RICHARD L. P. BIGELOW
Under the wise provision of the national legislation relative to the establishing and maintaining of forest reserves in various parts of the country the timber supply is to some measure at least being conserved, and among the various national forests in California one of the most interesting is the Tahoe National Forest, of which Richard L. P. Bigelow is the supervisor, a position he has held for the past twenty-three years. This forest is situated mainly in Placer, Nevada and Sierra counties, of California, and Washoe County, Nevada. Its boundaries include one million, one hundred and eighty-one thousand, seven hundred sixty-seven acres. It lies on both sides of the Sierra Nevadas and includes many peaks along the Sierra summit which are more than nine thousand feet high. The east and west sides of the forest differ widely in general characteristics. The east, after an abrupt descent from the main crest, is mostly level or rolling hill country, while the west side is cut by a series of deep river canyons divided by ridges which sometimes broaden out into heavily timbered plateaus. The main streams of the forest are the various branches of the American and Yuba rivers on the west and the Truckee River on the east of the mountains. Sierra Valley, which is thirty miles long and ten miles wide, is the largest agricultural valley at high altitude in the Sierra Nevadas. Various state highways now traverse the forest in various directions so that the tourist can readily reach almost all sections of the park. Various kinds of timber are found in this forest, including yellow pine, Douglas and white fir, incense cedar on the western slope, sugar pine, tamarack, Jeffrey pine and red fir at the higher elevations, the big sequoia trees on the foresthill divide, knob cone pine, California black oak, Pacific yew and other species in the foothills of the west slope. Conservation of water for irrigation and for power development is one of the chief functions of the Tahoe Forest, there being a number of reservoirs and lakes, so that hydro-electric power is transmitted from the Tahoe Forest to San Francisco and Bay cities, while water from this forest irrigates thousands of acres of intensively farmed fruit lands and supplies many towns in the Sacramento Valley. The lands of the forest are extensively used as grazing range by many stock ranchers whose own lands do not furnish sufficient forage the year round. The ranges of the forest now furnish forage for about thirteen thousand head of cattle and one hundred thousand head of sheep. The Tahoe Forest is estimated to contain seven billion feet of saw timber and two hundred thousand cords of firewood. The present cut of timber from the government-owned land in this forest, under scientific forestry practice, amounts to approximately ten million feet a year. The recreational value of the Tahoe National Forest lies chiefly in its numerous lakes, the largest of which is Lake Tahoe, twenty-three miles long and thirteen miles wide, while another well known one is Donner Lake, named from the ill fated party which perished there of cold and hunger in the winter of 1846-47. Good fishing and hunting, as well as scenic attractions and fine automobile roads, contribute to making the Tahoe reserve one of the most popular recreation grounds of California, while winter sports attract large numbers of people. The forest service has established four improved camp sites, which are provided with full sanitary conveniences and supervised by forest officers located at or near the camps. Summer home sites may also be rented, as well as land for garages, stores and summer resorts, or for camp sites for private clubs, Boy Scouts, and municipal and other organizations. Information regarding the Tahoe National Forest is gladly furnished by the supervisor or his nine rangers, who are located at convenient points. The forest offers many attractions to the tourist or camper. Its historical background includes old placer and hydraulic mines and the towns which sprang up at the time of the gold rush. Across it the first railroad to the Pacific coast was built in 1865, and its lakes and mountains are typical of the mountain scenery.
Richard L. P. Bigelow was born in Oakland, California, April 3, 1874, a son of Henry Holmes and Mary Derby (Smith) Bigelow; both now deceased, the father having died in 1910, at the age of eighty years, while the mother passed away in 1886, at the age of fifty-five years. Both parents were born and reared in New England, but were married in Cincinnati, Ohio. The father had come to California in 1850 and mined in this state for a few years, after which he returned east and was married. There also he engaged in the insurance business, but in 1864 he and his wife came to California and located in San Francisco, where Mr. Bigelow again engaged in the fire insurance business, being one of the pioneer insurance men of that city.
Richard L. P. Bigelow attended the public schools of San Francisco, after which he engaged in the real estate business, being connected with the firm of Shainwald Buckbee & Company, now Buckbee & Thorn. Two years later, in 1892, he went to Fresno County, this state, and was there engaged in ranching and stockraising until 1902, when he was appointed a forest ranger. His faithful and efficient service won him promotions and in 1908 he was appointed supervisor of the Tahoe forest reserve, which responsible position he has held continuously to the present time, and his long retention in this position standing in unmistakable evidence of the satisfactory character of his service. During this period, covering altogether twenty-nine years, he has fought many forest fires, the worst of which occurred in 1924, when twenty-eight thousand acres of timber were destroyed in one fire and a total of ninety-eight thousand acres of standing timber for the year. An average of fifty men are employed during the summer season and twenty during the winter, or rainy season.
In 1893, at Fresno, California, Mr. Bigelow was united in marriage to Miss Sarah Frances Hiatt, who was born in England, but was reared in New Zealand. They are the parents of a daughter, Frances Gwendolen, now the wife of H. S. Anderson, who is in the employ of the Union Oil Company, at Lower Lake, California. Mr. Bigelow is a member of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks at Nevada City, of which he is a past exalted ruler; the Native Sons of the Golden West, the Improved Order of Red Men, the Woodmen, and the Lions Club, of which he is a past president. He is a lover of nature in all of its phases and moods and in his present position has abundant opportunity to observe practically all forms of natural phenomena, some beautiful and attractive and others unpleasant in the extreme. He takes a justifiable pride in the splendid service which he and his men have rendered, protecting the public interests in the conservation of the forest and affording the public unsurpassed opportunities for healthful and enjoyable recreation. He is well known to thousands who come to the Tahoe Forest annually and all who know him hold him in high regard for his uniform courtesy and kindness, as well as his valuable work.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.