From the Archives: Thirty-five lakes created in Newberry Springs

March 27, 1965: Eugene Cowell fishes from Tiki house in his one-acre lake, one of the 35 which have
March 27, 1965: Eugene Cowell fishes from Tiki house in his one-acre lake, one of the 35 which have blossomed in the desert community of Newberry Springs.
(John Malmin / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

Retired Marine Eugene Cowell raised fish in his lake to restock other nearby lakes. Cowell told staff photographer John Malmin that catfish come to the surface and eat hamburger from the hand of his wife, Bobbie.

Staff writer Richard West reported in the May 10, 1965, Los Angeles Times:

NEWBERRY–Tapping of a mighty underground river is turning this Mojave Desert community, pioneered by homesteaders, into a lush valley of lakes.

The 35 lakes which dot the floor of the valley tucked among the Calico, Newberry and Cady Mountains, 20 miles east of Barstow, range in size from a half to 28 acres.


New lakes are going in all the time, too. Permanent and weekend residents find that it costs about $2,500 to put in a lake covering one acre of land. The bill to maintain it is less than for a backyard-type swimming pool.

The underground river is changing the social and economic life of the 80-square-mile area where once about the only recreation for the homesteader was to sit on the front stoop and watch the change of shadows on surrounding mountains. Now there is fishing, boating, swimming and water skiing.

Such freshwater fish as bass, catfish and bluegill thrive in the lakes. Water-fowl of all kinds – ducks, geese, mud hens–are beginning to make the lakes a regular stop on their way north and south.…

Geologists believe the source of most of the water is an underground flow from the dry-as-dust appearing Mojave River, according to real estate man William A. Burhler, who came to the desert 11 years ago from Los Angeles. …


Another geological feature that contributes to Newberry’s abundance of water is a big north-to-south subterranean dike that causes the water to “back up” under the area.

“The water table here averages about 30 feet,” Buehler said. “But sometime you need to drill down only six feet or as much as 60 feet to hit it.” …

In 1956, the late Ira Howard bulldozed a four-foot deep depression over a five-acre section of his land and pumped it full of underground water. This was Newberry’s first lake.

Howard planted trees and shrubs around its rim and stocked it with fish. Today this lake, now owned by Hal Burdick of Upland, has the sylvan look of lakes you find in such watery spots as Michigan and Wisconsin. …

These two photos by John Malmin accompanied West’s story in the May 10, 1965, Los Angeles Times. The panorama below was made from three separate black-and-white prints. Malmin wrote on back of the assembled panorama, “This five-acre lake was the first one put in at Newberry. It was built in 1956 by the late Ira Howard and is now owned by Hal Burdick. Like all 35 lakes in this Mojave Desert community, it is fed from an underground river and stocked with warm water fish. Waterfowl stop at the lakes on their way north and south.“

April 27, 1965: Five-acre lake buit in 1956 in Newberry, CA. It was the first of 35 lakes built in t
April 27, 1965: Five-acre lake buit in 1956 in Newberry. It was the first of 35 lakes built in the desert community fed by an underground river.
(John Malmin / Los Angeles Times )

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