As we utter the final rites of Atascadero Lake, now almost a puddle, a friend asked me about the “other” Atascadero Lake.
Another smaller lake, currently dry, existed about three-quarters of a mile west of Atascadero Lake.
I have written about the smaller lake over the past 40 years only to wonder why it is there in the first place.
The lake only appears with any significance during our wet years. It sits in an area bounded by Morro Road, Old Morro Road East, San Rafael Road and even Chandler Lane. In fact, the area is known to locals as the Chandler Ranch.
You can’t see the lake from Morro Road, which passes by the earthen dam. That dam, by the way, is very tall and was obviously manmade. I don’t think it is as tall as the dam that holds back the water in Atascadero Lake, but it is pretty tall. I climbed to the top of it last Friday morning to check it out.
You can see the dam while you are stopped at the intersection of Old Morro Road East and Morro Road. Locals will remember that there are three sections of the original “Highway to the Sea” (as founder E.G. Lewis referred to it) — Old Morro Road East, Old Morro Road and finally Old Morro Road West.
At the base of the dam is a rusted steel pipe encased in concrete, obviously intended to take water from the lake. I didn’t see any valve attached to the open end of the pipe, but it could have been bolted where the empty holes now exist. Unchecked, the water from this little lake would have flowed right into Atascadero Creek, about 200 feet away. I believe the lake was filled by the same runoff from the nearby hills that feed into Atascadero Lake.
The U.S. Army found the 23,000-acre ranch perfect for a military training center, pointing to the fact there were “two favorable sites for storage of large bodies of water” with one of them being Atascadero Creek and the other along Graves Creek. The Army also noted the existence of 17 natural springs on the ranch and in the nearby hills. There was no mention of a standing body of water that is Atascadero Lake in the Army report.
I have always wondered who built that other dam. It is quite tall and wide. It is obviously manmade. I have never read a word about its creation in any of the known historical documents about Atascadero. But old timers refer to the lake I’m writing about as the “Army Lake.” It is believed the Army created the dam for a water supply for the horses.
Even when it is full of water, it is a secret lake shared by a small group of property owners.