The History of Green Valley Lake
For such a little town, Green Valley has such an interesting history with a toll road, the building of a dam, and winter sports all in the peaceful little valley off of Highway 18. When the Bear ValleyWagon Road Company ran their toll road through the little valley in 1892, they felt the meadow area would be perfect for their toll station. A large one 11-room toll house was constructed at the east end of the valley’s meadow and for ten years Ben Pitts collected tolls, supplied lodging and a hot meal at this overnight stop for stages heading on to Big Bear. Pitts became famous for the huge potatoes he grew in the local meadow and served with each meal. Pitts stayed through the 1902 season.
In 1903, the toll house operation was taken over by the Tillett family George and Demaris “May” and their children. One-way toll rates were posted on a sign outside the toll house. Toll rates for one animal and vehicles were .35; two animals were .50, and three animals were.65 Loose horses, mules, and cattle were .10 ahead, but sheep cost .25 a piece, a clear sign that the cattlemen didn’t want sheep invading their territory. The toll building was operational from the last snowfall in spring to the first snowfall in the fall.
In 1911 the road became a free public route to Bear Valley, putting the toll booth out of business.The Tillett’s spent every summer in Green Valley fro almost 17 years. They purchased the toll house property and operated a small tourist business. They build a store and gas station across from the toll house and later a store called the Trading Post that was built next to the toll house.
Let’s Create a Lake
Many people might think Big Bear Lake is the highest lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, but they’d be wrong. Green Valley Lake, at 6,850 feet is 100 feet higher that Big Bear Lake. Green Valley didn’t always have a lake; in fact, the valley was home to a meadow before 1926. After the Brookings Lumber Company, the biggest logging and lumbering operation ever in the San Bernardino Mountains was finished harvesting the virgin timber in and around Running Springs, centuries oldGreen Valley was centuries-old of a forest. Stripped of virtually all its trees, Green Valley was no longer the pretty little valley of the late 1800’s. The valley needed a facelift and a reason for tourists to come and visit.
Enter “Green Valley Mac” Harry McMullen, who came up with the idea of creating a dam and are sort lake in the little valley. McMullen bought as much Green Valley property as he could fromBrookings Lumber Company and then pulled in developers DeWitt, and Blair from Los Angeles to help build the dam. The dam was finished in 1926, and the meadow began filling with water.A huge advertising campaign brought buyers up the mountain, which also helped George Gillett who subdivided part of his property in the upper end of the valley and sold off parcels.
Although the lake is a private owner, visitors can rent a variety of boats and paddle boards from the Boat House and pay a small fee to use the swimming area. The 8.5-acre lake is stocked with trout, catfish, and bass.
Downhill skiing, toboggan runs, cross country skiing and snowboarding have all been a part of Green Valley’s winter sports history. Back in 1939, the first ski run was constructed on ForestService land on the south side of Green Valley campground. Located about 150 yards the uphill behind the Trading Post store, skiers were pulled to the top of the hill by a 300-foot rope tow powered by a Stratton engine. The run became known as Suicide Hill. The Trading Post at the bottom of the run was the perfect place for lunch or to rent equipment. In 1940 a new rope tow was added about 150 yards east of the original run, powered by an old car engine, mounted on a concrete base at the top of the run.
Between 1942 and 1945, the Forest service closed the mountains to recreational activity due to World War II and it wasn’t until after the war that the present day ski facility was created. This area is known as Green Valley Snow Bowl underwent some renovations and ownerships.From a super fast toboggan run to a ski run with a chair lift to an exclusive snowboarding park, the Green Valley snow area has changed with the times. Today, Green Valley Lake is home to on of the San Bernardino Mountain’s largest marked and maintained cross-country ski areas. The trail starts at the entrance to Green Valley campground and winds through the mountains.