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Lake Arrowhead History













In  1826,  the  first  white  man  to  set  foot  in  Little  Bear  Valley  (now known   as   Lake   Arrowhead)   was   a   fur   trader,   who   was   a   partner   of Jedediah  Smith.  At  that  time,  about  40  Paiute  Indians,  a  warlike  tribe, used  the  mountains  for their  hunting  grounds.  They  lived  in  the  high desert  area.  Many  of  these  Indians  were  killed  in  a  fight  with  the  white men  of  Little  Bear  Valley,  as  a  result  of  the  Indians  setting  fire  to  one  of the   cabins   in   the   Valley.   At   the   same   time,   a   more   peaceful   tribe   of Indians,  the  Serranos,  lived  near  Little  Bear  Valley,  in  an  area  now  known as  Rock Camp  on  the  North  side  of  the  mountain.  They  did  not  bother  the settlers  until  one  of  the  white  men  made  advances

to  an  Indian  maiden, which caused a skirmish killing both Indians and white men.Later  in  the  1860′s,  the  main  attraction  for the  white  man  at  Little Bear  Valley  was  logging,  lumber,  and  cattle,  and  there  were  several  saw mills  in  and  around the  Valley.  The  first  so-called  “Mormon  Road”  up  the mountain  was  built  in  1852.  The  “Daley  Canyon  Road”  was  built in  1870. Summers  were  productive  in  the  Valley,  but  everything  stopped  in  the Winter.  A  few  families  remained  during the  Winter  months  and  the  only diversion was to snowshoe to their neighbors (usually miles away) to visit.In  1891,  three Ohio businessmen  chose  Little  Bear  Valley  as  a  likely spot  for  a  reservoir,  to  supply  water  to  the  southern  lowlands.  Land was  purchased  and  water  rights  were obtained.  The  Arrowhead  Reservoir  Company  was  formed.  

In  1890,  a  tramway,  (a  cable  powered  device) was  built  from  Waterman  Canyon  up  the  mountain  for  the  purpose  of transporting  supplies  for  the building  of  the  dam.  However,  engineering  problems  rendered  it  unsuccessful. Consequently, supplies and  machinery  were  transported  via  the  switch-back  road.  Construction  of  the  dam  for  the  reservoir started  in 1893.  Camp  I  on  the  North  slope  of  the  Valley  served  as  living  quarters  and  mess  hall  for  the workers.In   1905,   the   property   was   transferred   to   a   new   corporation,   Arrowhead   Reservoir   and   Power Company,  because  the  idea  of utilizing  the  water  for  power  had  been  conceived.  The  dam  is  what  is known  as  a  semi-hydraulic  fill  dam.  It  is  200 feet  high,  720  feet  long,  and  1,100  feet  thick  at  the  base.  It has  a  steel  reinforced  concrete  core  wall  embedded  20 feet  in  bed  rock.  The  trees  and  brush  were removed  from  what  was  the  bottom  of  the  lake,  so  the  decay  would  not be  a  problem.  The  lake  filled slowly from runoff.By  1912,  the  dam  was  80%  complete,  and  work  continued  for  several years  after  that.  The  plans called  for  over  60  miles  of  water  conveyances  and  tunnels.  However,  only  6  1/2  miles were completed, when  it  became  known  that  the  State  ruled  in  favor  of  the  ranchers  on  the  upper  desert  side  of  the Northward  facing  watershed,  and  passed  laws  which  prevented  the  diverting  of  water  from  its  natural watersheds  for other  than  domestic  use.  Thus  the  company  was  stopped  with  continuing  its  plan  to transport  water  to  the  areas  south of  the  mountains,  and  even  though  the  lake  was  filling  with  water,  the project was abandoned.

The  Arrowhead  Lake  Company,  a  Los  Angeles  syndicate,  bought  Little  Bear  Valley  and  surrounding land  (deriving  the name  from  a  natural  formation  in  the  form  of  an  arrowhead  on  the  face  of  the  San Bernardino Mountain, near Arrowhead Hot Springs, which is rooted in Indian legend).The  Arrowhead  Lake  Company’s  plan  was  to  develop  the  mile high  man-made  lake  into  a  fine recreation  and  residential  area.  Between  1921  and  1923,  the  dam  was  completed  (31 feet  higher  than originally  planned)  and  a  road  was  constructed  partially  around  the  North  shore  of  the  lake.  The Norman styled  village  which  included  a  dance  pavilion,  outdoor  movie  theater,  restaurant,  beach  and  bath  houses was completed.  Three  hotels  were  built;  the  Arlington  Lodge,  Village  Inn,  and  North  Shore  Tavern.  A  9-hole   golf   course   was   built   on   the   site   of   the   present   golf   course.   Some   of   the   lake   side   land   was subdivided  and  was  sold for  private  homes  and  secluded  north  shore  estates.  Many  Hollywood  stars stayed  at  the  hotel  during  the  era,  and some  purchased  homes  in  the  resort.  The  studios  frequently  used the area for making films.A  domestic  water  system, pumping  water  from  deep  in  the  lake,  supplied  water  to  homes  and structures.  Strict  conditions  affecting  the  use  of land  and  building  Arrowhead  Woods  were  recorded  with each tract, including the removal of trees.During  the  World  War  II years,  Lake  Arrowhead  Village  was  a  popular  rest  and  recuperation  area  for service men. Because of gas rationing, tourists were scarce.In  spite  of  the  lot  sales,  financial  troubles  developed  and  Arrowhead  Lake  Company  went  into receivership.  

In  1946,  the  Los  Angeles  Turf  Club  (owners  of  Santa  Anita  Race  Track)  purchased  the  lake and  surrounding properties, known  as  Arrowhead  Woods.  Several  million  dollars  were  spent  by  the  Turf Club,  within  the  first  few  years  of  their ownership,  improving  the  properties.  No  lots  to  speak  of  were  sold during  the  Turf  Club  ownership.  However,  they made several  donations  of  land  to  various  organizations, such  as  the  Boy  Scouts,  Girl  Scouts,  San  Bernardino  County, churches,  and  Sister  of  St.  Joseph  of  Orange (the  builders  of  the  hospital).  They  also  donated  $50,000  for  the construction  of  the  hospital.  The  famous North Shore Tavern was donated to the University of California and is now a popular conference center.

In  1960  three  businessmen/developers  from  Los  Angeles  bought  Lake  Arrowhead  and  formed  the Lake  Arrowhead Development  Company.  They  built  the  present  18-hole  golf  course.  Eighteen  residential tracts were subdivided, also with strict deed restrictions, and included in Arrowhead Woods.A   water   filtration   plant   was   built   to   filter   domestic   water   supplied   to   the   Arrowhead   Woods residences.In  1967,  Lake  Arrowhead  Development  Company  merged  with  Boise Cascade  Corporation  of  Boise, Idaho. Boise continued the subdivision of properties and developed five additional residential tracts.In   1971,   Lake   Arrowhead   was   purchased   by   seven   businessmen   from   Chicago.   In   1973,   Boise Cascade was  forced  to  reacquire  Lake  Arrowhead  through  foreclosure.  This  Chicago  group  retained  some of  the  properties  not mortgaged  by  Boise,  including  some  unsubdivided  acreage.  At  the  time  Boise reacquired  the  property,  they  were  faced with  the  problem  of  building  a  new  dam  or  lowering  the  lake  70 feet,  due  to  a  study  required  by  the  State  to  be made  of  all  dams  in  California  following  the  Van  Norman Dam  incident  in  the  1971  Sylmar  Earthquake.  The  study found  the  Arrowhead  dam  would  probably  be unsafe if an earthquake of 6.5 magnitude were to occur in this area. However, Boise  felt  that  the  building  of  a  dam  should  be  shared  by  all  property  owners  in  Arrowhead Woods,  and  legislation was passed  to  permit  a  bond  issue  to  be voted  on  by  property  owners  to  finance the  building  of  a  new  dam  downstream. A bond  for  seven  million  dollars  was passed  in  1974  and  an  earth fill  dam  was  built.  A  small  lake  was  formed  between the  two  dams,  named  by  a  local resident,  Papoose Lake.

The  property  owners  in  Arrowhead  Woods  bought  Lake  Arrowhead  in  October  1975  from  Boise, and Boise  sold  their remaining  holdings  in  Lake  Arrowhead  to  Metropolitan  Advertising  Agency  in  1977.  In 1978,  a group  of  investors, headed by  developer,  George  Coult,  bought  the  Village  and  Lodge  properties, and  in  April  1979,  a  “Burn  to  Learn”  exercise was  conducted  by  the  Lake  Arrowhead  Fire  Protection District,  with  the  San  Bernardino  County  fire  departments  and Air Corps  taking  part.  All  structures  in  the Village  were  burned  down  except  the  original  dance  pavilion  building,  the  post office  and  real  estate office.The  beautiful  new  Village  was  built  in  much  the  same  architecture  as  the  old  Village,  and the  dance pavilion   was   restored   as   the   theme   building,   which   now   houses   businesses.   The   Village   includes   a complete   convenience   shopping   center,   restaurants,   boutiques,   gift   shops,   specialty   stores,   factory outlets and lake tours on a 60-seat capacity paddle wheel.  The  spectacular  Arrowhead  Hilton  Lodge,  now  the  Lake  Arrowhead  Resort  and Spa,  was  built  on  the site of the original Arlington Lodge and opened in November of 1982.Today,  Lake  Arrowhead  is  not only  a  popular  recreational  area  for  visitors,  it  is  also  a  beautiful  year round alpine residential community at 5100 feet elevation.  For more information on our history please visit the Rim of the World History Society website.


(Courtesy Lake Arrowhead Chamber of Commerce)

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