DeChambeau Ranch, CA 2021
DeChambeau Ranch, CA 2021

DeChambeau Ranch, CA 2021

DeChambeau Ranch, CA 2021

Peek around the corner of Mono Lake, just outside of Yosemite National Park, to find this gem. Wide-open blue skies and unmatchable night scenery will inspire volunteers for long after this project is over.

PROJECT PARTNER: Inyo National Forest

DATES: July 11-16, July 18-23, July 25-30, August 1-6

HistoriCorps projects are free for volunteers! The majority of project costs are covered by our project partners and grants, but as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, HistoriCorps relies on donations to continue training volunteers and youth to save significant historical sites across America for generations to come. Your donation of any amount will make an incredible difference! Increase your impact – make a generous gift today.

Project Site Description & History

The DeChambeau Ranch, less than 25 miles from Yosemite National Park, was established in 1871 on the shores of Mono Lake. Its viability rose and fell with the nearby mining communities it supported, including the notorious, raucous boomtown of Bodie, CA. Mining towns like Bodie relied on a variety of support services, from bankers to help manage the newfound riches; to lawyers who negotiated whose claim was whose; to ranchers and farmers who provided food for livestock and the miners themselves. The sheep, cattle, chickens, alfalfa, and vegetables produced by the DeChambeau Ranch ensured Bodie’s population had food to eat. Established by an Italian immigrant named Nicholas Dondero, the ranch was later purchased and operated by Louis DeChambeau, hence its current name.

The property and water rights were acquired by the Forest Service through a land exchange in 1992. The ranch is one of the jewels of the Mono Basin Scenic area.  It is rich in wildlife and the historic landscape represents a bygone era. The old ranch buildings are managed in an “arrested state of decay” and are periodically stabilized to ensure their public enjoyment long into the future. Volunteers on this project will be restoring the main building’s cedar shingle roof – and we promise, the views are better up top!

At more than one million years old, Mono Lake is one of North America’s most ancient. It boasts a high salt content (a swim in the lake is an interesting experience!) and has no outlet. Artists from all over the world come to the Mono Basin to take advantage of almost-unmatched photography opportunities. Clear skies, incredible landscape textures, and out-of-this world scenery like the tufa towers in Mono Lake, shown below, offer endless subjects for the lens. Mono Basin is the ancestral home of the Kootzaduka’a people; they call the area Kootzagwae. Learn more about the tribe here

Sometimes called “the Gateway to Yosemite National Park” given its memorable scenery, the ranch is now part of Inyo National Forest’s Mono Basin Scenic Area. This unique area will be a delight to explore and learn about, both for its natural and historic landscapes. Established in 1984, this the first USFS Scenic Area. The area’s visitor center has exhibits, a video about the region, and more to help visitors better understand why this place is special. Volunteers can also read a travelogue by AWanderFilledLife to learn about tourism opportunities, and visit the Mono Lake Committee’s website to find extensive information on the human and natural history in the area.

We are very lucky to have access to a transcribed oral history of one man’s memories of growing up at the DeChambeau Ranch. Read the stories of Norm Dechambeau as shared by the Mono Basin Historial Society’s here. The DeChambeau family purchased this ranch in 1906 for $2,000, including not only the land, but also the livestock, water rights, buildings and farm equipment – quite the bargain in 2021 dollars!

An excerpt from Norm’s history is included below and you can read the full story here.

“Well, I already talked about my stepmother, and so here I am, 75 years later, trying to tell you what the history of this place is. If you looked about as you came in here, and you turned to come down this lane here, the old County Road, just as you turned in and came through the wire fence, that was the Gardelia place. They were the first to settle here, Mr. Gardelia who came from Genoa, NV. He came here in 1871 and he homesteaded that area. Well, actually he squatted on it and ten years later he finally got a homestead on it. So he lived there, and he had a fellow named, Nicholas Dondero, and this is where the Dondero family comes in…”

Register to help preserve this fantastic ranch, so it can continue to contribute to the cultural and historic landscape of the Mono Basin Scenic Area!

The famous limestone “tufa towers” in Mono Lake

Graceful poplars shade the historic main house of the DeChambeau Ranch

Clear night skies in this high desert environment provide incredible opportunities for photography. This shot of the DeChambeau Ranch at night was taken by Tim Messick and is shared on his website.

Our primary task of work will be cedar shingling.

Mono Lake as seen from Mount Dana

The Inyo National Forest has a fantastic and informative video about its features and activities. You’ll certainly be inpsired to visit after watching it!

Logistics & More

SESSION DATES:  July 11-16, July 18-23, July 25-30, and August 1-6

Plan to arrive between 6pm and 8pm on the first day of your project session, and depart after lunch on the last day. Work will generally start around 8am each day, and we’ll wrap up around 4pm.

MAP to DECHAMBEAU RANCH

PROJECT DIFFICULTY:

SITE INFORMATION:   Tent camping only.  Site is RV/trailer accessible

We will have special privilege to camp right onsite at the ranch! HistoriCorps will haul in water for cooking, drinking, and handwashing. There are no hookups and the ground may not be perfectly level.

Scope of Work

HistoriCorps is committed to educating and training volunteers in preservation skills, with an overarching mission of inspiring a preservation ethic in all those involved. Learning and working alongside expert HistoriCorps field staff, volunteers will learn these traditional skills necessary to restore the roof of the main building at DeChambeau Ranch.

  • Remove wood shingles from the roof: 20%
  • Repair and replace roof decking: 20%
  • Install new wood shingles: 60%

Please note: Tasks vary by day and by week, depending on a variety of factors including: weather, project priorities, previous groups’ work, and more. Though it is likely you will get to learn and practice most or all of the above tasks, it is not guaranteed. The higher percentage of the scope a particular task is, the more likely you will get to practice it.

Sign Up!

We’re so glad this preservation project has inspired you to volunteer. Choose your session and register at the links below! Volunteer registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Once you complete your registration, you’re confirmed – and we’ll plan on seeing you onsite!

HistoriCorps does not charge for its volunteering projects. HistoriCorps relies on donations to continue engaging volunteers to save significant historical sites across America for generations to come. Your donation of any amount will make an incredible difference! Increase your impact – make a generous gift today.

Need-to-Know and FAQ

We’re so glad you’re interested in joining this project! If you’re new to our community, review the Volunteer FAQ first! Please note the following logistics and policies:

  • Review our COVID protocols here
  • Volunteering with HistoriCorps is free! We will provide all meals, tools, training, equipment, and a campsite or shared indoor lodging. Dinner is not provided on the first night.
  • Volunteers are responsible for bringing their own gear, sturdy work clothes and boots, and appropriate sleeping equipment. Check the average temperatures before you start packing – the nights and mornings may be colder than you anticipate! Then, read this advice about how to stay warm when tent camping in colder places.
  • Campsite accessibility varies by project. Some projects can accommodate tents only; others can accommodate small RVs. Please review the project site description above for more information, and if you’re still not sure, email volunteer@historicorps.org for help.
  • If this project does not offer showers, you might want to consider bringing a solar shower or research other methods to clean up after the work day.
  • Volunteer crew sizes generally range from 4-8 volunteers, with two HistoriCorps staff that lead and train volunteers in the work.
  • Safety is one of HistoriCorps’ top priorities, and volunteers can contribute to a safe working environment by ensuring their physical fitness is adequate for the work. See above for this project’s scope of work and difficulty level. Please, call us if you are not quite sure if a project is a good fit for your skills or fitness level. We may be able to suggest a project more suitable and enjoyable for you.
  • Dogs are generally allowed to accompany their humans in project campsites (actually, we love having dogs join us around the campfire!). Dogs are not permitted on the job site for everyone's safety. HOWEVER: HistoriCorps also follows the rules and regulations of our project partner. If the project partner does not permit dogs onsite then HistoriCorps is no exception. Please ask HistoriCorps or the project partner directly if you have any questions about whether Fido is welcome.