Old Mammoth… A Neighborhood Rich In History and Real Estate

The Old Mammoth neighborhood is unquestionably the most diverse and storied neighborhood in all of Mammoth Lakes.

The early inhabitants evolved from native American Indians to the miners of the gold rush days to hunting lodges to Hollywood celebrities. Today it is a broad mix of old and new properties, little old cabins to multimillion dollar homes. Most of the Old Mammoth neighborhood is densely forested with pines and firs and has rich soil. Mammoth Creek flows through the northern half and Old Mammoth Road cuts through the middle. The subdivisions of Mammoth Camp Tract 1 & 2 were named from the mining days and were laid to paper in the 1920’s. And there are some later, modern subdivisions including The Bluffs, Mammoth Park and Laurel Meadows.

Mammoth Camp Tract Comprises the Majority of the Old Mammoth Neighborhood

The Mammoth Camp Tract lots are the majority of the neighborhood and are irregular and substandard in many ways. The lot lines were drawn with little attention to topography and natural features. Power and telephone lines have been above ground for decades. A rare real estate occurrence is prolific in the area; accretion. Accretion is the slow downstream movement of physical land. This is due to Mammoth Creek and other smaller seasonal streams that used to flow through the area that have recently been channeled into new storm drains. Basically, the exact 1920 lot lines and corners no longer exist.

Those lot lines and corners were established with crude engineering tools. David Laverty was the foremost civil engineer in Mammoth for decades. He was known to say that if he used modern surveying equipment and started surveying at one end of Old Mammoth that by the time he got to the other side there would be lots missing. And vice versa. But it has never become contentious. The surveyors and engineers have had to make compromises and judgement calls in the area. It is an interesting real estate concept. The only true solution would be to survey all the lot lines and corners and have a massive boundary agreement signed by all owners. But that is unlikely to ever happen.

Real Estate in Old Mammoth Dates Back to the Early 1900’s

Some of the original log cabins in the area still exist as well as historic Forest Service type cabins. The land to west of Old Mammoth and below the Mammoth Creek falls was a popular hunting camp in the early 1900’s. Eventually the Valentine family came to own the majority of the land except for one small inholding. In the early 1960’s the property was donated to the University of California as an ecological reserve for graduate studies. Some of the historic cabins still exist on the property. There are fences and No Trespassing signs on the perimeter of the property. There are annual events where the public is invited in. Today it is also home to a substantial wildlife.

In the 1990’s the Town was able to use grants to purchase much of the undeveloped and undevelopable lots along Mammoth Creek. Today there are bike path segments, bridges and connectors in this area so the public can enjoy the lovely creek environment.

In the 1930’s and 40’s a small motel and lodging district developed along Old Mammoth Road just west of where the Snowcreek Athletic Club is. This was the beginning of a more sophisticated tourism business in the area. This was a convenient location for those wishing to head up Old Mammoth Road and into the Lakes Basin. Many of those old motels are still standing and have been converted to apartments for local residents. Due to the historic zoning, today the immediate area is a mix of minor lodging, apartments new and old, small condo projects, a large Town sponsored housing project, a small Mammoth Community Water District plant, and single family homes.

The bulk of the old Mammoth Camp Tract properties are zoned Rural Residential. This is the only location for this zoning in Mammoth. There is even a small area that has an equestrian overlay where horses are allowed. The small meadow at the corner of Tamarack St. and Old Mammoth was once owned by cowboy/Gunsmoke actor James Arness and was known for years as the Arness meadow. Down the street from there is a large very funky home from the 1960’s that was once owned by the Smothers Brothers and purportedly had a reputation for wild parties in the day.

Luxury Homes in The Bluffs

The Bluffs subdivision is at the end of Old Mammoth Road in the far southwest corner of Mammoth Lakes. It is one of the premier real estate areas in Mammoth today and features massive homes on larger lots. Many have spectacular views and some lots are on the Forest Service boundary line. The area is on a plateau that rises 300 feet higher than the balance of Old Mammoth. It has a very interesting and storied past. The subdivision was part of the original 1920’s Mammoth Camp Tract lots. But there were never utilities brought to this area and the streets were never improved. By 1990 there were only two historic cabins on the property and one owner still owned 70% of the lots.

The balance were lots owned by individuals and even some entities that had inherited them (like the Archdiocese of Stockton). A development play was initiated in 1990 but the poor economy ended that. Also, a huge challenge was to develop the property with the existing and archaic lot lines. Oddly but fortuitously, the bulk of the property ended up (after a sheriff’s sale) in the hands of a Temecula rancher in 1995 and he shrewdly orchestrated an assessment district with the Town, redrew the subdivision to modern standards and eventually pushed the development through. Today, The Bluffs has some of the most spectacular homes in all of Mammoth Lakes.

The Old Mammoth neighborhood is very popular with many long-time local residents. Some “wouldn’t live anywhere else.” But it has become increasingly popular with second homeowners as well. And some have built massive homes along the old creek properties and in the south end above Snowcreek golf course. Many simply prefer “being out of town.” The neighborhood is just one of the many interesting and different choices within the Mammoth real estate market.