Millerton Lake Park, California

Deelow insisted Pfeiffer State Park but we all woke up kind of late so I did some research of a close-by state park where dogs were allowed and find one, “Millerton Lake State Recreation Area.” Its about a 2-hour drive from us but since its the last day for an adventure with the dogs because its the end of the holiday season so we took this trip.

Beautiful drawing of the State Parks History

Mom, Deelow and I drove via Main Street and to Highway 99 south and drove more than an hour exiting to 145 eastward following it with our GPS we headed to the valley and mountain and turn to North Fork Road heading to Friant. It didn’t take us long to get a glimpse of the dam which was mentioned on the website.  I did a bit of research and learned about the people living in the area before the gold rush.

“For thousands of years, several groups of Northern Foothill Yokuts lived in the rolling grasslands and woodlands of the region. The women crafted beautiful baskets used for both utilitarian and ceremonial purposes. The men harvested acorns and hunted deer, quail and other game. The Yokuts were especially skilled at fishing for salmon, which they dried and stored for winter use. The lives of the Yokuts were altered by the intrusion of settlers who brought diseases to which they had no immunity, depleted their food sources, and caused them to be displaced from their villages.

Conflicts with the new arrivals ultimately led to the Mariposa Indian War, which ended in 1851 with the signing of a peace treaty at the U.S. military encampment known as Camp Barbour. An envoy had negotiated treaties with several California Indian groups, but Congress failed to ratify the treaties. Camp Barbour, now beneath the lake.”

Millerton Courthouse

The GPS told us to turn into the Friant Dam road but it was closed so we went straight, passing by the fancy subdivision on our right and finally turning left to the park entrance. Like other parks that we have visited, this was self-pay and to our surprise its the only park with a pay machine. Awesome! We paid $10 and went on our way.  We followed the GPS to the Millerton Courthouse which was located near the end of the park. It was very noticeable because its the only building in the area and it’s situated at the tip of the hill.


Camp Barbour, now beneath the lake’s surface, was built in 1850. A tent city called Rootville, later changed to Millerton, sprang up and quickly prospered.  With the discovery of the Jenny Lind claims two miles down the San Joaquin river, miners from all over the world poured into Millerton. The flashing gold pans of the forty-niners and the giant monitors, spouting streams turned their wealth into Millerton. Millerton was the original county seat of Fresno County, when it was formed in 1856. The county comprised its current area and all of what became Madera County and parts of what are today San Benito, Tulare, Kings, Inyo, and Mono counties.

Millerton with the courthouse

Millerton, was located along the Stockton – Los Angeles Road on the south bank of the free-flowing San Joaquin River and close to Fort Miller. McCray’s Ferry on the north bank of the river was the means for crossing the river at that point. Millerton became the county seat of Fresno County after becoming a focal point of commerce and mail delivery for settlers in the lower San Joaquin Valley.

The Indians became restive and went on the warpath. A massacre at Major James D. Savage’s Trading Post nine miles down the river, and another at Cassidy’s Fort eight miles from Millerton on the old Visalia road, brought troops from the Mariposa Battalion into the area. A fort was established and made Major Albert £. Miller. He rounded up 1.500 Indians. 16 tribes and their chiefs, and forced them to sign a treaty. They signed away their rights forever for beef, bacon, whiskey and cajolery. The country around Millerton was the haunt of various outlaws and thieves.

Millerton Bakery

They were brought in by Scott Ashby. In 1866 a courthouse with a solid granite jail was built by Charles P. Converse, owner of the ferry at the Old Fresno Crossing. It was the center of all community life. Not only was county business transacted there, but also social and religious activities were carried on. The first school in the county was held In the dining room of Mrs. L. S. Winchell, wife of the county judge, who lived at Fort Miller. In 1868 there were 113 children in school. 

The town began its decline when the San Joaquin River flooded on Christmas Eve, 1867, inundating Millerton. Some residents rebuilt, others moved. In 1872, the Central Pacific Railroad established a station near a farm then owned by Anthony Easterby bounded by the present Chestnut, Belmont, Clovis and California avenues. Soon there was a store and around which grew the town of Fresno Station, later called Fresno. Many Millerton residents, drawn by the convenience of the railroad and worried about flooding, moved to the new community.

Walking along the lake

Two years after the station was established, in 1874, county residents voted to move the county seat from Millerton to Fresno. The vote totals were Fresno 417; Lisbon 124; Centerville 123; Millerton 93. Millerton was eventually abandoned as a result.

In 1895 there was little left but a school, a private school with five dollars month tuition for each pupil. The jail has held many characters and the courthouse has been the scene of the activities of our pioneers. In 1942 the courthouse was dismantled and stored in the Bureau of Reclamation camp in Friant. It was the only building left in Millerton When the waters of the lake flowed over the site of the town, no one ever expected to see it again. Today it m a collection of tumbled in cellars, drying in the sunshine.

When the Friant Dam was completed in 1944, the site of Millerton became inundated by the waters of Millerton Lake. In extreme droughts, when the reservoir shrinks, ruins of the original county seat can still be observed.

That’s a long history and since its the only place, I could think of that this lost city can be put. Anyway, there was some more history about the courthouse which was the only reminder of the abandoned town but right now we followed a trail down to the shores of the lake behind the courthouse. The dogs played around while we took photos and videos. What caught my attention was more of the dam in the background and seeing there was an island, we could go to take a closer view of the dam and I asked them to join me and go there.

We climbed back up and followed the road to the close area and headed to the Friant Dam, and as we walked Deelow noticed about Fort Miller signage on maps. I’ll be talking more about the fort later but as for the courthouse here is its brief history.

Millerton Courthouse

The courthouse

“Millerton served as the Fresno County seat from 1856 to 1874. It was the first courthouse for Madera, Mono, and Fresno counties in the days when the three counties were one. It was built in 1866 on the banks of the San Joaquin River in what is now Madera county. There is a solid granite jail that housed so many famous desperadoes. It was abandoned when the county seat was moved to Fresno, it has since been an attraction of various dude ranches in the Millerton area, ass well as a destination for picnic parties. When Friant Dam was built and Millerton Lake started filling, it was dismantled in 1941.  

It was moved out of the reservoir area to be restored as a tribute to the glorious pioneers of the Mlllerton region. It was reconstructed on its present site at Mariner’s Point to protect it from rising floodwaters. The courthouse has been restored to look much as it did more than a century ago”

So that was the history of the Millerton Courthouse, as we walkd up the hill unleashing the dogs and letting them run around the wide road and it was nice seeing them free and happy. After the man fishing left the island we went down and let the dogs run around. Sal even jumped into the water only to swim out. I noticed there were a couple of remnants that seem to be a foundation of a building. I wasn’t sure but here is a couple of pics.

After that we went back up to get a closer look at the Friant Dam. Of course, the dogs run ahead up to the dam itself but the gate leading up inside was close. I followed behind but once I heard there was another person by the vista point so I told Deelow to call the dogs in which she did. I went to the vista point where there was a park dedicated to the dam. I will be discussing the dam in detail later, but here is a brief history of it.

Friant Dam

Friant Dam

“Friant Dam is a concrete gravity dam 319 feet high with a crest length of 3,488 feet on the upper San Joaquin River in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Fresno County, California near the town of Friant. The dam, completed in 1942, forms Millerton Lake and was built by the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns and operates the dam.”

After that, I went back to the parking where the others were waiting and feeding the dogs. After resting a bit we drove around the park head back to the Ranger’s office to see if we could get a brochure which we did. The ranger was surprised I didn’t ask any questions but the brochure was enough and we drove to the boat ramps parking which was huge.

We didn’t stop there because there were people and head back on where we saw the giant rocks. We head on to the La Playa Beach but the road was closed so we have to park by the road. We took the dogs down and I ran Chloe to down the beach. We unleashed them Deelow and I followed while Mom stayed by the benches and knit. As we walk around here is the history of Fort Miller.

Fort Miller

“Some 150 miles upriver from Stockton, it was originally a California Militia post-Camp Barbor during the Mariposa War, it became a U. S. Army post-Camp Miller when it was established on 26 May 1851 during the California Gold Rush by 2nd Lt. Treadwell Moore and companies B & K of the 2nd U.S. Infantry totaling 62 men. It was renamed  Fort Miller in 1852, named after Major Albert S. Miller. Abandoned in June 1858.

Ruins of the old town

Reoccupied during the U.S. Civil War on 22 Aug 1863 by Lt. Colonel James W. Olney and Companies A & K, 2nd California Volunteer Infantry after a 130-mile march from Stockton. The California Volunteers departed Fort Miller in December 1864. The last post-return is dated September 1864. The Army abandoned the post on December 1, 1866. The former settlement Rootville, later called Millerton, grew up nearby the fort.

The site is now under Millerton Lake formed by the Friant Dam in 1944. It is registered as California Historical Landmark #584.”

Fort Miller

So that is it for the the history of the Millerton Lake State Recreation Area. We ran around and climbed the little hills and rocks. Took some pictures and videos then after that we decided it was time to leave because it gonna be 4pm and dark soon. On top of that the rush hour, so we all packed and took the dogs and went on our way.

Here are the links for more information,_California

Say Cheez!

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