• Valley Fire to blaze until fall, drift smoke expected July 21, 2018
    The call rang out over the scanner at 1 p.m. July 20 about a new fire near Forest Falls. Five minutes later, the call was cancelled — false alarm. It turns out somebody mistook smoke from the Valley Fire for…
  • Hope for Bear Valley Park hinges on free land July 21, 2018
    The three-decade old Bear City Park situation resurfaced July 17 at the quarterly Big Bear Valley Recreation and Park District advisory committee meeting.
  • Planning Commissioner Craig Smith to retire, depart to Idaho July 20, 2018
    During his 13 years serving on Big Bear Lake’s Planning Commission, Craig Smith has done it all. He made key contributions during the drafting of multiple ordinances, including signs, special events and tree conservation. Outside of planning, Smith spearheaded the…
  • Thunderstorms building over Big Bear July 19, 2018
    A thunderstorm warning has been issued for parts of San Bernardino County, including the San Bernardino mountains. Hail, winds up to 60 mph and rain are expected.
  • 911 telephone land lines down July 19, 2018
    An aerial communication line along the Interstate 15 corridor has been knocked out of service, affecting landline communications to the 911 system in Big Bear Valley. It is not known yet how much of the Valley is being affected, but…
  • Search for Stormy reaches happy conclusion July 19, 2018
    Fans of Stormy the juvenile bald eagle can breathe easier. The famous bird from Big Bear Lake who had not been seen for about two weeks, has been found.
  • Big Bear float: Play, Rest, Repeat in 2019 July 18, 2018
    Tim Estes and his team have been working feverishly to get ready for New Year’s Day 2019. It may be months away, but the Fiesta Parade Floats team has a lot of work to do to get the floats designed…
  • Public comment sought for limestone quarry expansion July 18, 2018
    Members of the public can share their thoughts on the proposed expansion of two limestone quarries located 5 miles north of Big Bear Lake. The public can view the draft environmental impact report online or in person, and will have…

History

Big Bear was originally inhabited by the Serrano Native American tribe. In the 1800’s and prior, the area was teaming with huge grizzly bears and other wildlife. As today, it was a winter wonderland in cold months and a sunny, warm spot in the summer. These days it is best knows as the most popular Southern California ski destination, as well as a great place for summer sports like boating, camping, and fishing. While many people contributed to the popularity of the now year-round mountain resort, a few include:

In 1845, the mayor of little Los Angeles, Benjamin Wilson, discovered Big Bear Valley. He was chasing an Ute Chief named Walkara into the Santa Ana Canyon of San Bernadino. There, high into the forest, Wilson and his team found a pristine village teaming with wildlife, namely grizzly bears. For this reason, the area was called Big Bear Valley.

In the 1860’s, William Holcomb was hunting for bear. He unexpectedly stumbled onto gold in the valley. This began Southern California’s largest gold rush and brought an influx of residents to the area.

In 1888, the first Big Bear area hotel was built in 1888. The builder, Gus Knight, was just 21 years old. He felt sure the lake would bring visitors to the area.

In 1912, a resident named Kirk Phillips created a bus line that ran from San Bernadino below into the mountain region of Big Bear Valley. He got the idea while on a trip in New York City where he saw a bus line created by rows on trucks where passengers sat. His bus line to Big Bear was nothing fancy– just trucks with several rows of seats. This route, called the Mountain Auto Line, greatly increased the numbers of people travelling back and forth to Big Bear. The trip previously took two days using carriages.

In 1921 the Stillwells Lodge and Ballroom was opened by Carl and Mamie Stillwell. It quickly became famous throughout Southern California for dancing and live music by the lake. Visitors could take a swim in the pool, dine at the restaurant, play a game of tennis, or take a boat ride on the lake all from the same place. Popular bands played on site constantly, so this was a place everyone wanted to see.

Also in 1921, another soon-to-be famous landmark opened–Pan Hot Springs Hotel. Emile Jesserun bought dozens of acres of land that included a local hot spring and built the hotel on this land. This was the area’s first major resort. It was destroyed by fire in 1933.

In 1947 Tommy Tyndall, a young but expert skier, started ski schools and the Big Bear Winter Club. He decided to open a ski resort and found an ideal spot east of Big Bear Lake. In 1952, this site became the now famous Snow Summit.

During the 1950’s, Big Bear changed from a summer resort area to a year-round resort due to the growing popularity of downhill skiing. In the 1980’s snowboarding debuted and this sport also gained popularity, as did Big Bear where people flocked to do it from Southern California and beyond. Read about or, even better, visit the Big Bear Museum. This historical landmark is located in Big Bear City at the eastern end of Big Bear Airport on Greenway Drive.