San Bernardino County

Baldwin Lake

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Baldwin Lake
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Lake Baldwin - Big Bear Valley - California


Baldwin Lake, California


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 watching.


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 beneath.


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.