During the summer of 1917, preliminary surveys were made of the Cottonwood Lakes area in Inyo County, to ascertain whether it would be feasible to undertake the propagation of golden trout.
The Cottonwood Lakes are situated in a rugged, almost inaccessible section of Inyo County near the Tulare County line, at the head of Cottonwood Creek, at an elevation of 11,150 feet. The lakes were stocked in the early 1870's with golden trout from Mulkey Creek, a tributary to the South Fork of the Kern River. It was found that a number of small creeks flow into the lakes and furnish excellent spawning grounds for golden trout. Racks and traps were installed and arrangements made to be on the ground at the proper time the following season. Lumber, tools, tents, camp equipment, and supplies had to be transported by pack train from Lone Pine. The spawning crew reached the station in ample time to catch the first of the fish ascending the streams to spawn. Five hundred thousand eggs were taken and transported by pack animals to Mount Whitney Hatchery. The resulting fry were distributed in waters of that area.
The remoteness of the site from railroads, highways, or human habitation, the high altitude, and severe weather conditions make the trip during the spring months a hazardous undertaking. Nevertheless, the work has been continued and crews have gone into the lakes many seasons to obtain golden trout eggs. The early success of the operation was due to the skill and resourcefulness of George McCloud, who was in charge of Mount Whitney Hatchery and the golden trout egg collecting operations at Cottonwood Lakes during the period 1917 through 1941.