Stanford Sierra has taken many forms throughout its long history, culminating in the family camp and conference center that are thriving today. This place has been shaped by ice, conservationists, John Steinbeck, Stanford University and families and businesses from across the nation.
The land itself was carved during the most recent ice age when a large glacier slowly moved through the Glen Alpine Valley creating Fallen Leaf Lake, depositing the moraines that you can see along the Angora and Cathedral Ridgelines.
The Washoe Tribe originally called this valley home, surviving off the abundance found in the fertile Glen Alpine Valley and Lake Tahoe Area, including the native Lahontan cutthroat trout. The Washoe People were eventually driven from the land during the California Gold Rush in the infamous Potato War and the valley began to be settled by ranchers and farmers.
Setting up Camp
1896 was the year William Wrightman Price arrived at Fallen Leaf Lake. A Stanford graduate from the University’s second class, Price was a Stanford engineering professor and a long-time nature enthusiast. He built a boys’ camp upstream from Fallen Leaf Lake, near Glen Alpine Springs. The boys learned to fish, hunt, and live in the outdoors. They climbed the mountains, measured the trails with bicycle wheels, and installed plaques at the top of peaks so hikers could record their visits.
When Price married and brought his wife to the camp, mothers of the boys and other relatives decided it was permissible for “outsiders” to visit. More and more guests came each summer. At nearby Glen Alpine Springs Resort, the proprietors were a bit unhappy that people were staying at the camp instead of their hotel. The story goes that one day there were 75 visitors at the camp and the Resort owners informed Price that they would no longer carry milk and mail for a competitor.
Being a good neighbor, Price moved his business to the south end of Fallen Leaf Lake. He built several tent cabins and a kitchen in 1905, and was just starting on more permanent buildings when a neighbor challenged his territorial boundaries. Price and the neighbor took the dispute to the County Clerk in Placerville and found the Clerk had originally made a mistake; Price moved his controversial camp over a bit.
By 1907, the Prices were building summer cabins for more than just the families of boys at Camp Agassiz. Many of the staff cabins along “Rustic Row ” and on the Point were built, as was Cherry Cottage–the current director’s residence and the oldest cabin on Fallen Leaf Lake. The group of cabins became a favorite summer spot for friends of the Price’s–many of whom were Stanford professors.