Archive for September 19, 2012

Sister Lakes – Lake Blanche

The Sister Lakes are situated near the end of a drainage or tributary canyon that is referred to as “Mill B South” in Big Cottonwood Canyon, just east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.  The canyon is one of three prominent canyons in the Wasatch Mountains that provide the eastern boundary of the Salt Lake Valley…and all of the canyons are part of the Wasatch National Forest.

On a technical note, all of the photographs in the post were taken between about 10:00 and 12:30 on two bright, sunny days that were about two weeks apart.  I don’t have any filters for my camera, so you’ll notice that most of the clouds are a bit over-exposed.  I had thought that there was an adjustment to +/- the exposures, but…I was mistaken.  At any rate, I processed each of the photos with Picasa in an attempt to lessen the effect of the harsh light, sharpen the images, and to bring the colors back to what they were when I saw them that morning…and as you’ll see, also gave one or two of them a different finish.  I hope you enjoy them.

The below image is of Sundial Peak over Lake Blanche….

The drainage has had this name since 1855 when construction of the saw mill was undertaken.  It is my understanding that this mill, and other mills so named with letters of the alphabet, was initially owned by the Big Cottonwood Lumber Company…which was owned by one of Brigham Young’s sons and a few other people.  As each mill was built in the canyon, it was given the next letter in the alphabet…but that doesn’t mean that they proceeded in alphabetical order as they progressed upwards in the canyon.  The image in the below photo is from just left of Sundial Peak…I suppose that would be to the east.

If anyone is interested enough to search for Big Cottonwood Canyon on Google Earth, you will be able to find Mill B South on the right-hand side of the very distinct “S” in the road that is about 4-5 miles up into the canyon.

If you find that “S” in the road, just to the right of it will be a parking lot…on the upper (east)  side of the parking lot, you will find the trailhead for Lake Blanche.  On the lower (west) side, you will find the trailhead for Broads Fork…which you might remember from two posts back in July.  The area in the below photo is to the right, or west, of Sundial Peak…and that little hump you can see near the middle is actually Dromedary Peak.

If you’re not familiar with the settling of the Salt Lake City area, I’ll provide very briefly that Brigham Young and his Mormon followers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in roughly July, 1847.  I say roughly, because some folks arrived shortly before he did and many others continued to arrive for years afterward…from all parts of the country…and many parts of the globe.

The below photo shows the area a little more to the right of Dromedary Peak, and from a different perspective than the above shot.  And yes, that wall is a dam that was breached after several years of the lake(s) being used as reservoirs for the Salt Lake Valley’s water supply.  More on that subject in a bit….

After the pioneers and other settlers ravaged the forests in Millcreek Canyon, which is much closer to the early city center, they moved south and into Big Cottonwood Canyon to harvest what they might of the ancient forest that lived there, untouched by anything other than Nature’s hand.  Some of the journals and notes from those loggers and saw-mill operators document pine and fir trees with diameters of three and four, and up to six feet across…huge trees.

If you’d like some perspective with the below photo, there are two people close to that igloo-shaped rock that is about 1/3 of the way up from the lower left corner…and again, this is the area to the left of Sundial Peak.

So…the area at the end of the Mill B South drainage has been called Hidden Valley…and in that valley are three lakes (referred to as the Three Sisters), Lake Blanche, Lake Florence, and Lake Lillian.  The first lake that you come to at the end of approximately three miles of hiking is L. Blanche…and a few more minutes of hiking will take you to the other two lakes that I will feature in the next two posts in this series.  The Hidden Valley has been a favored recreational hiking area since at least the 1880s.  Two artist friends who frequented the area named L. Blanche after a mutual friend and the other two lakes after their daughters.

By the way, all of the historical information provided in this and the next two posts can be found in Charles L. Keller’s book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket.

The above and below photos were taken from the far side of the lake, from the shoreline just inside of the wall by the dam.

You have no doubt noticed the wall/dam in the fifth and ninth photos…and will see additional dams in photos for the other lakes that will be featured in this series.  In 1905, the Brown and Sanford Irrigation Company applied to the US Forest Service to appropriate a certain amount of water from the drainage stream in Mill B South Fork.  It took three years for the approval to be granted and another two years for the dam to be completed.  Two years later, the company applied to raise the wall and double the storage capacity of the reservoir….  Evidently, this was quite an undertaking and the company had to apply to the forest service officials repeatedly to grant more and more time to complete the project.  When the irrigation company had exhausted the time that the official could legally grant, they had to bring the issue to federal court…twice, each time being granted another four years’ time to complete the project.  Finally, in 1934, the dam was finished.

Before the original wall/dam was built, when the snow-melt waters overwhelmed the natural holding capacity of the lake’s basin, the water spilled from its edges and eventually found its way into the stream that leads down the drainage and into the larger Big Cottonwood Canyon Stream.  When the dam was being built, the engineers provided a spillway course that led from L. Blanche to L. Florence, and then to L. Lillian…that caused each lake/reservoir to be filled before the excess was directed into the drainage that led down the canyon.  Over the years, Salt Lake City purchased the water rights from the federal government…and eventually the reservoirs were no longer needed to store surplus waters…and the dams were breached…that was in 1972.

My son actually made this next photo (below) with his cell-phone….

And just for fun, the next two photos are from July of 2011…they show a water level that is much higher than this year, due to record snow-fall in the mountains during the winter of 2010-2011.

Next in the series is Lake Florence…maybe you’ve seen enough of Sundial Peak by now….