Big Bear, San Bernardino Mountains, Southern California
The San Gabriel Mountains, 20 miles north of LA, extend east for 60 miles where the name changes at state route 15 in the Cajon Pass. Now named the San Bernardino mountains, they extend east for 50 miles until they drop and blend into the sands of the vast Mojave desert. The high elevation communities and attractions across the San Bernardino mountains are accessed by state route, SR18. It is locally known as the "Rim Of The World Highway that provides access to Running Springs, Crestline, Twin Peaks, Arrowbear Lake, Arrowhead Lake, Snow Valley Ski Resort, Fawn Creek and Big Bear. During the summer Arrowhead and Big Bear lakes become a swimming, boating and camping playground. During the winter Snow Valley is crazy with people who play in the snow.
As down stream properties were developed, flood and controlled irrigation needs prompted the construction of the first dam in Bear Valley. In 1884 a group of private investors constructed a 53 foot single arch granite block structure at the west end of Bear Valley. They quickly found that this structure did not hold enough water and it's structural integrity might be questionable!
In 1912 a 72 foot multiple arch, concrete, dam was constructed 250 ft downstream of the original dam. The second dam and the City of Big Bear were still isolated from the west so San Bernardino County changed the proposed route of the Rim Of The World Highway.
In 1923 a highway bridge was built over the second dam. This highway bridge provided a means to further increase the integrity of the dam and provided Big Bear with access from the west.
In June 2011, a two year bridge replacement project was completed. A third bridge was constructed just below the second dam, and the old roadway was removed from the top of the second dam. The elevation of Big Bear lake remains at 6763 feet.
The original granite block dam still stands, but it is usually under 20 feet of water.
The scattered mountain communities, lakes and camping areas have all benefited from the increased access. The city of Fawn Creek is on the north shore of Big Bear Lake, Boulder Bay, Treasure Island is on the south, and approximately 7 miles west is Snow Valley Ski Resort. Oscar De La Hoya has a thin air training facility in Big Bear.