Camp Elwell

Elwell Lakes Lodge was started in 1920 by William Drew, a resident of Burlingame, California.  He had been visiting the area in 1919 with a fishing buddy and was asked to run Lakes Center Lodge while the widow of the owner was away.  He liked the area so well that the next year he began building and operating nearby a tent cabin facility.  Three meals a day, hot water in a shower house, and men's and women's outhouses were offered as conveniences to those who wished to not camp on the ground.  

People arrived at the lodge by train, coming into the station at Blairsden and then driven by ‘car stage’ to the lodge, about a 12 mile ride on a dirt road. Various events such as costume parties, dances, and campfires kept the guests entertained in the evening after a day of hiking, fishing, or horseback riding.  By the mid-twenties a large recreation hall and dining hall were completed and then the guests could gather around the fireplace at night after a hearty meal in the building on the hill.  When the Depression came, people did not frequent the lodges as much, though the resorts continued to operate.  

Board cabins began to be built in the 1930’s to appeal to those who wished to escape the bugs and other animals.  By the 1960’s people tended to camp more, so Mr. Drew’s daughter, Miriam Childs, who now owned the lodge, changed the lodge to housekeeping cabins to appeal to a new clientele.  By the late 1980’s, the Lakes Basin had been rediscovered by the public, and the lodges were booming once again.  

John and Sugie Barker, Miriam Childs' daughter, took advantage of the renewed interest to grow the lodge to it's current size of ten cabins and three tent cabins. They created a large following, with guests coming back year after year, until their retirement in 2022. The two big buildings, even after more than 99 years, reflect the craftsmanship of Mr. Drew and his vision of a summer resort in the mountains of Plumas National Forest.

Still owned and operated by the original family, Elwell Lakes Lodge is now run by their son, Jeremy Barker and his wife, Vanessa Barker.  

Old photos
A group of ladies in the 1920's around the campfire circle with Miriam Drew
Friends and Family around the campfire
A view of the center of Camp Elwell with several tent cabins, Mrs Drew and Miriam Drew in foreground
Some of the many tent cabins on the grounds of Camp Elwell
Inside the first recreation hall tent in the 1920's with ladies reading and writing
The first Recreation Hall in the 1920's was in a tent cabin
Mr. and Mrs. Marcus arriving at Camp Elwell about 1924 with baby beside the camp car
The Marcus Family arriving at Camp Elwell in 1923
Camp Elwell Stage car with driver and woman guest
The Camp Elwell stage which picked up guests from the train in Blairsden
The Drew family standing next to the lodge truck just before they depart for home about 1935
The Drew Family ready to depart for the season about 1935
The Dining Hall being constructed in the early 1920's with no windows or shutters
The Dining Hall being constructed in the early 1920's
A group of men and women from Elwell in the 1920's at the shore of Big Bear Lake
Happy Elwell campers visiting Big Bear Lake 1920's
Bill Drew reading from a paper at the door of the office in the 1920's, the office is now Andrews Cabin
Bill Drew announcing the day's events at the door of the Office, now Andrews Cabin

Elwell Lakes Lodge will be open from June 3 to October 1 in 2023

Elwell Lakes Lodge is operated under a special use permit issued by the Plumas National Forest and is an equal opportunity recreation services provider