The following article was found in the Press and Horticulturist for September 19, 1902 (Page 16 of link)
Frank HEALD Says That the Winter of 1903-4 Will be a Corker for Rain and Things
Frank HEALD, who claims to have discovered lake Elsinore and who was one of the founders of the colony and city that bears this name, is now editing a magazine in San Francisco called Higher Science, and in the last number he publishes the following interesting article:
Great anxiety is felt in the West, and especially in Southern California, less the water supply will be insufficient to supply the demands of the increasing population and cultivation. The writer, however, believes that the winter of 1903-4 will remedy this apparent coming water famine and that thereafter for a period of ten years water will be as plentiful as from 1884 until 1894 – for the following experience and reasons: In 1883 I purchased La Laguna Rancho, in the northern part of San Diego county, and established the town and colony of Elsinore. At the time the Elsinore lake, known as “Big Laguna”, or “Laguna Granda” was almost entirely dry and covered a surface of less than 4000 acres. The whole section of Southern California was having a water famine, which had been gradually creeping on for about 10 years, and the wisest of our horticulturists were uneasy and really alarmed for the future water supply. During the survey of Elsinore colony, from July, 1883, until January, 1884 the lake was rapidly disappearing at a rate of 4 inches per day, and the permanency of the “beautiful mountain lake” which was being so industriously advertised, became a serious question. About the first of January I noticed some wild water fowl, apparently sitting in the air near the (then) middle of the lake, and, taking a small canvas boat, found the branches of a treetop sticking out of the water. After cutting these limbs off below the water level and sounding the bottom I found a sink of at least ten acres, which was about forty feet deeper than the balance of the lake bed, containing large dead willow and cottonwood trees, standing upright just as they had evidently grown. This of course, gave occasion for greater alarm.
Upon the grant there still lived the grand old Don Juan Machado, who was then the oldest living of the illustrious family of Californians of that name, who had occupied the rancho for many generations, and to him I at once repaired for information. After establishing a proper standing of sociability and confidence the honest and truthful old gentleman gave me what I believe to be an accurate history of the water supply for the last four hundred years, which had been kept by the family and gathered from the Indians and their histories and traditions – many of which are still written in symbols on the great smooth granite slabs and boulders around the lake, at Temecula, Warner’s ranch and other parts of the county. Not knowing my own discovery of trees in the lake, he described it all accurately, and said that: “Every twenty years great floods came and filled the lake full of water till it ran down the Temescal, to the Santa Ana, making a great river.” He said “it was always just twenty years from the time that the floods came until they came again, and it never failed but once.” That “once when his own grandfather was a boy and the lake dried up, the floods did not come, and did not come again until the next twenty years; that there was a great hot spring in the center of the lake (pointing out the exact location correctly). Containing many acres around it, which was a great deal deeper than the lake bed, and that during the twenty years, while it was dry, great trees grew there; that they were still covered in deep water; that he had once seen them himself, sixty years before, when the went almost dry.” He said: “You will soon see them stick out, but not long, because the flood will soon come. This is the year they are to come. It is just twenty years.
Then he showed me how the trading rats built away above highwater mark and we drove down the Temescal for twenty miles or more, observing this and a number of his other signs of wet weather, and a few days later drove to Temecula where the old German merchant, Louis Wolf, and the old Mission Indians corroborated his information. He was very much chagrined as day after day passed and the limbs of the trees did not show, until I explained the reason and the reason why I did not want the Americans to see them. We lived within a stone’s throw of each other – he in the old homestead and I in the old English ranch house – and one evening, about the middle of January, 1884, when I drove into the barn and was unhitching my team, he came over to me wearing a broad smile. Pointing to the top of the mountains, south of the lake towards the sea, he showed me a line of fogs or clouds rolling over the top and melting away, which he explained were the forerunners of the great floods.
Sure enough, the next day at noon it began to rain and before the end of the wet season it had rained 62 inches on that side of the lake, and 50 inches in the new town of Elsinore, on the northeast side. During the month of February we did not get a glimpse of the sun from the ranch house, and the lake filled, making the “beautiful mountain lake” an established fact for a least a dozen years. These experiences and histories having come under my observation during the past twenty years, has fixed in my mind a belief that the floods occur in Southern California exactly every twenty years, and that, therefore, we will need to be very careful of the water which falls the coming winter, and see that none of it shall be wasted by running to sea. The best way to store it is by winter irrigation. If it could be run out over the dry valleys and stored in the ground it would keep up the supplies below, during the next summer. It can be used any number of times between the mountain foothills and the seashore without injury, as it purifies itself by soaking through the soil. The best and cheapest reservoirs the government could possibly construct would not be dangerous dams in the mountain regions – but large winter irrigated farms on the higher lands. Keep them soaked full of winter rains; take out distributing ditches below wherever the water soaks by into the stream and keep on doing it and thus be sure no water runs into the sea, as long as there is room for it in the cultivatable land below its source.