Photo: Main Street Camanche before construction of Camanche Dam
When lack of gold or bad floods caused Lancha Plana and Campo Seco to die out, some residents moved to Camanche, taking some buildings (like the Campo Seco church) with them. A hotel offered rest on the Lodi and Mokelumne Hill stage coach route, and 20 bars offered entertainment. In the late 1870s, “Milco’s Buhach, Universal Insect Exterminator” was produced here – an insecticide powder made of dried chrysanthemum flowers.
The Lancha Plana Poverty Bar Ditch brought water to this town of 1,500 where one person in four was Chinese. Conflicts were common, including tong wars and bar brawls, but there were celebrations too, like Chinese New Year and Miwok pow-wows. Settlers used the main street as a horse race track. “It was a wild and wooly place,” said Sal Manna, a west Calaveras County historian, to the Lodi News. “There were a lot of knife fights, a lot of bars.”
EBMUD bought properties along the Mokelumne in the 1920s for Pardee and again in the 1960s to build Camanche Reservoir. Today, the towns of the California Gold Rush live on in our imagination. But you can embark on discoveries of your own and explore California history—you may be surprised at what you find.
The Lake Camanche Recreation Area is a public facility operated by agreement with the East Bay Municipal Utility District by the California Parks Company.
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