A Brief History of East Fork

An interesting article about the history of East Fork and mans losing battle with it.

Article written by Joe Blackstock from the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

Read the article after the jump.

It was the perfect mining town, right down to its name – Eldoradoville.

The place had no shortage of alcohol and gambling dens. Shootings and stabbings were commonplace.

And it was obliterated almost as quickly as it arrived on the scene.

This hellraiser of a town was only a couple of miles west of Mt. Baldy Village and north of San Dimas in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Eldoradoville was the gem of the little-known gold fields on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River a few years after the gold discovery at Sutter’s Mill in Northern California.

The East Fork drains the western and southern slopes of Mt. Baldy and, during El Nino-like conditions, can be a dangerous, formidable force.

For years it has cut through and pounded the rocks of the San Gabriels, loosening flakes of gold that were trapped in the river’s sands.

Gold was first found in significant amounts in 1859, and the rush was on. For $7 – no small sum at that time – you could take a stage from Los Angeles in the morning and arrive at the camp at the confluence of the East Fork and Cattle Canyon that afternoon.

One November night in 1859, a tremendous flood washed away the diggings following an especially strong storm.

Undeterred, the miners reassembled the camp in a few weeks.

For two years, the rebuilt Eldoradoville was in full operation. Even at this isolated location, politics wasn’t ignored, especially in those turbulent

days around the start of the Civil War.

During the election of 1860, there were political rallies at the camp, and some local candidates even made their way up the river to speak to miners.

Abe Lincoln finished a poor third among miners at the camp, getting only 14 of the 61 votes cast.

Federal officials saw Eldoradoville as a hotbed of Southern sympathy and kept an eye on what they thought were Confederate spies in the camp.

Politics, and everything else, came to an abrupt end in mid-January 1862 as the East Fork exerted its power again, washing away Eldoradoville forever. Where a gold camp operated one day, nothing but mud, rocks and frustration existed the next.

Eldoradoville never recovered from the deluge, as miners scattered to other camps where drowning was not such an important issue.

The East Fork won its victory that day and, nearly eight decades later, did it again.

In 1938, there was a place on the East Fork euphemistically called Hooverville, a Depression shantytown on the river housing some down-on-their-luck folks trying to scratch out a living panning for gold.

At the same time, far up the canyon, the state was cutting a highway destined to reach all the way to what is now Angeles Crest Highway west of Wrightwood.

Started in 1929, it was a difficult undertaking, especially since the Narrows area of the East Fork is one of the steepest in the San Gabriels.

As March 1938 arrived, a long graceful bridge had been completed over a side canyon well up the canyon.

Disaster struck March 1 and 2 as arguably the most damaging flooding of the century struck the area, routing the inhabitants of Hooverville, sending their shanties down the river.

It also destroyed much of the road work in the Narrows, forcing the state to admit that a road couldn’t be built there.

The only real remnant of this 140-year effort to tame the East Fork is the isolated highway bridge, known to hikers as the Bridge to Nowhere. It’s still up there but now in a wilderness area where all vehicles are barred.

It’s a five-mile hike to the bridge which today serves no purpose except for the occasional bungie-jumper.

Today there are no roads in the upper East Fork, no towns nor mining camps. In a battle of wills, the East Fork has always won.

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