Lake Elsinore Valley's story is ambitious, inventive and always entertaining.

A Brief Chronology of the Lake Elsinore Valley

Lake Elsinore Valley Its Story by Tom HudsonPrehistory

  • Luiseno Indians, the earliest known inhabitants, call the lake Entengvo Wumoma, which freely translates into Hot Springs by the Little Sea.
  • Native American pictographs can be found on rocks on the Ortega Mountains and samples are also on display at the Historical Society Museum.

Machado adobe gatewaySettlement

  • Spaniards call the lake Laguna Grande; later part of the Mexican land grant, Rancho La Laguna
  • The 12,832 acre California Rancho is acquired and settled by Don Agustin Machado in 1858
  • The Machado's adobe house becomes part of the historic Butterfield stage route, as a relay station for mail and passengers, and still stands today near Grand Avenue

City Founder Margaret C. GrahamFounders

  • In 1883, the Machado Rancho is sold to City founder Franklin Heald for $24,000, realizing a dream that will endure and evolve as the future City of Lake Elsinore
  • City founders include Franklin Heald, Donald Graham, William Collier, and Margaret Collier Graham (sister to William and wife to Donald)
  • Margaret picks the name "Elsinore" because she likes the sound, a name taken from Shakespeare's Hamlet
  • It is the first 'brand' of three the City will later adopt

Lake Elsinore birds eye view looking northCityhood

  • Residents vote to incorporate on April 9, 1888
  • City officially incorporated on April 20, 1888
  • At the time, Elsinore is in San Diego County
  • In 1893, the City becomes part of the newly formed County of Riverside

View of Main Street in 1887Boom Town

  • In 1888, City population is approximately 1,000
  • The town boasts a variety of stores, a lumberyard, daily mail service, brick buildings downtown, and good water, soil and climate for agriculture

Crescent Bath HouseHealing Waters

  • As a prominent stop along the Butterfield Stage Route, word of the City's healing mineral and sulphur water quickly spreads
  • From the beginning, the City's mineral springs attract visitors seeking therapeutic treatments
  • Built in 1887, the Crescent Bath House, better known as The Chimes, still stands in historic downtown and is a registered national historic site

Santa Fe Train Depot in Lake ElsinoreIndustries

  • In 1888, the industries that support the economy include coal and clay mining, gold mining, ranching and agriculture (fruit, nuts)
  • The Good Hope Mine yields two million dollars worth of gold during working years and is operated on and off for 90 years before high groundwater ends its run
  • Railroad first serves the town in 1885; the Sante Fe train depot still stands at the corner of Graham Avenue and Spring St. and now serves as the Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce headquarters

Boat Races on Lake ElsinoreA Golden Age

  • The 1920s establish Elsinore as a playground for the rich and glamorous
  • The Valley hosts Olympic teams for training and high speed boat racing

First African-American Mayor T. YarboroughPost WW II

  • In 1964, Elsinore elects California's first African-American Mayor, Thomas R. Yarborough, who was elected to the City Council in 1948
  • In the 1950s, the lake goes completely dry for the first time in recorded history, which lasts a period of 10 years
  • 1964 sees the first artificial filling of the lake with water from the Colorado River, delivered via Metropolitan Water District's Colorado River Aqueduct
  • Skylark Airport, located in the floodplain south of the lake, emerges as a world class sky diving drop zone

Lake view from lookoutIt's the Lake

  • By popular vote, in 1972 citizens approve a new name: the City of Lake Elsinore
  • This name change is favored as a way to promote the City as a lake-oriented destination area
  • The state of California Parks and Recreation Department owns the lake and a campground recreation area until 1993, when the lake assets and water rights are turned over to the City and EVMWD

Lake flooding in the early 1980sNature's Way

  • In 1981 and 1983, as a result of El Nino conditions, Lake Elsinore sees the worst flooding in recorded history; a souvenir flood booklet quickly sells out
  • The 6,000 acre lake and back basin fills with runoff from the San Jacinto River, flooding parts of Grand Avenue and Corydon Road, knocking out power for days; homes are lost and rebuilding is banned

Lake Elsinore Management Plan diagramImproved water quality benefits Lake recreationA Second Chance for the Lake

  • In 1984, the Lake Elsinore Management Project is lobbied for in Washington, D.C. by Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District and the City, who are successful in obtaining a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Small Projects Act loan and grant of $39.6 million to build the project
  • The project is sold to residents as ending the cycle of flood and drying, fish kills and algal blooms with construction of an earthen levee, project wells and a new inlet channel and outlet channel (a separate project). The LEMP project is completed in 1995.
  • In 1997 EVMWD and the City create a landmark Recycled Water Task Force, to explore the acceptability of using recycled water to supplement the lake in dry years
  • State voters approve $15 million in bonds to create the Lake Elsinore and San Jacinto Watersheds Authority, or LESJWA, which develops and constructs projects to improve water quality and habitat in the lake and surrounding watershed
  • Nearly ten years after the Recycle Water Task Force, Lake Elsinore becomes the first natural lake in California to win approval from the state for use of recycled water, which is safe for full body contact

Diamond StadiumBaseball & Beyond

  • Historic Main Street and City Hall are completely renovated in 1989
  • The Lake Elsinore Outlet Center opens in 1991, boasting over 100 factory outlets
  • Professional baseball comes to town with the opening of the Lake Elsinore Diamond in 1994, home of the Lake Elsinore Storm, an affiliate of the Anaheim Angels and later, with the San Diego Padres

Celebrating 120 years 1888-2008Dream Extreme

  • A new logo and slogan 'Dream Extreme' are adopted in 2006 to catch up the City's image with robust economic progress during the largest growth boom in the City's history
  • Lake Elsinore's population is nearly 50,000 in 2007
  • For the third time since the City's founding, a distinctive brand identity is used to position the City for the future: Dream Extreme!
  • Major "big box" retailers and dozens of new retail and commercial businesses open between 2006 and 2008
  • In 2008, the City celebrates its 120th anniversary, choosing the theme 'The Spirit of the Dream' to honor the founders and those who have forged the City's progress to date
  • As one citizen puts it, "Dream Extreme means when you look back on your life 20 years from now, you can say you've lived it your way, and you did it right here, in Lake Elsinore." We couldn't agree more!


  • Hudson, Tom: Lake Elsinore Valley, its story 1776 to 1977.
  • Published for Lake Elsinore Valley Bicentennial Commission by Laguna House, 1978.

Photo Credits

  • Ruth Atkins, Lake Elsinore Historical Society
  • Mike Norkin, Cherished Memories Photography
  • Mark Dennis, City of Lake Elsinore
  • Hermann Dreier, Lake Elsinore Historical Society
  • George Bloomfield, Bloomfield Group, Inc.