In 1913 novelist Jack London dammed Wild Water Creek (now called Graham Creek), a 2.9-mile perennial tributary on his 1,400-acre Beauty Ranch. The arcing stone dam created an idyllic five-acre lake on the eastern slope of Sonoma Mountain, which London stocked with catfish and bass. The shallow lake’s fresh waters fed an irrigation system designed by London that also contained a mechanism to release water during severe storms. The lake was accessed by a footpath with split-rail fence and surrounded by groves of madrones, manzanitas, redwoods, bays, Douglas firs, and oaks interspersed with open meadows. London also designed the redwood-log bathhouse, wooden boardwalk and dock, and picnic barbeque used by his family and guests for recreation and leisure. Canoeing, swimming and fishing were popular activities at the lake, which fell into serious decline starting in the 1960s.
The lake is a physical reminder of the first water-rights legal battle in northern California, when others contested that the water from the mountain creek was not rightfully London’s to dam. In a trial, London won the right to continue piping water from the creek. Today, as part of the Jack London State Historic Park, visitors hike, cycle or ride horseback through woodlands to reach the serene site. The Jack London Lake Alliance is working to restore the dam and lake. In 1962 the lake was designated a National Historic Landmark as part of the State Historic Park.