The First Residents
Archaeologists have concluded that the region’s native inhabitants were Shoshonean-speaking people. Evidence indicates they probably first inhabited the area in about 1650.
Naming the Lake
Grays Lake was named after John Grey, a mountain man also known as Ignace Hatchiorauquasha. Grey was a member of a trapping expedition that explored the vicinity in about 1818. Even though the lake was named after him, it is not certain he actually ever saw it.
The Lander Cut-off of the Oregon Trail passed along the south boundary of the refuge. Emigrants traveled it, from the 1860s to the early 1900s.
The historical event having the greatest physical impact on Grays Lake was the excavation of Clarks Cut which began in 1906. The project created a canal and series of drainage ditches to divert water from the lake into a different watershed in order to provide irrigation water far downstream.
The overall effect was the lowering of the lake water levels and degradation of wildlife habitat. Clarks Cut is still operational and you can see it from Highway 34 near the southwest side of Grays Lake.