The area now known as Lake Arrowhead was originally inhabited by the “People of the Pines” known as Yuhaaviatam, a clan of Maara’yam, identified by the Spanish as Serrano people meaning “Highlander” who are now known as the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.
In the 1800’s, the area was mostly utilized for logging and small mining operations until 1891 when the Arrowhead Reservoir Company was formed with James Morris Gamble, of Proctor and Gamble, as President. This company began acquiring land to construct a reservoir to supply water for agriculture irrigation in the valley and commenced construction of a dam at the east end of Little Bear Valley.
In 1905 the property was transferred to Arrowhead Reservoir and Power Company who completed the 185-foot-high semi-hydraulic earth-filled dam constructed between 1895 and 1915, creating what was then called Little Bear Lake. The lake continued filling until 1923 to its current surface area of 780 acres with a capacity of 48,000 acre-feet. The original dam was later raised to its final height of 190 feet, impounding almost 16 billion gallons of water from a 6-square-mile watershed.
In 1921, a water rights challenge prevented delivery of the stored water as intended so the Arrowhead Reservoir and Power Company sold its water rights to the Arrowhead Lake Company in 1921. This new corporation was formed by a group of Los Angeles businessmen, including J.V. Van Nuys and John O’Melveny.
Little Bear Lake (now known as Lake Arrowhead) in the 1920’s…
The Arrowhead Lake Company bought Little Bear Lake and the surrounding properties, and changed the name to Lake Arrowhead and Arrowhead Woods respectively. The name was derived from the arrowhead-shaped rock formation on the face of the San Bernardino Mountains above Arrowhead Hot Springs. During this time, approximately 20 percent of the land nearest the lake was developed, and a nine-hole golf course was built on the site of the present Lake Arrowhead Country Club.
The Arrowhead Lake Company successfully applied to the Railroad Commission (forerunner to the California Public Utilities Commission) to issue bonds to purchase the domestic water system and turned those rights over to the Arrowhead Utility Company. During its first year of operation, the utility served 103 domestic customers.
In 1946, the Arrowhead Lake Company was sold to the Los Angeles Turf Club, which was subsequently sold to the Lake Arrowhead Development Corporation in 1960. In 1967, the Lake Arrowhead Development Corporation merged with Boise Cascade, but continued to operate the Arrowhead Utility Company.
In 1971, as a result of the Sylmar Earthquake, the California Department of Water Resources, Division of Safety of Dams, ordered that all hydraulic-fill dams in the State of California be tested and evaluated for seismic stability. After an evaluation was done of the existing dam, it was determined that a second dam should be constructed to ensure safety.
Construction of the new 210-foot-high dam began in 1975 after overwhelming approval of a bond paid for by Arrowhead Woods property owners. It was completed in 1977 and created Papoose Lake with a surface area of 31 acres. The Arrowhead Lake Association (ALA) was formed and continues to own and operate Lake Arrowhead to this day https://www.ala-ca.org/.
In 1978, the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District was formed. Arrowhead Utility Company quitclaimed all water rights to the District which they had received from Boise Cascade in 1975. The District also purchased all of their assets and easements. These water rights were challenged in 2003 and ultimately settled by the State Water Resources Control Board in 2006. As a result, the District has the right to withdraw a maximum 1,566 acre feet per year from the lake.
In 1982, the Lake Arrowhead Sanitation District was annexed into Lake Arrowhead Community Services District as part of a reorganization of the County of San Bernardino. This action increased the District’s service area to its current size of approximately 8,000 acres.
Today, the District serves approximately 8,300 water customers in the Arrowhead Woods, Deer Lodge Park, and Rimforest, and 10,500 wastewater customers.
You can learn more about the history of our area from the Rim Historical Society and the Mountain History Museum https://mtnmuseum.org/, on ALA’s website https://www.ala-ca.org/ala_history.php and from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians at https://sanmanuel-nsn.gov/culture/history.