Tag: Big Bear History

The Legend of Castle Rock

Big Bear Lake, CA, May 3, 2014 – Rising out of the mountains at the southwest end of the lake, standing like a sentinel keeping watch over Big Bear, is Castle Rock. There is a Serrano Indian legend that surrounds Castle Rock from a time long ago when Big Bear was known as Yuhaviat, which means ‘pine place’. The legend tells of a beautiful young girl named Wyhnemah who once lived in Yuhaviat. All the young men of the tribe were constantly competing with each other for her attention, but she only cared for one young brave named Pahwek. He was a hunter and whenever he was gone on hunting trips to get food for the tribe, Wyhnemah would climb to the top of Castle Rock and watch for his return.When she would see him in the distance, she would climb down and run to meet him. On one such trip, Pahwek did not return when he was supposed to. As the days and weeks went by, Wyhnemah came to realize that something was terribly wrong and that he would never be coming home. Not wanting to live her life without her true love, she climbed to the top of Castle Rock one evening and with a prayer on her lips, Wyhnemah stepped off the edge to join Pahwek forever in the happy hunting...

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The Road to Big Bear

Big Bear, CA, April 26, 2014 – The first road into the San Bernardino Mountains, which was really just a trail, was built by the Mormons in 1852 and ascended Waterman Canyon. Big Bear Lake was created in 1885 and the only way up, other than a pack trail up Santa Ana Canyon, was a long arduous trip up Cushenbury Grade. To get to the Grade, visitors first had to travel over Cajon Pass to the desert before climbing the steep grade to Bear Valley. In May of 1888, the Bear Valley Toll Road Company was formed. They cut a road into Santa Ana Canyon and over the mountains  into the Valley, and used a combination of stage coach and mule train for the two day trip to Big Bear. In 1891, Gus Knight and John Metcalf formed the Bear Valley Wagon Road Company and by the following year had completed a road through what is now Running Springs. Stagecoaches began making scheduled runs into the valley three times a week. With this new road, travel time to Big Bear was cut to a day and a half. It was 1908 when the first automobile made the 101 mile trip up. Since gas stations were non-existent, a 20 horsepower steam powered vehicle was chosen to make the trek, and did so with much difficulty. In 1915, Rim of the...

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There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills!

  Big Bear, CA, March 15, 2014 – In 1848, gold was discovered in northern California which brought thousands of people to the state from all over the world. One of these people was Bill Holcomb who tried his luck up north, but quickly decided to head to southern California. He heard rumors of gold in Big Bear Valley, but wasn’t sure how to get there. He and his partner, Jack Martin, finally got directions and made their way to the valley in 1859. There they met up with other miners who were working the area known as Starvation Flats, very close to where the Stater Bros. Shopping Center is today. Not having any luck, they decided to hunt bears instead. Holcomb ended up shooting and wounding a bear which he followed into a beautiful little valley to the north which people started calling Holcomb Valley. He returned to the valley in search of more bear and while he was there decided to do a little gold panning. Much to his surprise, he  found gold. Soon word got out and hundreds of people came to Holcomb Valley to make their fortune. Jed Van Dusen was asked to build a wagon road from Holcomb Valley to the Cajon Pass to make it easier to bring lumber and machinery to the valley. Consequently, the town that sprang up was named Belleville...

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Hollywood Loves Big Bear

  Big Bear, CA, February 22, 2014 – In July of 1911, a movie company from back east arrived at the new Pine Knot Lodge in Big Bear and began filming. That began a love affair between Hollywood and Big Bear that still continues. At about the same time, tourism started taking off in the valley, but only in the summer. During the winter, Big Bear sat empty. However, an enterprising local named Fred Skinner who was the manager of the new Pine Knot Lodge, let Hollywood know that the Lodge would remain open during the winter if the studios wanted to come up and film. He even brought in a generator, giving Pine Knot Lodge electricity five years before it reached the valley. Until the ski resorts came along, it was the movie business that kept Big Bear alive during the winter months. ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ was filmed on location here in 1920 as well as other films such as the 1969 musical ‘Paint Your Wagon’ starring Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood, Disney’s ‘Old Yeller’, and the 1983 film ‘War Games’ with Matthew Broderick. The television industry also found Big Bear. In 1969, the show ‘HR Pufnstuf’ shot their opening sequence right on the lake. Episodes of ‘Daniel Boone’ were shot here and a number of ‘Bonanza’ episodes were shot up at Cedar Lake. ‘Lassie’, ‘FBI’,...

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Big Bear Airport Has a ‘Bumpy’ Start

   Big Bear City, CA  January 25, 2014 – In 1916, Waldo Waterman, a pilot from Ontario, landed an aircraft in a field just east of Big Bear Lake, opening up a new era for the valley.  In 1924 Waterman laid out Big Bear’s first airfield just east of the lake. He used a 5 seat, single engine plane to provide passenger service between Ontario and the Big Bear Valley. There were some bumps along the way, however. Several local dignitaries went down to Ontario to make the maiden flight with Waterman. Unfortunately, they encountered turbulence which forced them to make a landing on a dry lake bed in Lucerne and they ended up hitching a ride home. A week later, the flight was made again with none of the original passengers. It made a successful trip up, landing safely in Big Bear. It then reloaded and took off again, only to stall at 300 feet and fall into the lake. The plane was destroyed and one passenger died of a heart attack, but the rest on board were relatively unhurt. Waterman put his plane back together and was back in business one month later.  The airfield caught on.  In addition to Waterman’s regular flights, many days saw a half dozen airplanes on the field. In 1927, the field was re-graded for Ambassador Airways. Major Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold, who gained fame as an Army Air Corps commander in WWII, discovered Big...

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