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Lake Arrowhead

Little Bear Valley

(Lake Arrowhead)

The Serrano Indians lived in the San Bernardino mountain range occupying Little Bear Valley. They would take thier old and sick to Arrowhead Hot Springs for rejuvenation and healing. They hunted in the beautiful and bountiful valley and lived relatively peaceful, somewhat nomadic lives descending to the desert highlands and warmer inland valleys during the winter months.

White man in the Little Bear Valley was first interested in the lumber. The trees were tall and straight and cut lumber could be hauled down to San Bernardino on a road constructed through the west end of the range.

Forest area near Lake Arrowhead

Planning the Dam

In the early 1890's Little Bear Valley was chosen as a location for a reservoir. The dam would supply water to the lowlands in the San Bernardino Valley. Work on the reservoir started in 1893. Camp I in the north end of the valley was built to house the workers.

The land at what would be the bottom of the lake were cleared to prevent decay from becoming a problem and fouling the water. The dam, a semi-hydraulic fill dam was to be 200 feet high, 720 feet wide, and 1,100 feet thick at the base. In 1912 the dam was 80% complete. Work continued several more years, but legal problems rendered the dam's diversion of water illegal. The lake behind the dam had partially filled with water, however the project was abandoned.

Resort Community

Lake Arrowhead
On the southern face of the San Bernardino range, clearly visible from the city of San Bernardino, there is a large arrowhead shape pointing up and toward the Little Bear Valley. It is from this odd natural shape that the Arrowhead Lake Company took its name in 1920. They purchased the Little Bear Valley and uncompleted dam. Their plan was to develop the valley and lake behind the dam into a resort community. By 1923 the dam was completed and a road built along part of the north shore. A Norman style village complete with pavillion, outdoor movie theatre, restaurant and beach were constructed. Three hotels were built: the Arlington Lodge, Village Inn and North Shore Tavern as well as a 9 hole golf course.

Hollywood & Horse Racing

Business was initially good and the little lake attracted many visitors over the years. Some of the lakeside land was subdivided and homes were built. Hollywood stars stayed at the resort hotels and the studios used the area for making movies. More land was subdivided as water sources were developed and homes continued to be built. During the years of World War II tourism and lot sales dwindled and finances began to trouble the Arrowhead Lake Company which ultimately went bankrupt.

In 1946, the owners of the Santa Anita Racetrack, the Los Angeles Turf Club, bought the lake and the surrounding properties. Although the Turf Club spent considerable amounts of money improving the lake and surrounding Arrowhead Woods, no lots were sold. Generous donations of land were made though to various organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, San Bernardino County and several more. The North Shore Tavern was donated to the University of California.


In 1960, the Lake Arrowhead Development Company was formed by three developers from Los Angeles. They built the present day 18 hole golf course and club house over the old 9 hole course and subdivided 18 residential tracts. In 1967 the Lake Arrowhead Development Company merged with the Boise Cascade Corporation and additional subdivision of properties were created.

Lake Arrowhead dam

After the Van Norman Dam incident during the Sylmar quake in 1971, a study of the dam was made and it was determined the dam would not withstand an earthquake of 6.5 or higher magnitude. A bond issue was passed and an earth fill dam was contructed. A small lake was formed between the two dams -- Papoose Lake.

Lake Arrowhead Today

Ownership of the properties changed hands several times in the preceeding years with the original village (with the exception of the Pavillion) being destroyed in 1979. The new village was built in the same style architecture as the old village and includes a complete convenience shopping center, restaurants and boutiques, gift and specialty shops.

Today Lake Arrowhead is a popular recreational area for tourists and those visiting the San Bernardino National Forest as well as being a year round alpine residential community.

History courtesy -

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