Big Bear Lake, California

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Big Bear Lake is a city in San Bernardino County, California along the south shore of Big Bear Lake, located 25 miles (40 km) northeast of the city of San Bernardino. The population was 5,438 at the 2000 census. Surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest, Big Bear Lake is a year-around resort destination for Southern California.



Big Bear Lake was inhabited by the indigenous Serrano Indians for over 2,000 years before it was explored by Benjamin Wilson and his party. Once populated by only the natives and the grizzly bears, from which the area received its name, Big Bear Valley grew rapidly during the Southern California Gold Rush from 1861 to 1912. Grizzly bears were not found in the region after 1906.[citation needed] However there are black bears in the region and they are sometimes sighted in residential areas. The San Bernardino Mountains, specifically Big Bear Valley, is host to many types of wildlife including coyotes, squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, snakes, bald eagles, wolverines, skunks, deer and mountain lions. Coyotes in the area are known to sometimes feed on residents' pets.

A trip to Big Bear Lake from San Bernardino took two days on horse-drawn coaches. Kirk Phillips was a local who took a trip to New York City and saw the world's first bus line. This inspired him to create the world's second bus line from San Bernardino to Big Bear Valley using White trucks with several rows of seats. This made it possible for the villages to grow and for Big Bear Lake to become the first mountain recreation area in Southern California.[1]

Many people traveled to enjoy recreation on the lake, however, another major draw was the natural hot spring. Emile Jesserun bought 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land that included the hot spring and built the first major resort in Big Bear, the Pan Hot Springs Hotel, in 1921. This resort was followed with others that strived to be the best by creating a country club atmosphere complete with the amenities required to lure the Hollywood celebrities of the time including Cecil B. DeMille, Shirley Temple, and Ginger Rogers. It was also a popular place for shooting on location, as they did for the filming of the 1920 version of Last of the Mohicans and a number of Bonanza episodes in the 1960's at Cedar lake. 1924 saw Big Bear populated with 44 resorts and a constant stream of vacationers. The Pan Hot Springs Hotel, like many of the other resorts and hotels in Big Bear, was extensively damaged by fire in 1933.[citation needed]

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