Lake Arrowhead, CA, USA

The Arrowhead & The Springs

A Tale From History

Learn About The Arrowhead

The Arrowhead & The Springs

June 5, 2018

By Paola Zarate

Before Lake Arrowhead became Hollywood's Playground, it was known in the 1820s as "Little Bear Valley". Little Bear Valley was bursting with natural resources that attracted the nomadic Native American tribe of the Serrano people, who returned to the mountains when the weather warmed up and the mountain plants bloomed.

In the 1920s, by which time development plans for a dam had moved forward, the Arrowhead Lake Company bought Little Bear Lake and the surrounding land and renamed it Lake Arrowhead. The name was derived from the fantastic, natural phenomenon that sits in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains — an Arrowhead, which can be seen from miles around. The Arrowhead is 1,375 feet in length and 449 feet in width. Its face is comprised of light quartz, supporting a growth of short white sage. For centuries this landmark has been an important symbol of the San Bernardino Valley and has been named a California Historical Monument.

Beneath the historic Arrowhead, sits the equally unique Arrowhead Springs. The Arrowhead Springs is a place deeply rooted in legend, with the most ancient one possibly being passed down from the Native Americans. The legend goes like this: The Great Spirit had an arrow, which was to guide the Native Americans to the spot where they were to make their home. The Great Spirit, having selected the place, fixed the arrow to mark it forever. It is believed that the native inhabitants of the San Bernardino Mountains thought the Arrowhead directed the way to the hot springs with healing properties, and therefore considered it holy ground.

Today, the Arrowhead Springs sits within the renowned Arrowhead Springs Hotel. The grand hotel, a centerpiece of the 1930s and 40s Hollywood glamour-era resort sits within the territories of the Serrano people. The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians purchased the resort in May of 2016. This 69-room hotel was built in 1939 and was designed by renowned African-American architect Paul R. Williams. The very first resort was established by D.N. Smith in 1864 who established a healing sanitarium at the hot springs site. The sanitarium expanded into a hotel which eventually burned down in 1886. A second hotel was built, which boasted the "hottest springs in the world". By the 1930s the glamour years of Hollywood had arrived to the mountains, and in 1938 the resort passed onto the ownership of big screen names. After another fire burned the resort to the ground it was rebuilt once more and continues to stand today.

The newly rebuilt resort was dazzling. It drew Hollywood elites like Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Clark Gable, and even infamous mobster Bugsy Siegel. The new resort also played host to movie scenes filmed by Humphrey Bogart and Esther Williams.

The glamourous days didn't last long, however. By World War II, the resort property was converted into a naval hospital. At the end of the war, the resort was purchased by Conrad Hilton in 1949 and flourished as a Hilton hotel for a few more years. As the rich and famous gained access to international resort destinations, the Arrowhead Resort passed onto anonymity. Now the resort sits patiently and impressively as ever, waiting for the next chapter of its history to unfold.

"Arrowhead (Landmark)." City of San Bernardino,
Cataldo, Nicholas R. "The Serrano's: The First San Bernardinians." City of San Bernardino, 2005,
Nolan, Ruth. "The Arrow Rises Again: San Bernardino's Famed and Forgotten Architectural Wonder." KCET, KCETLink Media Group, 4 May 2017,
Staff. "San Bernardino's Arrowhead Landmark to Be Lit Up for 14 Days in Memorial." InlandEmpire.US, Red Fusion Media Inc., 1 Dec. 2016,

About the author

Paola Zarate

Paola Zarate

Paola Zarate traded in her hometown in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to Arrowbear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California several years ago. She now attends college and is pursing a teaching career.

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