Aerial, drone panorama of Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Lake Arrowhead, California

Lake Arrowhead is located in the mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest, in southern California. Lake Arrowhead measures just over 3 square kilometers and sits at an elevation of 1562 meters above sea level. The lake itself is an artificially made reservoir on Little Bear Creek, which is a tributary of the larger Deep Creek and the Mojave River.

Surrounding the lake is the unincorporated community of Lake Arrowhead, which is made up of the sioux communities Lake Arrowhead, Twin Peaks, Blue Jay, Cedar Glen, Skyforest, and Rimforest. The land is owned by the Arrowhead Lake Company, making it a private residence and private-owned land. The residential community has a population of some 12,500 people as of the 2010 census.


Lake Arrowhead
Lake Arrowhead Village on Christmas Day. 

The area that is now Lake Arrowhead was a much smaller, natural lake known as Little Bear lake. This area was home to Paiute and Serrano people, who lived a primarily nomadic life. Later, fur traders arrived in the area, and formed a settlement here. This eventually led to Mormon missionaries, bear hunters, loggers, and entrepreneurs creating more permanent dwellings over the decades. The settled area was generally known as Little Bear Valley. The mid 1800s saw the tunneling of roads through rather than over the mountain, which led to the digging of the reservoir by the end of the century.     -

Originally construction on the Lake Arrowhead Dam was started as far back as 1904, however it was paused for several years due to land ownership and water supply litigations. Work eventually resumed, however, and the dam was completed in 1915, though the reservoir was not filled until 1922. 

After sizable earthquakes in 1971, tests were done to determine the stability of the dam and reservoir. As a result, it was decided that an additional reservoir, Lake Papoose, be built as a backup. 

Tourism In Lake Arrowhead

Lake Arrowhead
Yachts at Lake Arrowhead. Editorial credit: FiledIMAGE /

The area is a private lake, and private residential community, but it has a strong tourism sector. In fact, tourism is the main source of economy for the area, and generates millions of dollars each year for the county. Tourism is also the primary source of jobs for the region, and both full time and seasonal jobs in tourism and recreation are common here. An estimated 4 million tourists visit the Lake Arrowhead region per year, and accommodations include hotels, the Lake Arrowhead Resort, bed and breakfasts, cabin rentals, and motels which can house roughly 400 or so guests.

Lake Arrowhead
The village near Lake Arrowhead. Editorial credit: FiledIMAGE /

Attractions on the lake and in the surrounding community include a golf course, the Lake Arrowhead Country Club, Lake Arrowhead Yacht Club, and a Santa’s Village. The village boasts some 50 or so waterfront shops and dining locations for locals and guests alike. Additionally, a variety of festivals and events, both cultural and tourism based, are hosted here. Many of these are sponsored by or hosted in collaboration with The Mountain Skies Astronomical Society, and the Arrowhead Arts Association. 

Wildlife In And Around Lake Arrowhead

Lake Arrowhead
Ducks in Lake Arrowhead.

Though the current lake is a cultivated reservoir, the original area was home to a smaller Little Bear Lake, as well as the natural rivers. As such, the region was, and continues to be home to wildlife. Though some of the animals may have moved on with the increased development of the area, several species can still be seen in the quieter regions and surrounding forests. 

Pine forests are the most common in this area, with both Coulter Pine and Big Cone Pine growing in abundance. Other tree species include California black oak, and maple-leaved oak. In addition to these trees, wildflowers and shrubs like salvia, sedum and cone flower can be found. 

In terms of animals, forest creatures and birds are common. The most common species of bird in Lake Arrowhead is the Steller's Jay, as well as to a lesser extent, the California Scrub Jay. Ducks, woodpeckers and bald eagles also call this area home. Mammals in the region are mostly smaller forest dwellers like squirrels, raccoons and chipmunks, though coyotes and grey foxes do also roam the less human-populated regions. The wider San Bernardino area also has black bears, California mule deer, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and bobcats.

This protected private land is a mixture of wealthy homes and untouched wilderness. From the industrial feat of the reservoir to the natural forest and rivers in the area, the Lake Arrowhead community has become a beautiful escape for tourist, and a luxurious community for those wealthy and lucky enough to call it home.


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