July 25, 2019
By Bill Pumford, Image from Russ Keller Collection
TITLE: LAKE ARROWHEAD TUNNELS: This week’s image is a real photo from the early 1900’s of the Emerald Bay inlet tunnel for Lake Arrowhead. Tunnels have played an important role in the history of Little Bear Valley and subsequently Lake Arrowhead. The original plan for the Lake Arrowhead reservoir called for 60 miles of tunnels and water conveyances which would feed water from many of the creeks in the Little Bear Valley watershed to the reservoir. These creeks included Little Bear, Hook, Fern, Shake, Holcomb and Deep. The water in the reservoir would then be sent to the San Bernardino valley for irrigation purposes. There was a flaw in this plan, however. The creeks in the Little Bear Valley watershed flowed naturally to the north to the Mojave River area and the ranchers in that area were not enthused about the potential loss of their water. After a long and painful litigation process the courts ruled in the favor of the Mojave ranchers. Following this ruling the plans for the tunnels to supply water for irrigation were abandoned. Six and a half miles of tunnels had been completed. There is the tunnel from Grass Valley Lake which feeds water to Lake Arrowhead which is still in existence. Tunnel #1 does not go under Lake Arrowhead to the outlet tower. Instead, a smaller diameter tunnel runs from the outlet tower to an elevator shaft on the shore of the lake and connects to Tunnel #1. This is the tunnel that Huell Howser traveled through for one of his California’s Gold shows. This outlet tunnel provides Lake Arrowhead a way to quickly reduce the lake level by releasing water down Willow Creek. In the mid-1980s the tunnel and the valves in the tower were tested and worked satisfactorily. Most tunnels that were part of the original Arrowhead Reservoir and Power Company have their entrances closed or are now on private property.