History of the Museum
guard station museum
Located on the shore of Huntington Lake, the Billy Creek Guard Station Museum is a three building complex loaded with history and interpretive displays that range from the Monache or Western Mono Native American people, European pioneers, the development of the hydroelectric project and the mystery surrounding the B-24 that was lost in Huntington Lake in 1943.
Huntington Lake and several other southern Sierra Nevada lakes were man-made as a result of massive building of a hydro-power system that at the time, was only rivaled by the building of the Panama Canal. The ingenuity and sheer determination of men such as John Eastwood, David Redinger and Henry Huntington brought electrical power to southern California.
For more information:
Huntington Lake-Big Creek
P.O. Box 232
Lakeshore, California 93634
The Museum is open
for the 2016 summer
Huntington Lake was named for Henry Edwards Huntington, the southern California entrepreneur who financed the earliest work at the Big Creek-San Joaquin Hydroelectric Project. The lake was the first reservoir built on the project, which delivered electricity to southern California some 240 miles away.
In 1914 Gifford Pinchot, the first American-trained forester commissioned Dr. Frank Waugh, landscape architect, to plan the placement of cabins, resorts, camps, and campsites around Huntington Lake to reduce the visual impact to visitors and to add to the beauty of the lake.
In 1905, with the transfer of the Forest Reserve from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service was established. Offices on the forest were typically rented rooms and portable dwelling-like tents. In 1920, the Forest Service felt a need for more permanent structures. The cost limitation for Forest Service buildings was $650. and required Washington Office approval. The Billy Creek Guard Station residence was constructed in 1929 with a warehouse being completed in 1930. Orland Bartholomew, who completed a trans-Sierra winter trip, alone, across the Sierra Nevada range from Mount Whitney to Yosemite in 1928-1929, was the first U.S. Forest Service ranger at Huntington Lake and served between 1932-1952.
The restored Billy Creek Guard Station Museum opened to the public on July 20, 2001 and is managed by the Huntington Lake Big Creek Historical Conservancy. Volunteers have welcomed over 26,000 visitors to the Huntington Lake Basin with educational programs for children, seniors, campers and the community.In the displays, visitors can hear the whistles and feel the excitement of the Shay, "the little engine that could" and the Climax engines of the San Joaquin & Eastern Railroad (SJ&E) which made the dams, lakes and power stations possible. The Big Creek Project harnessed "the hardest working water in the world." Kitchen, laundry, bath and camping displays from the 1920s and 30s can also be found. And, you can learn more about the mystery of the B-24 Bomber that crashed into the lake on December 6, 1943. The plane was not found until 1955. Some of that plane remains on the bottom of the lake.
The historic Kaiser Diggins Forest Service building was moved 26 miles in 2008 as the latest museum addition and features a Kids Only room...no parents please! Gift shop and exhibits change yearly. In 2011, a new tent structure was added to display a "Petticoat Lane" tent that was used to house four young ladies while attending Fresno State's Sierra Summer School held at Huntington Lake from 1926 until 1948 by College Campground.
The Huntington Lake Big Creek Historical Conservancy maintains these historically significant buildings to educate the public about natural and native American history to provide public interpretative facilities and to preserve the tradition of the Huntington Lake Big Creek Hydroelectric System.
Eco-Friendly Note: The museum is located on U.S. Forest Service lot in Sierra National Forest on Huntington Lake. The three structures are U.S. Forest Service buildings and inflict no harm to the local environment.
To visit the museum, please use California State Hwy 168 and travel up the mountains to Huntington Lake, where the highway ends. Turn left onto Huntington Lake Road and travel 5-1/2 miles until you see the Museum Sign, then park in front of the Museum on your left. You will go back in time and enjoy doing it! Welcome!