Drakesbad Guest Ranch is a special place nestled in a valley of the Cascade mountain range. Originally called “Hot Spring Valley,” it’s now simply known as Drakesbad. The current guest house and ranch were operated for over sixty years by the Sifford family. Alexander was a teacher in Susanville, CA, about 54 miles away. To keep his family of a wife and two children afloat, he also worked nights keeping books for the local bank. The long hours began to take toll on his health. In the spring of 1900, a co-worker at the bank recommended that he go out to Drake’s camp and drink the spring waters: “It’ll help you!”
Alexander, his wife Pearl and six-year-old son Roy made the two-day journey to Drake’s in a horse-drawn wagon. Three days after that, Alexander had bought the whole place from pioneer Edward Drake. Drake was in his 70s and had been operating a camp and rustic hot springs spa for anyone who chanced to come by. When Alex put in his offer, Drake saw that the Siffords would care for the place and welcome nature lovers and health seekers. Two weeks after that handshake deal, Alex, Ida, Roy and Pearl (the daughter who missed the first trip on account of the mumps) were back in that remote Cascade valley as proprietors. Several years later, they renamed it Drakesbad, in honor of the pioneering original owner.
Over the next sixty years, they made improvements to the road, the cabins and lodge, meadows and horse stables and welcomed summer visitors. But, by design, Drakesbad remained remote and rustic. This is still true today. Electricity comes from a generator – only for part of the day. It’s one of few places where kerosene lamps are a necessity! Roads are improved, but not expanded. There is no road connecting Drakesbad with the Park Headquarters of Manzanita Lake in the western section of the park. Drakesbad Guest House has been part of the National Park since 1961 when Roy Sifford, who operated it for many years after his parents, sold it to the NPS after they spent several years trying to acquire it.
In 1916 Congress established Lassen Volcanic National Park as the fifteenth national park in the United States. Privately held Drakesbad bordered the park in the southeast corner. The Sifford family continued to run their beloved Guest Ranch as good neighbors of the Park Service each summer for forty-two years. To preserve the Ranch and guarantee continued quality service for generations to come, Drakesbad was sold to the US government in 1958 for inclusion in to Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Click here to begin a wonderful pictorial journey through the historic archives of Drakesbad Guest Ranch. We are grateful to NPS Volunteer Researcher, Dr. Tandy Bozeman of Lake Almanor, California.