History of Fish Lake
Fish Lake has enjoyed a colorful history depicting various eras of travel through the Cascades. Indian tribes visited the area during the spring and summer months to hunt, fish and collect huckleberries as they travelled across the slopes to trade with neighboring tribes.
The first structure at Fish Lake was a roadhouse built in 1867 by the Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountain Wagon Road Company to accommodate travelers along the Santiam Wagon Road. Fish Lake was also a popular camping area. It was common to see 100 wagons or more camped near the lakeshore between the months of July and September. A pioneer gravesite and sections of the original stone corral remain at the site. Additional buildings that can be seen at Fish Lake today include the barn and blacksmith shop, which were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s.
Fish Lake was first used by the US Forest Service as a Ranger outpost in 1905. For a period of time during the 1920s, it served as the field and dispatch headquarters for the Santiam National Forest. It was officially used as a remount depot until 2005. The buildings continue to provide lodging and workspace for Forest Service personnel. Activities at the site now focus on interpretation, historic preservation and landscape restoration.
The Packers of Fish Lake
The Remount Depot originally served as a field office where Forest Service personnel including firefighters and wilderness guards could rest with their pack animals and stock-up on valuable supplies. Pack animals typically carried food, tents, and field gear. As many as 20 horses or mules were hitched together in a single packstring.
A packer stationed at Fish Lake from 1971 to 1984 named Lloyd Van Sickle, helped protect a number of the historic buildings from being burned due to a lack of maintenance funds. He also worked on projects to restore the site. The last Fish Lake packer and pack string passed through the site in 2005, 100 years after the depot was established.