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Pam Starr
Alyn Robert Brereton
Julie MacKinnon
Linda Pittman
Parham Pourahmad
Larry Whiting
Randall Finley
Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve - Site # 5043
The San Bernardino National Forest contains many beautiful, interesting and unique wildflower viewing experiences. The San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains of southern California support a disproportionately high botanical diversity, many rare and endemic plant species, and landscapes that explode with color during the late spring and early summer months.

The Baldwin Ecological Reserve, owned and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the surrounding National Forest System lands lie near the northwest shore of Baldwin Lake at about 7000 feet elevation. The area is near the eastern end of Big Bear Valley in the San Bernardino Mountains, and provides long views westward toward Big Bear Lake and the associated ski areas.
SeasonalSeasonal - these sites have high wildlife values during certain seasons, though they may have recreational value year-round.

Shooting Stars & Douglas Violet: 750x498 Bear Valley Sandwort Arenaria ursina: 499x750 Pebble Plain Shooting Star: 750x562 Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve: 1024x682.54200146092 Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve: 1024x682.54200146092 Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve: 1024x682.54200146092 Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve Wildflowers: 1024x682.54200146092

Background: The California Department of Fish & Wildlife purchased the property from The Nature Conservancy in 1989. It was acquired to protect existing populations of rare and endangered plants. The property was designated as an ecological reserve by the California Fish and Game Commission in 1991.

An interpretive trail managed jointly between the San Bernardino National Forest and California Department of Fish and Wildlife provides a focus on rare plants and wildflower displays. Wet meadows with waves of iris and rare checkerblooms and margins of rare purple and yellow monkeyflowers separate rounded knolls of clay soils and quartzite cobbles known as pebble plains. In the spring the pebble plains are awash with rock cress and violets, with flashes of shooting stars and milk-vetch here and there. Most pebble plain species are tiny, and some are best appreciated close-up while lying flat on your belly. The diversity of pebble plains is comparable to coral reefs, with as many as 20 species in a square meter. The best time to visit and enjoy is during April and early May.
The surrounding area is the spiritual center of the Serrano people's ancestral homeland. According to the Serrano lore, the creator Kukitat lived here. When he died, his body was cremated nearby and his ashes created all the beautiful flowers.

This was also the location of the gold-mining town Bairdstown later called Dobie. It was abandoned in the 1930s.

Please leave all artifacts where they are.

The Habitat: The 156-acre Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve includes a unique pebble plain plant community as well as vernal wet meadow habitat. The site is also significant for its wintering population of bald eagles. A truly unique natural habitat, Baldwin Lake is a large, ephemeral lake in the northeastern San Bernardino Mountains that forms on alkali soils that were uplifted several thousand feet from the floor of the Mojave Desert. It is surrounded Great Basin Sage Scrub, probably the most extensive example of this habitat in southern California. The lakeshore can be marshy or dusty depending on the rainfall the previous winter. Extensive pinyon-juniper woodland surrounds the eastern side of the lake, while the southern side features yellow pine woodland.

The Experience: When you think of wildflower viewing, do you ever imagine laying on your belly to see those colorful blooms? Often called ‘belly plants’, this unique variety of wildflowers is so small, you may just need to put your nose to the ground to see them! Varieties of belly plants are only found in Pebble Plains ecosystems which…get ready for it…only exist in Big Bear Lake!

Wildlife and Where to Find It: Deer, coyote, chipmunks, mountain and western bluebirds, pinyon jays, bald eagles, mountain quail, lizards, snakes, and neotropical migratory birds.

Baldwin Lake has supported an exceptionally large breeding population of Eared Grebe (>1000 birds), breeding ducks (up to 4 species) as well as flocks of thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl during migration, especially in fall. As in northeastern California, the shrub-steppe bird community mingles with that of the forest, resulting in a very high diversity of certain groups of birds (up to 15 species of sparrows, including Vesper and Brewer's, breed in the IBA). The vast grassland surrounding the lake is an important raptor foraging area and traditional wintering area for Bald Eagles up to thirty have wintered.

Viewing Tips: For more information, check online at:

Site Notes: Location for Baldwin Lake:
44999 N Shore Drive, Big Bear, CA 92314

CDFW online map:

Nearby Viewing Sites: Located within San Bernardino County
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
Chilao Visitor Center
Jarvi Memorial Vista
Palm to Pines Scenic Byway
Rim of the World Scenic Byway

Festivals & Events: A variety of events take place through the Southern California Mountains Foundation. Check online at:https://mountainsfoundation.org/big-bear-discovery-center

Visitor Information: Visit Big Bear Lake - 800-424-4232 or 909-866-7000 - https://www.bigbear.com/
Viewing Site Hours of Operation are:
Staff On-site: Yes
Year Round: No
Seasonal: There is staff only in the early spring during the tours.

Road Information:   Paved. 
Road Hazards: 
 Number of Parking Spaces: 10
Parking Fee: No
Proximity to viewing area:
 Pull-Through Parking: No
Parking Notes: Turn off paved road into dirt parking lot.
If there's snow the winter, the parking lot isn't plowed.
There aren't any specific parking spaces lined.

Special Tips: The visitor center is only open during spring months. Check with Southern California Mountains Foundation.

How to Get There: Arrive in Big Bear Valley via one of the following three mountain highway routes: From Redlands and points west (including Ontario and Los Angeles) take Highways 330 and 18. From east of Redlands (including Palm Springs), take Highway 38. From Lucerne Valley, the Mojave Desert, and points north (including Barstow and Las Vegas), take Highway 18. Once in Big Bear Valley, follow Highway 18 along the north shore of Baldwin Lake (periodically dry) to the east end of the valley and watch for the Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve sign on the roadside.

Contact Information
Managing Agency: California Department of Fish & Wildlife
Agency Site URL: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/Baldwin-Lake-ER
Physical Address:3602 Inland Empire Blvd, Suite C220
Ontario, CA 91764
Agency 2:40971 North Shore Drive, Highway 38
Fawnskin, CA 92333
Manager Phone:
Site Phone:909-484-0167
County: San Bernardino
Addition Website:  https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/regions/Pacific_Southwest/Ba