In 1909, the Bear Valley Mutual Water Company accepted John Eastwood’s design for a new dam at Big Bear Lake to replace the original rock dam that had been built in 1885. Eastwood’s unique design called for an all concrete structure without any rock or dirt fill. Eleven concrete buttresses would be built across the gorge about 35 feet apart and about 50 yards downstream from the existing rock dam. Between each of the buttresses a concrete arch would be built. In essence Big Bear would have ten smaller but stronger arch dams across the valley instead of one large one.
The following photos document the construction of our Big Bear Lake Dam.
Big Bear Lake level rarely drops low enough to expose the old Rock Dam. However in the summer of 2004, the old Rock Dam made an appearance above the waterline for the first time since the early 1960′s. This event was documented in an episode of Channel-6′s Big Bear History Show. The photo below was taken during the production of the show.
In the mid 1980’s, a state engineering study determined that the Eastwood Dam at Big Bear lake had serious structural problems. The bridge made it too top heavy. Further investigations were unable to find evidence of any reinforcing iron within the concrete structure. The dam was declared not up to earthquake standards, and therefore unsafe. It was ordered that Big Bear Lake dam would have to be either retrofitted or replaced. It was decided to do a retrofit.
The Eastwood Dam consists of ten small arch dams connected together across the narrow gorge at the east end of Big Bear valley. The retrofit project as designed to reinforce each of the arch dams by filling the space between the supporting buttresses with iron bars and massive amounts of concrete. The project began in early 1988, and was finished in 1989 at a cost of about $11,000,000.
The following two photos show the construction work at the beginning and near the completion of that project.
For a more detailed look at Big Bear’s fascinating history, go to the Channel-6 website program guide. Here you will find the dates and times for the various Big Bear Historical episodes on Channel-6’s History Show.
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