Make the McKenzie Connection!

Friends of Fish Lake were busy last week

About 25 people spent over four days last week in a labor of love at the Fish Lake Historic Site, also known as the Fish Lake Remount Depot. Close to double that number showed up on Tuesday, the day of the Friends of Fish Lake general membership meeting.

The depot site, located along the Santiam Trail in the heart of the Oregon High Cascades, 1930s.

The Fish Lake Remount Depot was first used by the US Forest Service as a Ranger outpost in 1905. Since the mid-1800s thousands of travelers including Indian tribes and wagon trains, along with their livestock, pack animals and freight have passed through the site.

During the 1920s, it served as the field and dispatch headquarters for the Santiam National Forest and was officially used as a remount depot until 2005. The buildings continue to provide lodging and workspace for Forest Service personnel. Activities at the site now focus on interpretation, historic preservation, and landscape restoration.

Part of those restoration efforts last week included work on the Hall House which had suffered damage to many log ends, especially those on the pictured uphill corner. Structural damage beneath the cabin had been repaired during previous work weeks. Restoration of the log ends has also taken several years with a couple of years off during Covid-19. After removing the rot, the ends were rebuilt using pieces of split cedar log rounds, inserted wood strips, and epoxy putty. All of the surfaces were then hand carved to recreate the details of a weathered log surface. More work remains to paint or stain the surfaces to recreate the colors of the weathered log.

Nearby, a cedar rail fence was built to screen off the propane tank that powers the generator. The intent there was to improve the scenery for visitors entering the historic center area.

It was in 1867 that the first structure constructed at Fish Lake was a roadhouse built by the Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountain Wagon Road Company to accommodate travelers. Fish Lake was also a popular camping area. Back then, it was common to see 100 wagons or more camped near the lakeshore between July and September. A pioneer gravesite and sections of the original stone corral remain at the site. Additional buildings that can be seen at Fish Lake today include the barn and blacksmith shop, which were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s.

A packer stationed at Fish Lake from 1971 to 1984 named Lloyd Van Sickle, helped protect a number of the historic buildings from being burned due to a lack of maintenance funds. He also worked on projects to restore the site. The last Fish Lake packer and pack string passed through the site in 2005, 100 years after the depot was established.


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