The Henness Pass route over the Sierra Nevada, about halfway between Donner Pass (on the south) and Yuba Pass (on the north), had become a popular route into California by the 1850s. It avoided Donner Pass, which had acquired a sinister reputation due to the fate of the Donner party in the 1840s. A road was constructed along the route in the 1850s, and by the 1860s, with the discovery of silver in the Comstock Lode in Nevada, much traffic was now traveling back eastward, carrying supplies into Nevada.
The increased traffic motivated the construction of service establishments along the road, hotels in particular. At one point about 30 hotels lined the route. This one, the Webber Lake Hotel, is the last one remaining. It was built in 1860 by Dr. David Gould Webber, who purchased the area around Webber Lake as a ranch.
Webber operated the hotel until 1877, and ran it as a resort when traffic decreased on the Henness Pass Road due to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. William Henry Johnson purchased Webber Lake Ranch before the turn of the last century. It was used for summer sheep grazing, and for at least 60 years, Webber Lake became a private fishing lake.
For over a century, Webber Lake Ranch including Webber Lake and the hotel remained in private hands, but it was purchased in 2012 by the Truckee Donner Land Trust and is now accessible to the public. Although the hotel still stood, it was on the point of collapse and is now being restored as funds permit. A new concrete foundation was added in 2018-19, and much of the exterior carpentry has been repaired, but at present (2023) it is still incomplete and closed to the public. It is hoped to turn it into a museum once it is fully restored.
Know Before You Go
To get to Webber Lake take California State Route 89 14.5 miles north from Interstate 80 and turn left (west) on County/USFS Road 07, also called the Fiberboard Road or the Jackson Meadows Reservoir Road. This road is narrow but paved. It is 8 miles to the Webber Lake turnoff, which will be on the south (left) and is well marked.
While there Webber Lake offers recreational opportunities as well. Fishing (with a California license) and boating (less than 5 horsepower) are permitted, as well as unpowered craft such as kayaks and paddleboards. You must bring your own watercraft, however, as there are no rentals. Picnicking by the lake is also available, but bring your own food as there is no store. Lacey Meadow, southwest of the lake, is crossed by an easy and scenic hiking trail.
There is also a campground; check the website for reservation information.
While there Webber Falls is an easy side-trip, being about a mile downstream from the lake. The Fiberboard Road is not open in the winter except to snowmobiles when adequate snow cover exists.