Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Winter along Rim O'World Highway from Crestline to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear, California

This old postcard led to a true history lesson about the area for me, beginning with the history behind the Rim of the World Highway in the San Bernardino Mountains. Click here to view a U.S. Geological Survey aerial map of the San Bernardinos and the historic highway. Who would have expected there to be a Rim of the World Historical Society? Not I, but here's the link and it's worth the visit.

I found this extensive History of Big Bear Lake absorbing and even touching. It begins:

Big Bear Valley comprises Big Bear Lake, Big Bear City, Fawnskin, Holcomb Valley, Sugarloaf, Erwin Lake, Baldwin Lake and Lake Williams.


The Serrano Indians first came to Yahaviat ("pine place") some 2,500 years ago. The name Serrano meant people of the mountains or highlanders. They lived near springs, streams and rivers in small settlements of 10 to 30 dwellings. The Serranos were a peaceful and gentle people; they were regarded as skilled basket weavers. The women were expert pottery makers; their Tizon ware was thin, delicate and beautifully decorated. Acorn mush was a basic food; pinon nuts, berries, roots, tubers, bulbs and sage were also in their diet. Big Bear Valley was a favorite hunting and food gathering source for these people and there are many legends about this area in their folklore.

The Serranos held the grizzly bear in deep reverence, and thought of these huge animals as great grandfathers. Bear meat was never eaten, nor was bear fur ever worn.

The house of the Serrano was a circular building from twelve to fourteen feet across. The house was constructed within an excavated area as much as two feet deep. Brushes or tulles were tied to a pole framework with yucca fiber or rawhide thongs. A pit lined with stones was dug in the center of the floor for the fire. The floors were at least partially covered with tulle mats.

Their settlements are remembered today in towns that bear their names Yucaipa , Cucamonga and Muscupiabe.

The website devoted to the History of Lake Arrowhead is also full of interesting facts and photos, opening with:

When the Spaniards arrived, they found the mountains inhabited by the Serranos and the Cahuillas. The Serranos lived near Arrowhead Springs, revered for its medicinal properties, and Rock Camp, three miles north of Lake Arrowhead. Archeologists believe Rock Camp was a seasonal camp, used by the Serranos for 500 years.

The Mormons in San Bernardino, looked to the mountains to satisfy their growing need for lumber. They built Waterman Canyon Road and serious logging began. Fortunately, on February 25, 1893, President Benjamin Harrison created the San Bernardino Forest Preserve, comprising 737,280 acres. With control turned over to the Forest Service, logging regulations prevented the forest from being clear cut.

The Arrowhead Reservior Company began work on a Dam in 1893, in order to supply water to San Bernardino. The President of the company was James Morris Gamble of Procter and Gamble. Legal issues caused the project to be abandoned even though it was 80% complete. The Hesperia Land and Water Company had filed suit and the court ruled that water could not be diverted from one watershed to another.

As with so many of the world's beautiful natural places, the Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead areas have attracted the attention of developers. It began in the 1920s according to the time line at the Lake Arrowhead history website:

1919- Little Bear Resort- 150 bed hotel with dance pavilion attracts scores of visitors.
1921- Arrowhead Reservoir and Power Co. purchased by Los Angeles group, renamed Arrowhead Lake Co. Leveled Little Bear Lake Resort, rebuild in Norman style. Included dance pavilion, bath house and Village Inn. Nine hole golf course built in Grass Valley. Arrowhead Dam completed with road across the top.
1922- Lake Arrowhead Village opens.

So I was pleased to find that a group I support has been intricately involved in a campaign to save Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead from the ravages of over-development. The Center for Biological Diversity website includes the following fact sheet highlighting its efforts and successes on behalf of nature in these beautiful areas.


(Full press release dated October 27, 2008)– Appeal Court Invalidates Controversial Mountain Subdivision, Affirms County Violated General Plan, State Environmental Law, Fire Safety


• In 2005, working in a coalition with local allies, the Center won a court case on a church development project in Running Springs when a judge agreed that the county had failed to consider the project’s impacts to the mountain habitat, the area’s wildlife and scenic beauty, and the effect of added growth. The court ordered the county to complete a more detailed assessment of these impacts and consider ways to minimize them before moving forward with the project.

• In June 2006, we helped block a large Big Bear Lake condominium development called Marina Point that would have imperiled bald eagles. A judge agreed with us and our local partners Friends of Fawnskin that the developers had repeatedly violated the Clean Water Act by illegally dredging and filling Big Bear Lake in moving forward with their condominium development, and that the condos, if built, would harm bald eagles in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The court halted all development of the project and ordered the developer to pay a fine of $1,312,500, also commanding the developer to immediately repair and restore the damaged shoreline of Big Bear Lake and its adjacent wetlands.

• In September 2006, we successfully blocked a development in Arrowhead Springs that would have destroyed a natural stream in Waterman Canyon, replacing it with a golf course, artificial water features, and mass-built luxury housing. A judge specifically ruled that project documents failed to provide sufficient evidence in support of two claims made by the developer: that the project’s proposed golf course would provide flood protection and that the golf course was economically necessary.

• In December 2006, we won another victory when a San Bernardino County judge overturned the approval of a proposed mountain subdivision, ruling that the county’s General Plan was “unambiguous” in its requirement that a fire evacuation route be completed before approvals could be granted for area projects. The subdivision, known as Blue Ridge Estates or the Hawarden Development, was planned for an area of the San Bernardino Mountains near Lake Arrowhead that is considered at high risk for fire and was very near the areas burned by the catastrophic Old Fire in 2003. Almost two years after our San Bernardino County court victory, California’s Fourth District Appeals Court affirmed the original decision that the county had violated state law in approving the development.

• In May 2007, our coalition stopped the building of the Big Bear Lake Hilton Garden Inn, planned near the lakeshore in the city of Big Bear Lake, on the grounds that it would destroy wetlands and endangered plants like the rare, well-named bird-footed checkerbloom — as well as pose a danger to human health through inadequate plans for fire evacuation.

(I love the mission statement of The Center for Biological Diversity. It makes total sense to me.)



Buddha said...

The funny thing is that I live in driving distance of Big Bear and Arrowhead but I didn't know anything about the history of the place.
I didn't even know they had a history until now.
See, that's why I love your posts.
Thank you!

Lydia said...

I'm just smiling. Thanks for your comment letting me know that we learned this history together. Now, promise you'll take your family to Big Bear and Arrowhead for a visit in the future, if not wintertime then when the sun shines. Lake Arrowhead was one of my mother's favorite places to go with friends when she was in high school. I've never seen it.



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