A Lesson on Wishon History
History of Ownership:
Wishon Village was started in 1960 by Bill and Kathryn Jasper. It has been a family-owned and operated business ever since.
Wishon was created because of the dams put in at Courtright and Wishon, completed in 1958 by PG&E. After completion, the Forest Service put out a recreation permit to develop 40 acres. In those days it was a long dirt road to get to Wishon and the backcountry beyond.
Bill and Kathryn Jasper were crop dusters in Sanger, CA when they heard about the opportunity to buy and develop land at Wishon, and they loved the mountains! Bill & Kathryn along with fellow crop duster Bill Arave and wife Dottie, formed a partnership and submitted a bid with the Forest Service to develop a resort at Wishon Reservoir. The couples finally received word from the Forest Service almost a year later that they had placed the winning bid.
Around August 1, 1960, the Jaspers and Araves entered into a special use permit with the Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and immediately went to work.
Wishon Village officially opened for business in time for trout season in 1961. The Jasper’s and Arave’s stayed partners until 1966 when the Jaspers bought out the Arave’s.
Bill and Kathryn spent 40 years building and maintaining Wishon Village. They loved every minute of it until a tragic fire destroyed their home and everything they owned in February of 1998. This precipitated their retirement and move back to Sanger. At that time, they sold the resort to their daughter Dianne and granddaughter Bonny. Dianne and Bonny ran the resort until 2006.
In 2006, Dianne sold the resort to her Niece and Jasper’s granddaughter, Katie Oneida. Katie, her husband Kris, and their two boys, Braeden and Seth run and operate Wishon Village. It is their vision to see families coming up and enjoying each other and enjoying the outdoors. One of the first things to go after the Oneida’s took over was the bar, as this was not the atmosphere they wanted. They are very serious and committed to having a family-friendly park where rowdiness and loud partying are not tolerated. They pride themselves on being able to keep things as family-friendly as possible and their customers recognize this.
Construction of Wishon:
The work of developing the resort was long and hard. Rock walls to separate sites, water to find, water lines and electrical lines to lay, buildings and boat docks to build, land to be cleared and the list goes on. The workforce consisted mostly of family. Construction took many years and during the building years, people would stay in completed sites or pay tent rates for sites that were not yet full hookups.
Skeptics told Bill he was crazy to put in so many trailer sites as opposed to tent sites. They also told him he would never see the park full since it was at the end of a long dirt road(the road was paved in 1977). However, today we are continually turning customers away in the summer because we cannot accommodate the demand. Bill was quite the visionary, a majority of the sites are 40 feet wide and 60 feet deep, which is large, even by today’s standards. Imagine building sites this large when trailers in the ’60s were so small.
The store building, which is the same building today, was originally the schoolhouse during the construction of the Courtright and Wishon Dams. During the early years, the Jaspers would live in the back part of the store until their house was built in 1977.
Part of the store was the cafe. The check out for the store and the counter the guests would eat at were one and the same. The cafe was famous for its ¼ lb. Wishon Burger.
A tradition started by the Jaspers in the early years was the Wishon Hootenanny at the Outdoor Stage. A much-anticipated event at Wishon Village, they ran every Saturday night from 1961 until 1975 and sporadically after that. The hootenanny was often a sing-along where they would often act out the songs. Saturday night was followed by a church service on Sunday mornings at the Stage. Even today, we will occasionally have a nighttime event at the stage such as a magic show or a concert. And we still offer a church service on Sundays from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Bill Jasper required his daughter’s Dianne and Charlotte to be at the boat dock at daylight every morning. They remember shivering before sunrise waiting for the first fisherman. They had to be there early to collect the launching fee of 50 cents a boat. The fee was used for road maintenance from Lily Pad to the dock. Whoever was working that day was responsible for keeping the boats washed in addition to selling candy, cold drinks, cigarettes, and bait out of an ice chest.
Unlike today, Fishing was legal from dawn to dusk. It was very important for Wishon Village to be open for the start of trout season, the last weekend in April. Bill, on his TD-9 dozer, pushed through miles of snow to open the Black Rock road for the avid anglers’ to access. This process could take several weeks depending on the severity of the weather. Because trout fishing was illegal during the winter months, opening day was a much-anticipated event, drawing diehard fishermen from across the Valley.
Winter Months with the Jaspers
The Jaspers decided to move up to Wishon year around in 1963 and would snowshoe in and out for supplies in the winter. Bill completed building his snowcat in the mid-’60s, it was used to go to town for supplies during the winter months which was a 3-day affair. One day traveling out of Wishon to Black Rock, one-day getting supplies, and one-day getting back to Wishon. The family thought they were crazy, but they loved it. They would be up at Wishon for up to a month at a time before Bill would drive the snowcat into town for supplies. The snowcat served as their transportation until 1977 when PG&E began clearing the road.
Back in 2011, Kris and Katie asked a gentleman that restores old tractors to restore the snowcat. He insisted that there was no way Bill had built it from scratch. Well, after much research he found that it looked just like a snowcat built by the military. After more research he also came to the conclusion that yes, Bill had built it himself, using the military vehicle parts as a base.
The snowcat is now restored and is sitting in the campground.
Wishon Village Timeline
- 1960 Jaspers and Arraves submit a bid
- Fall of 1960 Permit awarded
- 1961 Open for business last weekend of April
- 1961-1983 Cafe Operated
- 1963 Bill, Kathryn, and daughters move to Wishon year around
- 1966 Jaspers buy out Araves to become sole owners of Wishon Village
- 1966 Giant Sequoia transplant “Jasper Tree” planted in the parking lot
- 1970-2005 Bar was operated
- 1961 Upper restroom built
- 1969 Lower restroom completed
- 1977 Completed Jasper home
- 1976 Moved the store back from the road onto the cement basement
- 1977 Road to Wishon Paved
- 1978-1983 Helms Pumped Storage Project
- 1977 Road plowed in the wintertime
- 1978 Rock walls complete
- Feb 1998 Jaspers’ home burns down
- 1999 Jaspers sell to Daughter Diane and granddaughter Bonny and retire
- 2006 Wishon sold to Kris and Katie Oneida