Tag: Big Bear Lake

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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Five Eagles Observed Over Weekend

Big Bear Lake, CA, March 12, 2014 – The last of four eagle censuses this winter was conducted on Saturday, with local biologists getting help from 57 volunteers. Observers spotted five bald eagles around Big Bear Lake during the one-hour count, including four adults and one juvenile. Juvenile eagles are the same size as the adults, but have a brown head and tail for their first few years of life. So, where do eagles hang out? One pair of adults was seen in the neighborhoods at Eagle Point.  The other pair was in the Grout Bay area of Fawnskin in the closure area; that bald eagle nest area there will be protected as long as the pair remains there.  The juvenile was on the south shore in the Gilner Point area and then was seen flying towards Fawnskin. Many of the bald eagles have started migrating out of southern California to breed in the north, but one breeding pair has set up a nesting territory here and are year-round residents. Unfortunately, the two chicks that hatched in early February did not survive the severe storm that followed. The four monthly counts are conducted between December and March to estimate the number of bald eagles that are wintering in lakes throughout the area.  The highest numbers are typically in February and March....

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The Drought’s Effect on Big Bear Lake

Fawnskin, CA, March 9, 2014 – Some of the most visible effects of the current drought are the beaches springing up around Big Bear Lake’s 22 miles of shoreline–new patches of sand that fishermen and picnicking families are making the most of. Even after picking up over ten inches of precipitation in the recent storm system, the water level was still 7’ 10” below full, compared with being just 4 1/2 feet down at this time last year. In fact, the last time the lake was full was the spring of 2011. The mission of the Municipal Water District (MWD) is to stabilize lake levels for recreation and wildlife. Part of that means setting limits on the amount of water that can be used as snowmaking. Big Bear Mountain Resorts is allowed to withdraw 11,000 acre feet of water in any 10-year period, not to exceed 1,300 acre feet in any single year. As a point of reference, the lake’s total storage capacity is 73,370 acre feet. About half of the water borrowed to make snow returns to the lake, so the biggest net reduction in the lake’s surface area would be roughly 1%. That’s assuming conditions are even cold enough to make snow, though. Thanks to this winter’s warm temperatures, Big Bear Mountain Resorts has only been able to use half its maximum yearly allotment.  If you’d like...

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Bald Eagles Return to Big Bear Year After Year

Big Bear Lake, CA, March 8, 2014 – Migrating bald eagles love to winter in the San Bernardino Mountains with most of them choosing Big Bear Lake as their winter home. They’re usually found near water because their diet is primarily made up of fish and ducks. Sometimes during particularly cold nights, Coots, a breed of bird on our lake, will get stuck in the ice which make them easy prey for the eagles, earning them the nickname, Cootsicles. Once on the brink of extinction, breeding populations of bald eagles in Southern California had been completely wiped out by the late 1950s and the southern-most nest site known in California was north of San Francisco in Lake County. Reintroduction efforts began in the 1980s on Catalina Island. In fact, a female hatched at the San Francisco Zoo in 2000 was released on Catalina and in 2004 made her way to Lake Hemet and decided to take up year round residence with the male eagle already there. However, the first successful bald eagle nesting ever recorded in the San Bernardino Mountains happened right here in Big Bear Lake. Through radio tracking, biologists have learned that many of the same individual eagles return year after year. Some of our eagles were tracked all the way to the Northwest Territories in Canada which is a 2000 mile trip one-way, while others only...

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1884 – Big Bear Gets a Dam and a Lake

    Big Bear Lake, CA, February 15, 2014 – Frank Brown and Hiram Barton rode into Big Bear Valley on horseback in May of 1883. They quickly concluded that if they built a dam at the narrow west end of the valley, they would create a lake five and a half miles long that could supply much needed water to thirsty communities down the hill. For economic reasons, they decided on a stone arch dam 52 feet high, built of hand cut granite blocks weighing as much as 5 tons each. The dam was finished in 1884 at a cost of $75,000., creating the largest man made lake in the world at the time. In 1910, due to the growing citrus industry in the valleys below, it was decided a new, larger dam was needed to increase the capacity of the lake. An unusual, multiple-arch design was built by John Eastwood about 300 feet further downstream. Cement and supplies were hauled up the mountain from Victorville by teams of horses. It was finished in 1912, costing $138,000. The new design did not inspire public confidence. However, it proved it’s strength when it withstood a large earthquake in 1921 without a crack. The new dam, which was 20 feet higher than the old 1884 dam, increased the the size of the lake from 1800 acres to 2500 acres and...

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