, if you want to buy property in Woodlake now, you can always call the great real estate agent, Vince Ingrao – the honest agent I married.  559-799-9165

30 thoughts on “Bravo Lake Is All Filled Up”

  1. You are very good on this .. sharing history and present! Fantastic post … lots of work and research … has gone into it, because I just done a post about our beautiful lake Mälaren … that I will post when it’s time for letter M, next Monday.
    I think every lake has it’s history, at least when it’s one of the bigger lakes.
    Very interesting read. Great job again.

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  2. Thank you for taking the time to chronicle your experiences around Bravo Lake and for the rich historical lesson. When we see things most people generally take for granted its presence in our lives without taking the time to research how long it has been there, why it was made in the first place, or what type of influence it has had in the lives of locals. You really are a History Gal!

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    1. Thank Tony, You may have another comment waiting for you because I commented by iPhone, but I don’t see evidence of that here. It was a great to feel that we were doing something to benefit the community. An added bonus for me was to get to spend time with Courtney. We had a great visit. The kids were great. A plus all the way around the lake! :) Thanks for being such a great leader! Your mom called Vince today, and he actually bragged about you to her! :) Just so you know! :)

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  3. Hi my very best friend Marsha,
    I am using Dragon 12 to make this comment and I hope it makes sense as I haven’t got any :lol:
    I enjoyed reading about your factual history and your team of programmers picking up litter by the flake. :D
    this story bunny rabbit is quite mesmerising I hope you are feeding it with sensible comments
    Ralph XOXO XOXO with it this time

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    1. Sensible? come on, Ralph, don’t take all the fun out of my life! Am I going to have to take down my bunny so that you can make comments again. You don’t seem to be able to concentrate with my favorite pet in the corner. He won’t hypnotize you, Ralph. I haven’t quite gotten his that well trained yet. I did pass one of his offspring to another blogger. You never know where these bunnies will end up! :)

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  4. “Can you guess the year in which this picture might have been taken?”:

    Looking at the girl’s bonnet it appears that photo was taken in maybe the 1850s, perhaps 1860s, although it’s hard to say. By the 1870s bonnets were starting to take on hat-like looks and with each decade resembling bonnets less and less. But as I would venture to say this is a “working-class” group it is altogether possible it could be the 1870s. I’ve not noticed much changes in working-class clothes as it tended to be with upper-class. Thank goodness too, eh? Those poor people didn’t have to deal with some of the ridiculous whims and styles that came with being in style. ;) Sorry for the rambling!

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    1. This is good. I’m guessing that you may be right, and it may even be into the 1880s. Grace Pogue was born in 1887. She talks about activities a half-century before, but there is no date on the book, so we don’t know from when. I’m guessing 1946 or so, which would put the date almost to 1900! I don’t think you would be far afield at saying that they might have not have been up on the latest styles! :)

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    1. Thanks Dianne! It’s a real gem, and after living here for 12 years, I finally got to walk around it for the first time on Feb. 12 with Sally. Since then I’ve been back regularly. I love anything watery, and wet with trees and green stuff around it! :)

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  5. A great read, Marcia..
    Shame about the need for the ‘pick-up thingamajigs’ and for the people who make that activity necessary… Grrrrr….

    Shameless, is what I say; absolutely shameless… The way some women will advertise their men folk…
    He has such a ‘timeless’ quality about him, his appearance, his nature; he’s one cool dude, Marcia…. And yes, he does have a very honest face… :)

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    1. hahaha I guess I am a bit shameless! It’s his hair that makes him timeless. It’s really a little longer than that. He let me give him a virtual haircut, though he won’t let me cut it in real life after I did it the first time 18 years ago! He’s pretty cool. He’s a hard worker, for sure! :) Thanks for commenting! And thanks for the compliments. His face will be bright red in the morning when he reads this! :) :)

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  6. Marsha, I just thought I would let you know that we are shirt-tail relatives of Jonathan Blair. Bob’s aunt Jean married Charles Blair. I believe Jonathan would have been his grandfather. The Presbyterian church was established in 1866 by Jonathan and was the first church in Woodlake. I loved your pictures of Bravo Lake and I am glad the runners will get the privilege of seeing it full. Our son David, Courney’s husband, is the manager of the lake and water district.

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    1. She told me that when we were cleaning. I would love to interview him and do a more complete article for the Foothills magazine. I asked Courtney what she thought were the most important, iconic events in Woodlake that people might be interested in reading that happened from the 40s through the present. I have two books of Grace Pogue, and Grace basically quit writing in the 1940s. What do you think are some of the iconic events, place and people in the making Woodlake history in last half century or so?

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  7. Great write up – I hope you find out if Bravo Lake was man made or natural? Thanks for doing the research! Now you need to research Dutch Colony!

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  8. Great job, Marsha. This lake really was in need of some TLC, and your students have done wonderful work. You must feel very gratified, but how do you stop litterbugs from spoiling it again?

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  9. Hey Marsha,
    Our neighbor Chuck Perkens once told me the story of how Bravo Lake got it’s name. It had something to do with (I think) a fight or gun fight… and everyone yelled Bravo. You should ask him, he knows a lot history passed by word of mouth on the area. He may know more about the development of the lake.

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    1. You got that – not a gun fight, but a fist fight between Tom Fowler, the fighting Irish Senator to be (at that time). He was the last one standing and went to the lake to wash himself up. Everyone was yelling Bravo, so the Native Americans started calling it Bravo Lake.

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