Community Profiles

American River Canyon, Part 7 – Lover’s Leap to the Summit

North American HouseBecause the present Highway 50 is north of the original route through Strawberry Valley, it bypasses three stations that were along the old road that passed between the two halves of Lover’s Leap: Baker’s Place, Devil’s Gap (Section House) and Slippery Ford House (Swan’s Upper Toll House).

Before two bridges (Twin Bridges) were built near Slippery Ford (also Slipperyford), travelers had to cross the river on an inclined, smooth granite surface. Many horses and mules lost their footing here and, along with wagons and their contents, were swept down the river and over the falls.

The list of Post Offices in El Dorado County includes one at Slippery Ford that existed from November 21, 1861 until January 13, 1911, with Powell Crosley serving as the first Postmaster. However, this Slippery Ford is reported to have been only 33 miles east of Placerville, 11 miles west of this Slippery Ford, which would place it near Kyburz (which received a Post Office on the day this one closed, January 13, 1911).

The eastern Slippery Ford was ultimately bypassed by the two bridges at Twin Bridges, and later, by the new bridge on the highway, a distance to the north. Twin Bridges received a Post Office on October 1, 1947, with Mrs. Lesta H. King as the first postmaster.

From Slippery Ford, the road steepens and continues uphill through Sayle’s Canyon, passing Hermit’s and reaching Sayle’s Flat House. At Sayle’s Flat is Camp Sacramento, which had a Post Office from June 17, 1929 until October 31, 1940, Pearl Chapell serving as the first Postmaster. From here, the road climbs past Van Sickle’s Station, Swan’s Toll House and Snowslide House to Phillips Station.

American River Canyon, Part 6 – Kyburz to Lover’s Leap

Strawberry Valley Station c: 1866

Strawberry Valley Station c: 1866

There is not much known about the next few stations along the Placerville Road east of Kyburz: (another) Riverside House, Old Mother Welty’s (Leon’s Station), Poster’s Halt and the Chamberlain House, which is later became known as Fred’s Place.

True’s Place, another obscure station is east of Fred’s Place, followed then by Georgetown Junction House, where there was also a toll house.

At this location, near today’s Wright’s Lake Road, is where Johnson’s Cut-off and the road to Georgetown made their connection with the main route. Speculating landowners in the Georgetown area attempted to encourage emigrants entering California to leave the main road at this point and proceed north to the Georgetown Road. From there they were directed along the Georgetown Road through Union (Onion) Valley and then to Georgetown by what is now generally Wentworth Springs Road.

Between Georgetown Junction House and the next major stop, Strawberry Valley House, were three more lesser known stations: San Francisco House, What Cheer House and Log Cabin No. 2 (Was there a No 1?). Interestingly, there was also a What Cheer House along Green Valley Road near what is now Cameron Park.

Strawberry Valley House was very important stop along the Placerville-Carson Road. A traveler in the spring of 1861 gave us the following description: “in a long, narrow plain hemmed in by bare mountains of granite…is a commodious hotel, where I dined”.

The hotel was built near Lover’s Leap in 1856 by Swift and Watson. In 1859 the owners were Irad Fuller Berry and George W. Swan, who not only ran the hotel but worked tirelessly on improving their portion of the toll road.

It became a remount station for the Pony Express on April 4, 1860, when division superintendent Bolivar Roberts waited with a string of mules to help Pony rider Warren Upson through the snowstorm on the summit.

There is a plaque on the north side of the highway designating Strawberry Valley House as a California State Historic Landmark (#707).

American River Canyon, Part 5 – Riverton to Kyburz

Riverton

Riverton

Today’s Riverton is where Highway 50 crosses the South Fork of the American River and Ice House Road goes north towards the Crystal Basin. Records as far back as 1864 indicate the existence of a respectable inn, the Riverside House at this location. It was the first station east of Sportsman’s Hall to service the Central Overland Express and was the first Pony Express remount station east of Sportsman’s Hall.

From August 2, 1892 to May 31, 1898 a Post Office was located here with Charles Sandfoss serving as the first Postmaster. The Post Office was later closed and moved to Slippery Ford (Twin Bridges).

By the early 1900s a large hotel had been built over the river which even allowed guests to fish from their room if they wished.

The main building and several annexes could house upwards of seventy-five guests at one time, who were “lulled to sleep by the roar of the river,” according to one author.

Just west of the present bridge is a plaque designating Moore’s (Riverton) as a California State Historic Landmark (#705). The three remaining rock monuments were part of the four identifying the corners of the bridge over the river.

From Riverton, the main road (Highway 50) again starts its climb to the summit. At Pollock Pines, the elevation was around 4000 feet, but the road from there to Riverton has been downhill and that elevation will not be reached again until a point near Kyburz.

American River Canyon, Part 4 – Junction House to Riverton

Pacific House

Pacific House

Staying on the main route, the next station east of Junction House, so named because it is also near the junction of Johnson’s Cut-off, Ogilsby Grade and other roads, is Bob Blair’s House.

Bob Blair was one of four Blair brothers who emigrated to California from Scotland. The family owned and operated several lumber mills and lumber sales yards throughout the county. The first brother to leave Scotland for California, John Blair, was an early owner of Sportsman’s Hall.

Next along the road is Fresh Pond, or Fresh Pond House, a place where the Blair family had a mill and mill pond in 1911.

There is not a lot of early information about Fresh Pond. It is believed by some to be the “Fish Pond” that shows up in early emigrant journals. It is also believed that there was a natural pond at this location, before the Blair’s built one there around 1911.

The Fresh Pond school, originally built by the Blairs for the children of their mill workers, was here from 1911 through 1945.  In 1919, the building was torn down and replaced with the Sly Park School building that was moved here. Because the building came with its sign, after that it was called the Sly Park School.

A business of one sort or another has been at Fresh Pond since the 1860s, with a few voids due to fires.

In the 1930s Fresh Pond was known as Mealy’s Fresh Pond Tavern, featuring steak and chicken dinners and very popular dances on weekends.

The next station to the east of Fresh Pond is Pacific House.