RTF is a 501(c)3
Non-profit Educational
Foundation

   

History of the Rubicon Trail

   
The following is a list of historical dates in the making of the Rubicon Trail.
   
1844 - John Fremont sighted Lake Tahoe while leading the U.S. Army's first official exploratory expedition across the Sierra Nevada and into California. His journals brought Tahoe to the attention of the western world
   
1853 - Joseph Calhoun "cock-eyed" Johnson and an anonymous Placerville Herald correspondent broke trail from Hangtown up the Rubicon Gorges south to Lost Corner dropping down to Meeks Canyon to the creek, then bay. They were met by a band of 70 friendly Digger Indians (probably Washoe). The bay was filled with speckled trout. The Indians told them tales of how Lake Tahoe was formed. They added these to their own upon returning to Placerville.
   

Little Sluice Tree - 2011
1859 - The first bridge to cross the river at this site was built
of logs.
 
1860 - General William Phipps staked out a 160 acre homestead on Sugar Pine Point. He was one of the first known permanent residents of Lake Tahoe. There was a logging camp at Sugar Pine Point for awhile which explains the lack of sugar pines in the area. Phipps protected his 160 acre homestead from the saw.
 
1861 - John McKinney and John Wren, both Georgetown
pioneers, established a hay ranch on the summit of Burton's
Pass (adjoining the El Dorado - Placer County lines.)
1862 - John Mc Kinney moved to the lake at Burton Creek's
outlet. Burton and Company cut 75 tons of wild hay from
meadowland flanking Burton's Creek and shipped to South
Tahoe. Stephen and Joseph Meek (Meeks and Co.) cut 25 tons of wild hay from surrounding flatlands of Meeks Bay.
   
1863 - McKinney established Hunter's Retreat (log cabin, tents, sapling pier & 3 fishing boats.)
1864 - The first cabin was built by a black trapper and trader. It was a favorite stopping point for travelers, loggers and trappers traveling the Rubicon Trail. Today it is a popular place for four-wheelers and other recreationists to stop and rest.
1867 - Upson Bay (McKinney's) received 8ft of snow in 12 hours Agustus Colwell bought 900 acres lake shore property, from McKinney's property line at Burton's Creek 1 1/4 miles east to Sugar Pine Point. He built a steam powered sawmill near the future site of Moana Villa. John and George Hunsucker (miners from Kelsey, E D County, felled pine trees and built their cabin south of Rubicon Springs (taking credit for their discovery), bordering on Rubicon River. Their cabin was at the foot of Rubicon's frowning granite gorge. It was the log cabin that evolved into what was known as Rubicon Soda Springs Resort.
1869 - McKinney's Retreat comprised 160 acres (13 lake front), catering to Nevada's mining nabobs for hunting and fishing.
   
1875 - McKinney built the boathouse on the wharf used as a clubhouse and bar.
1877 - Colwell closed his sawmill and began selling property, holding only the land adjoining McKinney's. The Hunsuckers had added outlying shacks and a pine corral for their stock at Rubicon Springs. Word was that the hunting was excellent (thouands of mule-tail deer were slaughtered and the hides packed down to Lower Hell Hole).
1878 - George Thomas and James Andrew Murphy, winter
residents of Coloma and native Californians, settled at Meeks Bay. They enter the cattle business, herding their milk cows from Coloma to Meeks bay in the summer. They saved to buy the land from the Central Pacific (who had acquired it through an extensive railroad grant.) A few days before the sale was to take place, Duane L. Bliss bought the land, representing Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company. Bliss promised the Murphy brothers that they could buy the land for the original price after it had been logged.
   
1880 - The Hunsuckers began bottling spring water and selling it at Georgetown and McKinney's. They had a hard time supplying the demand. Health seekers from Nevada were now beginning to come to Rubicon Springs. Water was sold as *Rubicon Water.*
1884 - the Murphys bought the Meeks Bay land for $250 in gold eagles.
1886 - Mrs. Sierra Phillips Clark, "Vade", (daughter of Joseph W. D. Phillips who owned Phillips Station on Johnson Pass road) bought the Rubicon Springs from the Hunsuckers and added Potter's Springs 1 mile away - beginning the RESORT. She got El Dorado County to make the trail from McKinney's over Burton's Pass to Rubicon into a one-way road
1888 - Phipps sold his property to W. W. "Billy" Lapham who opened a resort and called it "Bellevue" (French for Beautiful View). Rooms cost $2.50 per night.
1889 - Vade built a 2 1/2 story hotel at the Springs, with curtained glass windows, 16 small rooms and a parlor with horsehair furniture and a foot-pedal organ. She used white linens and polished silverware to serve 3 meals per days (sometimes 100 people). On busy weekends, visitors slept in tent, cabins, or under the stars. She also put in service a 4 horse six passenger coach to McKinney's. It took 2 1/2 hrs to cover the 9 miles.
   

Mark Smith - Big Sluice

1892 - The Murphy bothers (from Meeks Bay) along with their sister Frances' husband, Luke Morgan, from Georgetown, leased McKinney's Resort from the Westhoff family. The Indians also relocated to McKinney's living off the tourists. For 25 cents they were given community meals (left overs from the tourists meals.)
1893 - A fire destroyed the Bellevue.
1894 - Colwell's oldest son, Ralphy Lewis C. built the Moana
Villa in a dense grove of yellow pine his father had left uncut.
(2 1/2 story lodge, cottages, tents, clubhouse over the water,
500 ft pier for steamer landing - a bathing house next to the
white fence dividing his property from McKinney's).
1897 - Isaias W. Hellman, a San Francisco financier,
purchased the property where the Bellevue had stood.
 
1901 - Hellman built a large mansion for a summer retreat. Vade Clark (now Bryson) sold Rubicon Springs to Daniel Abbott who replaced the friendly signs with "Enter at your own peril"
1904 - Vade leased the Springs from Abbott for 4 years.
1908 - May Ralph Colwell of Moana bought the Springs. Vade left for good. October flash floods caused the Rubicon River to rise 8 feet overnight with mud and water rushing through the Rubicon Springs barn and nearly ripping the hotel and outbuildings off their foundations. One of the resorts best horses "Mike" drowned and floated down the river. (Someone guessing he'd end up at Hell Hole, 9 miles down the gorge)
1909 - Colwell bought the Rubicon Springs Resort, combining Moana with a health resort. He was assisted by 3 sons to run the 2 resorts.
1910 - Frank Pomin leased the Moana for 3 years so the Colwell brothers could focus on the springs.
1913 - Pomin built a lodge on a knoll to the east of Tahoma.( a large rustic-finished resort hotel with cottages)
   
1916 - Joseph Bishop, a San Francisco chimney sweep, and Colwell's brother-in-law, bought a parcel between the Moana and Pomin's. He built a hotel and cottages and called the resort Tahoma meaning "Home Away from Home"

Little Sluice - 1922
1920 - Mr. Hellman died and his daughter, Florence Ehrman, inherited his estate. Tahoma Resort was leased to Mr. and Mrs. John J. Planett for 2 seasons. From 1922-26 Tahoma seesawed between the Planetts and Bishop. - Rubicon Springs began losing its appeal as a resort.
1925 - Tahoe Cedars track (which is the area of Tahoma around the exit) was developed by H. L. Henry, who intended to start a motion picture colony here. It included extensive 2nd growth forest south across the Tahoma Resort bounding the property of Richard Kirman and I. W. Hellman. The subdivision included nearly 1,000 lots: streets were laid out, powers lines run, and a water system installed. Some of the original property owners were: Lon Chaney, Lina Basquette, Ernest Belcher, the ballet master, and writer Francis Rawling Illes.
   
1926 - Frank Swind from LA bought the Tahoma and hired Marcel Maes to run it. It now had a dance hall, dining room, rocked-in swimming pool built out to the lake and a renovated 2 story hotel plus cottages and tents. (during the 30's, it passed through the hands of several owners.
1927 - May 8th the winter residents of the West Shore joined hand to hand to shovel from Tahoma to Tahoe City (including Frank Pomin, Albert and George Colwell......) Tahoe Cedars property was sold to disciples from around the world, of Aimee Semple McPherson in the Four Square Gospel (Angelus Temple). Sixty lots were designated to be campgrounds for the followers who could not afford to buy land. Dispute between Aimee and her mother caused plans for the Four Square Gospel settlement to dissolve. H. L. Henry repossessed the property and began selling to the public.
1930 - Colwell sold Rubicon Springs to the Sierra Power Company.
1930's - David Chambers bought Moana Villa from the Colwell's, adding it to their resort.
1939 - El Dorado County replaced the bridge.
1947 - A steel bridge was constructed by the county.
   
1952 - Several residents of Georgetown held a meeting to discuss the possibility of an organized jeep tour from Georgetown to Lake Tahoe, via the Rubicon Trail. On August 29, 1953, 55 jeeps with 155 enthusiastic participants left Georgetown on a two day trip that is now known as "Jeepers Jamboree 1." The last weekend of July each year, four-wheelers follow the tradition of these "pioneers."
   

1968 Jeepers Jamboree - Little Sluice Bypass
1960 - The Nordic ski events of the Olympics were held over
a period of seven days in Tahoma.
1960's - a summer camp for troubled boys was built with
recycled wood from a Tahoe City building that had been taken
down (between 6th & 7th and Fir & Alder)
1965 - the State of California purchased the Ehrman property
from Esther Lazard (Mrs. Ehrman's daughter. Some furnishings were auctioned off by Butterfield & Butterfield that summer.
1970's - The California Association of 4-Wheel Drive Clubs
(CA4WDC) begins working closely with the U.S. Forest Service, Placer County, and the Lahontan Water Control Board on issues surrounding the McKinney-Rubicon Road in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The goal of this collaborative efforts to insure recreational access and to protect the water quality of
Lake Tahoe.
   
1980's - Planning for a basin-wide effort to improve the water quality entering Lake Tahoe included water shed improvements along the McKinney-Rubicon Road. These improvements were funded by State of California Bond Acts, OHV Trust Fund dollars (Greensticker funds as some of us refer to it) as well as Placer County. The improvements along this route included the construction of rolling dips, water bars, rock-lined ditches, sediment basins, hardened water crossings, and rock work structures as well as the bridge over McKinney Creek just below the staging area. These improvements remove sediment and decrease vehicle interaction with watercourses. As a provision of receiving the funding, Placer County agreed to maintain these improvements for a minimum twenty-year period (1986-2006).
   
1982 - Bridge refurbished through the efforts of several volunteers and four-wheel drive clubs.
   
1990's - Lahontan Water Quality Control Board (who have authority over all water quality issues in the Tahoe Basin) became concerned with the deterioration and lack of maintenance of these water quality improvements.

Funded by the OHV Trust Fund, Placer County, and federal monies applied for and received by CA4WDC, the county embarked on the maintenance of these improvements.

Additionally there were concerns from private property owners about tow vehicle parking, and people doing "highway readiness" activities in the Homewood subdivision. There were also concerns from the OHV community about the accessibility and safety of the staging area located one mile in on the route. It was determined that the best course of action was to pave the route from the subdivision to the staging area and handle all run-off using culverts under the roadway. This process took two years which included the maintenance and/or reconstruction of all the improvements between the staging area and the rim of the basin.

FOTR Work Party
   

1997 - Rubicon Springs Green Bridge refurbished through the efforts of CA4WDC and several four-wheel drive clubs and individuals.
   
2000 - Placer County received a letter in December 2000 from Lahontan Water Control Board of Notice of Violation of Cease and Desist Order Against Placer County for Discharging and Threatening to Discharge Wastes From the McKinney Springs Road to McKinney Creek. Placer County was thereby put on notice that Lahontan Water Quality Control Board feels that Placer County has not performed its duty as rendered to ease the run-off and sedimentation off the route and has required Placer County to address these issues. A fine of $10,000 per day was threatened. Initial plans/alternatives were developed, one of which was a gate.
   
2001 - Del Albright forms Friends of the Rubicon (FOTR), with the help of the Pirates of the Rubicon, BlueRibbon Coalition, CA4WDC, CORVA, AMA, United FWDA and several individuals who had heard about the gate option. FOTR is an informal coalition of groups and individuals dedicated to keeping the Rubicon Trail open and available to all recreationists. We are the Citizen Stewards of the Rubicon Trail. Working with Placer County, El Dorado County, the USFS, private businesses, many organized recreation groups, and other land management agencies to ensure our famed Rubicon Trail remains as one of our crown jewels of motorized and mechanized recreation. Del is elected to the position of Trail Boss, FOTR.
   
2001 - Mike Pulskamp designs the very first FOTR Logo, the iconic green shovel. Mike stated: "The origin of the original FOTR Shovel logo was right after the first meeting at Placer County. That was the meeting that was standing room only as I guess they expected 50 or so people and a couple hundred showed. Many of us were following the Shovel Brigade fighting to keep Jarbidge trail open in NV. The image of a Green Shovel, something that could with nothing more than five minutes and a spray can, make a strong statement, mounted to the back of most trail rigs, came up in a conversation between Randy Burelson and myself.
The actual logo was something I guess I came up with and Randy put a bit of polish on. What I wanted was an image that could go on anything, from a mug or t-shirt, to letterhead, but it needed to be something that could also be easily made into a spray paint stencil. It needed to be recognizable but inclusive. We hardly knew where we were going, but we wanted as many people as possible to come along! I am rather proud of it.

The original logo and the new logo say different things. "The Shovel was about the grassroots, hands on, "Use us before closures" statement that was drafted at that first meeting. The newer logo is more refined. It says "We are here."
Different tools for different times...", Mike Pulskamp

Shannon Chard 2009Logo
   
2001 - Over 200 volunteers join FOTR and conduct several work days and work weekends to repair the McKinney section of the road (Placer County) in complete cooperation with the county, USFS, and several Tahoe Basin control agencies. Rebecca Bond, Placer County Road Engineering leads the efforts as Incident Commander, McKinney/Rubicon Road Drainage Repair Incident. FOTR goes on to consistently lead volunteer trail maintenance efforts through the present.
   
2001 - El Dorado County begins work on the Rubicon Trail Master Plan.
   
2003 - El Dorado County participates for the first time in working on the Rubicon Trail by filling huge holes on Wentworth Springs Road.
 
2004 - El Dorado County condems Spider Lake and surrounding land for 90 days due to sanitation issues. A team of volunteers come the following weekend and remove all the human waste. After testing the water at Spider Lake, the county determines it is safe and it is reopened.
 
2004 – The Rubicon Trail Foundation is formed by Del Albright and a few handpicked individuals to monetarily support efforts on the trail. Del Albright becomes the founding President of the Rubicon Trail Foundation. Jeff Spellman is founding Vice President. Dennis Mayer is founding Treasurer. Randy Burleson is founding Secretary. Scott Johnson, Rusty Folena, Doug Barr, Mike Overmeyer, Kevin Carey and Mark Smith are the founding directors. The first meeting takes place on hay bales at Roundeye Inc outside of Placerville, and is dubbed the "Hay Bale" meeting.
   

2004 - FOTR moves the Loon Lake kiosk from the McKinstry outflow of Loon Dam to its current location. The first attempt was with a helicopter, but the kiosk exceeded the weight limit. An alternative using a crane and semi-trailer was used instead to place in the current location.

2004 - After the closing of Spider Lake, it is realized that behaviors must change on the trail. "Big" Rich Klein, the founder of WeRock and Dirt Riot, creates the Rubicon Trail Patrol. Volunteers are trained at meetings around Placerville, notably the Round Table Pizza. El Dorado Sheriff attends several meetings to assist training volunteers.

2005 - "Jackhammer Jesus" Water Bar is the first one built on the trail.


A crane picks up the kiosk for the move
   
2005 - Cantina For The Con is created by TDO (This Dysfunctional Organziation) to be largest fundraiser to date for the Rubicon Trail Foundation. The first cantina raises roughly $2500 for RTF. The 10th annual in 2014 raises over $60,000.
 
2005 - The United States Forest Service, under the direction of Rich Platt, blows up several rocks with dynamite at Gatekeeper. This action mobilizes volunteers, who realize they need a voice in how the trail is maintained.
 
2006 - "Big" Rich Klein steps down as Rubicon Trail Patrol Director. Ken Hower and Scott Emmons take over as Directors and change the focus of RTP to be an educational organization, not "policing the trail" organziation. This is precursor to the Mid-Trail Staff that will be hired and funded by OHV Grants and Rubicon Trail Foundation.
 
2007 - Rubicon Trail Foundation pays for the first soils and water testing done on the trail.
   
2007 - The first Gabion (a collection of rocks, wrapped in cyclone fence) is installed on the trail at Buck Island Lake.
   
2008 - El Dorado County rejects the Rubicon Trail Master Plan.
   
2008 - Del Albright resigns as President of the Rubicon Trail Foundation. Randy Burleson becomes the second foundation president.
   
2009 - Del Albright resigns as the founding Trail Boss after nearly 5 years. Jacqueline "Bebe" Theisen becomes the very first woman FOTR Trail Boss.
 
2009 - Rubicon Trail Foundation creates its second major fundraiser, Black Tie and Boots. The event is held in Placerville at a Restaurant. An award for lifetime acheivement toward the Rubicon Trail is presented, and Tom Celio is the first recipient.
 
2009 - The Spider Lake Ham Radio Repeater becomes the first fully funded Rubicon Trail Foundation project on the trail.
 
2009 – The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board issues a Cleanup and Abatement Order (CAO) requiring El Dorado County and the Eldorado National Forest to make trail improvements, enforcement efforts, and educational efforts in order to prevent erosion, manage petroleum spills, and prevent sanitation issues on the trail.
   
2009 - Randy Burleson resigns as foundation president. Vice President, Doug Barr becomes interim president. Scott Johnson is voted president at the formal vote.
   
2010 - Jerry Refner becomes the 3rd FOTR Trail Boss.
 
2010 – In response to the CAO, El Dorado County secures grant funding from the California Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division to comply with the CAO and initiates the first concerted maintenance effort on the trail since the 1930's
   
2010 - Rubicon Trail Foundation reaches $100,000 in deposits for the first time.
   
2010 - In December 2010, The Rubicon Trail Foundation closes escrow on 317 acres purchased from Mark and Patti Smith. The property, previously owned by Bohemian Lumber Company will help give the Rubicon Trail Foundation legal standing on the trail, and ultimately provide new camping and wheeling opportunities on the Rubicon.
   
2011 - After the massive snow fall of 2011, Cadillac Hill undergoes a massive repair with many volunteers.
   
2011 - Rubicon Trail Foundation formally requests an easement across Rubicon Trail Partnership property for public access to RTF Property. The request is denied.
   
2012 - On March 31, 2012 the iconic Little Sluice tree fell in a high wind snow storm. Estimated to be 1,500 years old by arborists at Yale University, the tree is removed by El Dorado County and volunteers.
   
2012 - The first portable toilet is installed at Little Sluice and is pumped by the Rubicon Trail Foundation using the UniMog purchased with OHV Grant money.
   
2012 - On August 14, 2012, the El Dorado Board of Supervisors formally voted 5 - 0 and then signed a historic agreement for an easement with US Forest Service. The agreement locks into place a definition of the trail through the forest, and also formally puts the County in charge of the road.

Photo by the Mountain Democrat
2013 - October 9, 2013, the Ellis Creek Bridge officially opens, as part of the committment by El Dorado County to comply with the Clean Up and Abatement order set forth by the California Water Board.
 
2013 - Rusty Folena, a founding member of RTF becomes president.
   
2014 - June 9, 2014 a legend of the Rubicon, Mark A. Smith passes away. Please click here to read the official RTF Press Release on the passing of Mark Smith. In addition, read more about him HERE or read about his life in the Mountain Democrat. Mark's impact on the Rubicon can't even be measured. It's safe to say, without Mark Smith, there is no Rubicon Trail, no FOTR and no Rubicon Trail Foundation.
 
2014 - On Friday, October 10, 2014, after five years of hard work by the County, the Forest, the State Historic Preservation Office, Friends Of The Rubicon, the Rubicon Trail Foundation and countless users of the trail, the Clean Up and Abatement order from 2009 was rescinded by unanimous vote of the Water Board.
   
2015 - Sean Russell becomes Rubicon Trail Foundation president.
 
2015 - Eric Agee is the 4th FOTR Trail Boss
 
2015 - Rubicon Trail Foundation and Rubicon Trail Partnership announce an agreement to swap property and adjust boundaries, that will allow the Rubicon Trail Foundation to fullfil their mission to own property on the Rubicon Trail and start the process to grant motorized public access to the property.
   
2016 - Shannon Chard becomes the 2nd woman and 5th FOTR Trail Boss.
 
2016 - August 22, 2016, through a partnership of Rubicon Trail Foundation, Jeepers Jamboree and Friends Of The Rubicon, the Rubicon Springs Green Bridge gets a major rebuild.
   
2016 - December 1, 2016, the Rubicon Trail Foundation announces that they have paid off their note on the nearly 300 acres on the Rubicon, and simultaneously announce that they have recorded in El Dorado County a Boundary Line Adjustment with the Rubicon Trail Partnership. RTF now owns property from the Rubicon Trail near the bottom of Indian Trail to the Rubicon Springs.
   
2017 - John Arenz becomes Rubicon Trail Foundation president.
   
   
   
   
   
Rubicon Trail Foundation - Email - 1-888-6RUBICON (678-2426) - PO Box 2188, Placerville, CA 95667