Cabins and Camps

Tourism continued to grow in Big Bear Lake, with the introduction and widespread use of the motorcar, or in Big Bear’s case, the White Touring Truck (Bus). By 1914, The Mountain Auto Line had nine trucks making regular trips “up the hill” each 4 cylinder truck capable of seating 13 passengers. Camps of Rustic Log Cabins sprang up along the south shore, some of which can still be seen today if you look hard enough. By 1916, Pine Knot Lodge, Knight’s Camp, Swastika Camp and Camp Eureka were the popular lodges in the Valley. Margaret Betterly built Camp Eureka. Her cabins accommodated 75 guests and ran until 1921.
This was also the first time of major building in Big Bear, as tourists decided they wanted a piece of this Big Bear paradise, and the hearty locals who called Big Bear home year-round needed a place to live. While many built rustic little cabins, the need for more refined materials grew and there was a virtual explosion of saw mills in the area, as the native pine was turned into usable lumber for building. The Pedersen Sawmill was the longest running sawmill, and operated from the 1920’s to the 1960’s.
Also, around 1915, the government began leasing summer home sites near the dam for $15 per year. A slow drive around the lake reveals that many of the rustic cabins built on those leases still remain, some with their original log and bark siding, others fantastically updated, all charming. One of Big Bear’s most picturesque assemblies of cabins can be seen from Boulder Bay. China Island, built in 1911 by Maude Garstin, is a series of tiny Asian inspired dwellings cut off from the shore when the second dam was built.