Baldwin Lake is located on the northernmost end of Big Bear
Valley just 7 miles from the popular Big Bear Lake ski and
resort attractions. This San Bernardino mountain community which
sits above the Los Angeles basin at approximately 7,000 feet
experiences warm summers and cold winters with snow and freezing
temperatures usually in November through March. Baldwin Lake
includes a small lake that often dries up in the summer,
scattered homes around the lake and for tourists, a horse riding
stable with a petting zoo and an ecological reserve for bird
Named for E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin who mined for
gold in the Baldwin Lake area in the mid 1800's, Lucky did
strike it rich after several failed attempts. Earning $4,000 a
week when his find was at its peak, Baldwin was one of many
miners who came to Bear Valley during the mid-1800s when gold
fever was at its height during the California Gold Rush that
began in 1848.
Today at Baldwin Lake you'll find another kind of gold, slender-petaled mustard (Thelypodium
stenopetalum), an endangered species that flourishes in the
moist meadow areas of the ecological reserve. In the spring
after the snow melts, the valley comes alive with fantastic
colors that include yellows, oranges and purples from flowers
such as the Parish’s rock-cress. California Department of Fish
and Game manages the Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve in which
these flowers bloom. They take special note of buckwheat and paintbrush
growing at Baldwin Lake. These plants, like the mustard, appear on the state
and federal endangered species lists.
For botanists and ornithologists, Baldwin Lake is a treasure
trove of rare and endangered plants, birds and fish species.
Even geologists delight in the treeless pebble plains occurring
from an Ice Age lake that formed the clay soils that swell when
wet, then shrink and crack in the dry months. Over thousands of
years, this cycle of swelling and shrinking, combined with
freezing, has pushed up pebbles that accumulate on the surface.
The combination of unique soils, harsh growing conditions and
isolation from other similar areas has created a plant community
found nowhere else in the world.
Small quartz, pebbly rocks spring forth low growing, tufted
plants rooted in the crevices. The flowers of cushion-like
plants create a panorama of color. Special
adaptations to the weather conditions include tiny leaves covered
with fine hairs to reduce water loss during the many days of
mountain sun. The ash-grey paintbrush with unusual gray leaves
obtains nutrients by tapping into the roots of nearby plants.
Kennedy’s buckwheat, another rare Baldwin Lake-area plant, grows deep
roots that anchor it even when the clay freezes and expands
Bald eagle habitats in the rare pebble plain make this region an
attractive study for environmentalists, nature lovers and those
who simply want to explore the great outdoors in all its
splendor. In addition to its unique pebble plain with that
springs forth rare plants, hikers may spot coyotes and deer.
Birds include saw-whet and screech owls, great horned owls,
Cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, red-tailed hawks and
kestrels. Other birds found at the ecological reserve
include the red-breasted nuthatch and the Western bluebird.
As strange as the pebble plain is an odd fish creature living in
this climate of extremes, the stickleback. Also listed as an
endangered species, the fish sometimes struggle to reproduce as
the lake dries up.
Like the plants onshore, the stickleback has adapted, to improve
its chances of survival. Male sticklebacks make nests to
attract females to the lake’s sandy bottom. After fertilizing
the eggs, the male chases the female away and begins guarding
them till they hatch.
Baldwin Lake ER,
Hwy 18 east of Big Bear City. Reserve is at the intersection of
Hwy 18 and Holcomb Valley Road on the north side of Baldwin
Lake. Waterfowl hunting from boats only. Boats may only be used
for waterfowl hunting. San Bernardino County. Call: (909) 597-9823
In addition to seeing Baldwin Lakes ecological reserve, guests
can tour the area on horse with guided tours offered at Baldwin
Lake Stables. Enjoy great rides in both the summer and winter
months, including in the snow. One, two, three and four hour
rides are offered by guides who also enjoy the special sunset
tour. Baldwin Lake Stables also has pony rides for the
kids and a petting zoo with llamas, bunnies, goats, pigs,
hamsters and ducks that you can feed and pet. Baldwin Lake
Stables, P.O. Box 2397, E. Shay Road, Big Bear City, CA 92314.
Call: (909) 585-6482.