William Mulholland began construction of the two reservoirs of Franklin Canyon in 1916 and both were finished and operational in 1916. The lower one was the main facility and had an electric generating plant. The upper one was built for stability of the lower one.
During the early 1940's, the WPA (Works Projects Administration) built the earthen flood control dam at the northern end of what is now the visitor's parking lot as well as the system of concrete culverts, tunnels, and walls.
After the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, it was discovered that the two reservoirs could not safely contain the amount of water needed for the city (their dams being built out of earth), so they were taken off-line and a third reservoir was built, just north of the lower one.
The water level of the upper reservoir is much lower than it was during the earlier filming days and has been allowed to "return to nature".
In the 1980's, the Department of Water and Power (DWP) built a surge chamber at the northern end of the upper reservoir and tunneled water under it.
In 1991, an agreement between the DWP and the Federal government was reached wherein they shared the ownership of the land. The National Park Service manages the Sookie Goldman conservation center and park. The Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir was also renamed as the Franklin Canyon Lake.
DIRECTIONS: From Los Angeles, head west on Sunset Blvd. Turn right onto Beverly Drive. Where Beverly Drive and Coldwater Canyon Drive meet, turn left onto Beverly Drive. Turn right onto Franklin Canyon Drive. Head past the Lower Franklin Reservoir (it is used for filming, but that is another story). At the Upper Franklin Reservoir (Sooky Goldman Nature Center), turn right and follow the road around the reservoir until you come to the parking lot.
"Private Lives" (MGM 1931) Directed by: Sidney Franklin. Cast: Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, Reginald Denny, Jean Hersholt, Una Merkel, George Davis.
"It Happened One Night" (Columbia 1935) Directed by: Frank Capra. Cast: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Jameson Thomas, Charles D. Brown, Ward Bond.
"The Lady Escapes" (20th Century Fox 1937) Directed by: Eugene Forde. Cast: Gloria Stuart, Michael Whalen, George Sanders, Cora Witherspoon, Gerald Oliver Smith, June Brewster.
"Four Men and a Prayer" (20th Century Fox) Directed by: John Ford. Cast: Loretta Young, Richard Greene, George Sanders, David Niven, C. Aubrey Smith, J. Edward Bromberg, William Henry, John Carradine, Alan Hale, Reginald Denny.
"I Met My Love Again" (United Artists 1938) Directed by: Joshua Logan & Arthur Ripley. Cast: Joan Bennett, Henry Fonda, Louise Platt, Alan Marshal, Dame May Whitty, Alan Baxter, Dorothy Stickney, Tim Holt, Florence Lake.
"On Golden Pond" (Universal 1981) Directed by: Mark Rydell. Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Doug McKeon, Dabney Coleman, William Lanteau, Chris Rydell.