The History of Caples Lake Resort

The Washoe Indian Tribe from Carson Valley would hunt, fish and forage in the summer around Caples Lake which was originally known as Twin Lakes because the original meadows had two shallow lakes, approximately six feet deep. The emigrants passed through here in 1849 to the gold fields on the Western slopes of the Sierras on their trail over Emigrant Pass to the right of where the weather station is now located. This was the last and highest pass, 9550 ft. traversed by the emigrants on their journey to the Gold country.

Doc Caples, an early emigrant, passed though the area and settled with his family in the Sacramento Valley in 1849. He came back to graze cattle in the summer and established a trading post on the north side of the meadow and Caples lake.

The dam on the Northwest side and the spillway on the West side of the lake were constructed in 1922 and raised in 1952. A mule pulled Fresno used in the original damn construction sits in front of the lodge full of wildflowers.

In 1935 Frank Ahearn from Fresno established a summer fishing camp with boat rentals and store. In 1939 Ray Koenig from Carson City established Twin Lakes Resort here as a summer high Sierra resort. Ray built the cabins in the early 1940’s and built the lodge in 1948. He used to ski in from Highway 50 in the spring to open the resort and use the ice house (now sauna) with ice cut from the lake to keep summer provisions.

In 1952 the Oroz family from Carson City bought the resort and made improvements like the stone fireplace in the lodge.

The Berglund family (Hale and Alice, and Dale and Nancy) bought the resort in 1962. In 1972 when Kirkwood Ski Resort opened and Highway 88 became a year around trans-Sierra route, the Berglunds tried to winterize the resort by under grounding the water and drilling a 300 foot deep well in the granite, as well as adding bathrooms to the cabins to replace the communal showers and outhouses. They stayed open in January and closed in March 1972 due to harsh winter weather and lack of business. They never opened in the winter again.

In 1976 the Kinser family from Modesto bought the resort. They opened the resort in the winters of 1977 and 1978; after that, they ran it solely as a summer resort. In April 1976, because of the drought, they were able to hold an Easter egg hunt on the rocks in front of the lodge.

In 1982 John Voss bought the resort and in the El Niño winter of 1983 endured 800 inches of snow blowing through the walls, windows, doors and roofs, frozen pipes, broken well, burnt up power lines, blown up lodge heater, and so on. In the summer of 1983 the lake thawed on a record late July 2nd.

The Voss’s including John Thomas (JT) who established the fine restaurant tradition and Joe who managed the resort for 10 years starting in 1986 (and for a short time Michael and Robert Voss as well) have made continuing improvements to the resort.

The Voss’s have kept the resort open every winter since 1982 except for closing in the winter of 1991 due to the drought years.

Caples is known for its Lake Mackinaw trout planted in the 1960s and continually planted yearly. The lake record is 26 pounds and 39 inches held by Norm Perini from Pine Grove, Ca. Jeff Walters from Kirkwood, Ca. holds the brown trout record at 13 pounds and 31 inches.

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Doc Caples

Sacramento County Biographies


DR. JAMES CAPLES, an honored pioneer, who may truthfully be called one of the Argonauts, having come here in 1849, and making this his home ever since, has seen many and varied experiences of early life, and no doubt is as well informed in the history of his community as any other man. A great-grandfather of the Doctor was William Caples, who lived in the city of Baltimore and had three sons, —Robert, William and Andrew. William, born in that city, emigrated to Tuscarawas County, Ohio, in 1804. His brother Robert moved to the Western Reserve, on the border of Lake Erie; and Andrew went to Tennessee, and his descendants spell their name Cable, one of whom is George W. Cable, the distinguished author of the present day. The Doctor’s grandfather supposed that the name was of German origin. William remained in Tuscarawas County until his death, in April, 1837. He had six sons and three daughters,—Robert, Charles, Joseph, William, Kenzie, Jacob, Mary, Anna and Susan. About 1839 they began to emigrate West. All the sons went to Oregon except Charles, the father of Dr. Caples, who settled in Andrew County, Missouri, and remained there until his death in 1884, at the age of eighty-eight years. He married his wife in Ohio, whose maiden name was Matilda Tracy. She was a native of Culpeper County, Virginia, and died in 1838. In Charles Caples’ family were five children: William, James, Wesley, Matilda and Elizabeth. None of the children were grown when the family moved to Missouri; they are all now deceased except James, our subject. The latter was born in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, November 29, 1823, and was a lad of fifteen years when his father, a merchant, moved to Andrew County, Missouri. Of course he worked for his father some, but at the age of nineteen years he began the study of medicine, under the preceptorship of his father’s youngest brother, Jacob. In the spring of 1847 he moved to Hancock County, Illinois, and practiced his profession there two years, during which time, in October, 1847, he married Miss Mary Jane, daughter of George Walker, of that county. She was born in Campbell County, Kentucky, near Covington, January 10, 1831. In the winter of 1848-’49 the Doctor bade adieu to pill-bags and began making preparations for coming to California; accordingly, March 21, 1849, with a wagon and three yoke of oxen, he started on the long journey, but found it comparatively pleasant. He had to cross some rivers by taking his wagons to pieces and carrying them across a piece at a time. His principal hardship was experienced in the country west of Bear River. At Salt Lake City they obtained a guide-book which the Mormons had just published, and it was this book that lead them into trouble. They depended upon it to show them where they could get good water, they having kegs for carrying a quantity of it. The book represented Bear River as bad water, which is true; but not so bad as some; and it would have been a great luxury to them during their subsequent privations. The creed just this side of Bear River was indicated in the book, but the quality of the water not being referred to the Doctor and his party inferred that it was good water, and they depended upon that inference. It proved to be unfit for either man or beast, and they had to drive on without water. The weather was extremely hot, and they had men in advance looking for water. One night one of their men returned to the camp with jugs upon his horse, and the travelers felt gladdened; but on sampling their contents the water was found altogether too salty to drink. The man who brought it knew it was salty, but hoped it was better than nothing. The Doctor happened to have some corn-meal, with which and the water they made a gruel that they could eat and thus somewhat relieve their sufferings. They found no water until nearly night on the following day, which day was a little cooler; had it been as hot as the preceding day they might have perished. They suffered for water again after they passed the sink of the Humboldt. On drinking some very bad water from a boiling spring in the desert, the Doctor was taken sick,—so severely indeed that he “lost his senses.” The next morning he woke up on the bank of the Truckee River, where all had plenty of fresh water. The Humboldt was lower than usual that season. In 1853 the Doctor was along there again and saw the water in that river six feet deep. The party remained on the Truckee three or four days recruiting themselves and their animals. In traveling through the Carson Canon, which required a day, they had a great deal of trouble. Mrs. Caples had to walk and climb over bowlders, (sic) etc., carrying her little babe in her arms! It was the roughest road on the whole route. They arrived at Hangtown August 28, 1849. After a few days the Doctor purchased a little store and did very well in business until he sold out a few weeks afterward and went to mining; but he was soon attacked with bloody dysentery, which disabled him from work until the last of February. Only faithful nursing rendered by his wife saved him. Being a physician he knew it best to abstain from the common food of the miners, and he confined himself to milk until the supply failed, and then he limited himself to rice. Hundreds of others in that vicinity died with the disease. The hospitality of the miners was exhibited with the marked characteristics of a pioneer surprise when they saw Mrs. Caples laboriously picking up wood in the wilds, by cutting and hauling to the Doctor’s place a pile of wood as high as his house. After recovering from his illness the Doctor purchased a store in Hangtown; but just then the miners began moving away to other fields. Then the merchants there generally wanted to sell out and follow the miners; and Doctor Caples bought them out and thus obtained control of all the mercantile business at Hangtown and vicinity, and made money. The early Californians, rough though they were, were neither sneaks nor thieves, and nothing was ever stolen from the Doctor’s tent-store or from his house. The miners often asked for credit at the store, and were never refused. In 1850 other mercantile establishments were started by way of competition and seriously reduced the Doctor’s business. He then located a ranch at the junction of the Deer and Carson creeks and began to stock it up, so that when trade gave out in the mines he settled upon it, and remained there thirty-two years. It comprises an area of 4,000 acres, and is in fine condition. Up to about four years ago he was extremely engaged in the live-stock business; he is now raising more grain. In the rearing of sheep and horses, he was very successful; but in the cattle business he actually lost money, as competitors grazed so much upon free range. In 1882 the Doctor moved upon his present place, of 500 acres, on the Cosumnes River, three miles from Elk Grove. Doctor Caples is a member of the Pioneer Society of Sacramento County, and also the order of Patrons of Husbandry. He was a member of the State Constitutional Convention in Sacramento in 1879, and thus was one of the framers of the present State Consitution. With this exception he has never been before the public in an official capacity; on the contrary, he has always been a hard-working man, devoting his time to his own private affairs. Even after a long life of hardship and toil, he is still healthy and strong; and this good physical condition is due to the intelligent care he has taken of his health. Of his family there are nine living children,—five sons and four daughters, viz: Isabella, wife of Dr. Frederick Durant, of San Quentin; Rosa E., wife of J. W. Haynes, an honored citizen of Genoa, Carson Valley, Nevada; Charles A.; Frank W.; John W., turnkey at the Folsom State Prison; George W., postmaster at Folsom; Hattie L., Maud L., and James W.

Transcribed by: Jeanne Sturgis Taylor. Davis, Hon. Win. J., An Illustrated History of Sacramento County, California. Pages 700-702. Lewis Publishing Company. 1890.


The Movement Against Suffrage

Doc Caples was also anti-suffragist.

“Your wife is elected to Legislature and your daughter is elected constable and you are at home taking care of the babies.” – James Caples, Sacramento delegate, Second Constitutional Convention, 1879

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Caples Lake was named after James “Doc” Caples who emigrated with his family from Ohio in 1848 and passed through the area on his way to settle in Placerville and Sacramento. Doc Caples was a delegate to the 1849 convention, which wrote the California State Constitution under which California was admitted to the union in 1850.

The following article was printed in one of the local newspapers in Sacramento County, presumably about 1914. In it, the author, Mrs. James Caples, Doc’s wife, recounts some of her experiences as an early pioneer settler.

Mrs. Dr. Caples read a paper detailing her personal experiences. “After the discovery of gold by Marshall in 1848 my husband and brother, with myself and infant child, joined the mad rush overland to California with an ox team. It was thought that horses could not stand the long trip.

The 21st of March, 1849, we crossed the Mississippi at Warsaw, Illinois, traveled leisurely through Iowa and Missouri, arrived at the Missouri River the 27th of April, where we crossed over and looked our last on civilization, and took up our line of march with hundreds of others, over an almost trackless, inhospitable country, infested with hostile Indians.

But our numbers were so great, there was but little danger, as it was known that every emigrant was armed to the teeth, and nine out of ten had left their families at home, all young, stalwart men, more or less used to frontier life, those from the East having gone by the way of the Isthmus, or around by the way of Cape Horn.

The first little trouble we had with the Indians was at the Little Blue, one large company ahead of us had built a rough bridge, and we passed over and on.

The Indians, the Sox and Iowas were disposed to be friendly, but incited no doubt by white renegades, took possession when we drove up and there was about one hundred men parleying with them, and they asked my husband, who was Captain of our small company, to join them; he went forward to the bridge where the Indians were lined up on either side with rifles in their hands, tommyhawks loosened and looking determined, so he advised the emigrants to pay toll and have no trouble, which they did—concluding with my husband that ‘discretion was the better part of valor.’

We then drove on, through a beautiful level country which is now the state of Kansas, until we arrived at the Platte River, which we followed up about 300 miles, suffering great inconvenience for want of fuel, not one stick of timber, nothing but green willows with an occasional dead one to cook with, except when we had a few days of dry weather, we could collect buffalo chips and make a glorious bonfire.

We arrived at the Platte and there had to ford the river which was about a half mile wide and from 3 to 4 feet deep, a muddy, sluggish stream, not dangerous except the quicksand which forced us to keep moving. There we encountered about one thousand Indians, the Sous who demanded tribute for passing through their country—so much sugar and coffee from each wagon. But our numbers were about 300 wagons and from two to three men to a wagon, so we refused, but took the precaution on the other side to order every man under arms to drill and march and fire platoons, drove our wagons on form of a corral, placed double guards, and the men slept on their arms. There was no doubt that on this occasion as well, the Indians were incited by renegade Frenchmen.

We drove on the next day, without further trouble. In about 200 miles we came to the north fork of the Platte where we found a temporary ferry, a raft of logs kept in place by a cable stretched across the river; this was the only ferry or boat we had the entire distance from the Missouri River to Hangtown.

When we arrived at Green River, a deep turbulent stream about as large as the Sacramento, we unloaded our wagons, calked the beds with cloth, made oars of small saplings flattened at one end with an ax; the water was ice cold and running very swift, which made it a most dangerous undertaking. We then swam our cattle over and drove on to Webber River. There we made a raft, crossed over and passed down Echo Canyon, a magnificent piece of scenery, the perpendicular walls from one to two thousand feet high, the road running along at the foot of the canyon, on the bank of the Webber River, a small stream that carries the water into Salt Lake City for irrigating purposes.

As we emerged from the canyon a magnificent view burst upon our sight, Salt Lake City, lying peacefully in the sun. The houses were built altogether of adobe, and one story high, the Mormons having arrived there in 1848, coming by a somewhat different route. We were acquainted with many of them, having been driven from our country in Illinois.

We had a pleasant journey then on to the Humboldt. It had been a dry season and the water was brackish from the beginning. When we got to the Sink it was very bad, being only in pools instead of a lake as we found it later in ’53, but there was no alternative so we filled our kegs, after resting our cattle a day, and at sundown started on our dreaded piece of road, all desert, expecting to travel all night. Our poor cattle were favored as much as possible, as many as were able walking. We went into camp the next morning and rested ourselves and cattle until evening, then made a pot of gruel, the only way we could using the water it was so salty, and it was very palatable indeed, and started on the last stretch of the desert, arriving at the Truckee River at one o’clock in the morning, which was the most beautiful clear stream of water we had ever seen.

Some of the men stood at the head of the cattle holding them by the horns, while others carried water, giving a little at a time to keep them from killing themselves. Poor things, how cruelly tired, hungry, and thirsty they were. Then we prepared our supper or breakfast, rather, our cattle were turned loose to feed on the abundant grass, and we rested all day. Having heard here from a man who was passing back on horseback to meet his train that the route by way of Truckee was nearly impassable, so we crossed back over a 25 mile stretch, without water, to Carson River, arriving about ten that night, but we didn’t mind it as we had been so refreshed at Truckee.

We traveled leisurely up the beautiful Carson Valley about 50 miles until we arrived at Carson Canyon. There was a terrible piece of road. We were all day long making five miles with the hardest work that men and oxen ever did; no one thought of riding. I carried my baby the entire way, which was not hard as we traveled so slowly and were obliged to wait and rest half the time. We had a beautiful drive the next day through Hope Valley to the first stream, crossed it with some trouble and drove down a stretch of ten miles to a beautiful valley and lake (which we afterward bought and made it our summer home for 30 years). There we camped for the night and enjoyed one of the best suppers we had on the whole route; we had been out of meat for weeks and gophers were plentiful. My husband shot ten and I made them into a stew and they were delicious.

The next day we ascended the second dreaded summit, crossed over and camped on the other side. A few days more down the mountain and we arrived at the hill, looking down on Hangtown, the end of our journey and the ‘mecca of the emigrant,’ just five months and six days from the time we started, hungry and travel stained but full of hopes that we could accumulate a few thousands and return to the dear old home and loved ones. Not one in ten thousand had the idea of remaining in California to make a home, but how many poor fellows for the want of proper food and care were laid to rest that winter.

We found a buyer for our cattle and we took whatever was offered for them as there was absolutely no feed at that time of the year near town. We bought necessary provisions at an enormous price, no vegetables, not a potato to be had. I remember I paid three dollars for a pound of soda.

My husband began to look around for shelter for his family, knowing that the rainy season was approaching. He hired a sailor, who knew about as much about carpenter work as a woman, at $16.00 a day, went up on Cedar Ravine, a half mile from town, where timber was plentiful, and with an ax, saw, hammer, built a very comfortable cabin; there was plenty of rock so we had an excellent chimney and an abundance of wood.

Then he went mining, had a good claim and was taking out $100 a day. The fourth day in the evening he came home sick with the prevailing disease, dysentery; that was the last day’s work he did for three months. I had one of the best physicians to be had and with careful nursing his life was saved. The physician ordered a diet of thickened milk and I paid two dollars a quart for it and three dollars a roll for butter, whenever it was to be had, and that came around the Horn.

Toward the last the little we had laid up from the sale of our cattle, and the little we had taken out of the mine, ran short as everything which came in our house in the way of provisions, even salt, cost us one dollar a pound, as freight was sixty cents a pound form Sacramento to Placerville on account of the dreadful state of the roads, as the rainfall in ’49 was heavier than it has ever been since except in ’62. So I concluded to make some pies and see if I could sell them to the miners for the lunches, as there were about one hundred men on the creek who were doing their own cooking. There were dried apples and beautiful dried and peeled peaches from Chili pressed in the shape of cheese to be had, so I bought fat salted pork and made lard, and my venture was a success. I sold fruit pies for one dollar and a quarter apiece and mince pies for one dollar and fifty cents. I sometimes made and sold a hundred in a day and not even a stove to bake them on.

And so the long dreary winter passed and prospects brightened and as spring approached my husband recovered his health and my pie business increased. In the spring we moved down town, and my husband bought out a business from an ever-restless gold hunter, for cost and fifteen cents carriage. We prospered in a small but sure way and in January of 1853 we returned East by way of the Isthmus and New York, remained six weeks, bought a drove of cattle and horses and crossed the plains a second time. We have lived here ever since, 61 years, living continuously in Sacramento County, long enough to see what was then a desert waste, under the rule and energy of the Americans, literally blossom like the rose.”

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