The Development of Bear Creek Lakes

 

Bear Creek Lake was the dream of Josiah W.H "Cy" Behrens, prominent Penn Forest resident, who, along with his brother Ted, owned and operated the Bear Creek Farm & Dairy.

Cy introduced his plans and dream to John Wargo and together they held meetings and negotiations with the Blue Ridge Real Estate Company, owner of the property that most of the Lake and Development was constructed on. Finally in the summer of 1963, negotiations ended and the purchase of 1300 acres was arranged from Blue Ridge Real Estate Company. The Development Company, Bear Creek Lake, Inc., was formed in November 1963 and construction began with the clearing of the lake site.

Construction of the dam took place in the spring and summer of 1964 and by fall of 1964 the dam and clearing was completed. The lake filled during the winter of 1964 and spring of 1965 and by early summer of 1965 the lake was filled. There are numerous springs throughout the lake and there are two huge springs that are in the east end of the lake. The chief engineer from Joseph Beers Construction Company estimated that the water in the lake probably originated in the mountains of Vermont or New Hampshire and is not of local origin.

Some of the early purchasers and folks who built first on the development site were John and June Martinkovich residing along Route 903. Theodore Rothermund constructed his huge A-frame home along 903, Mr. and Mrs. George Pantello along 903, John Wargo constructed the A-frame on the west shore of the lake for Joseph Petrovich, who later sold to Charles Chain family, Ralph Tuttle family along the west shore, Roger and Caroline Bretz along the West shore. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Henry, living along Indian Trail Road were the first family that had children, when their twins were born while they resided in the development. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dunlap were also early residents as was Wash Barno along the Lake Drive. Mr. and Mrs. George Kerestes were early builders of their home on the west shore and George was the Bear Creek Lakes Corporation Attorney.

The lake was stocked first with Brook Trout, with the attempt to keep the lake as a trout lake. However, the trout would not spawn and produce young trout, as there are no streams running into the lake and we were advised that without a stream the trout could not reproduce. Along with the trout, additional stocking was attempted with bass and continued stockings of both bass and trout, each year.

The depth of the water at the dam is approximately 30 feet at the damsite. There are two drainage pipes in the dam area, one opening through the manhole which is protruding above the dam and one which is operated by a gate valve at the front of the damsite.

The length of the lake is approximately 1 1/4 miles from the dam to the boat dock area at the eastern end of the lake and there is approximately 3 1/2 miles of shoreline and the lake covers 160 acres, which in 1963 was the forest mentioned earlier.

 
 

Sales Brochures and Newspaper Advertisements

 

These items were among the original markerting pamphlets showcasing the Bear Creek Lakes community.

 

Frisky the Bear is our Bear Creek Lakes Mascot. He was created by Bear Creek Lakes' resident artist and pioneer, Mr. Stewart.

 

 

 

 

Draining the Lake

 

These photos are from 2001, when the lake was drained to allow the spillway to be repaired.

 
 

Bear Creek Lakes Dam Turns 40

The dam at Bear Creek Lakes in Penn Forest Township is about to become older than the proverbial 39-year-old comic, Jack Benny. The land was cleared in the fall of 1963 and the earthen dam was constructed during 1964. The lake began filling during the winter of 1964 and spring of 1965 and by early summer of 1965 the lake reached its operating level.

Bear Creek Lake was the dream of Penn Forest Township resident Josiah W. H. 'Cy" Behrens, who, along with his brother Ted, owned and operated the Bear Creek Farm and Dairy.

In November of 1963, Behrens and partner John Wargo purchased 1,300 acres from the Blue Ridge Real Estate Company and formed Bear Creek Lake, Inc. to develop the property. Clearing of the lake site began immediately.

There are two Bear Creeks-Big Bear Creek and Little Bear Creek. That's possibly why the development became Bear Creek Lakes. The development is built upon what was formerly Big Bear Creek. To make things even more confusing, the topographic maps call it Beaver Lake.

If that isn't confusing enough, Bear Creek in Luzerne County is a major tributary to the Lehigh River. The two streams join just above the Francis E. Water Dam. Bear Creek is dammed by a renovated ice dam along Route 115 just north of Blakeslee, to form Bear Creek Lake.

In the early 1800s, both areas were swampy. The Luzerne Bear Creek area was called the Shades of Death following the Wyoming Massacre. The Carbon County Bear Creek was area was referred to as the Great Pine Swamp.

Between 1840 and 1860, the Penn Forest areas, including Bear Creek, were clear-cut for lumbering. Saw mills were built along the creeks and near the Lehigh River to use the waterpower to operate the saws and load the cut lumber onto waiting vessels.

After the flood of 1862, the dams on the Upper Section of the Lehigh Navigation system were destroyed and the Lehigh Gorge above Coalport was abandoned for shipping.

As a result of the massive timbering, and in many cases just for the bark of the hemlock tree for its tannin, used for tanning hides, the forests were littered with fallen trees. On a hot dry day, probably sparks, from a steam engine passing through the Lehigh Gorge, started a brush fire that fire stormed up the Gorge walls and spread a wall of flames covering the east side of the Lehigh River and destroying much of Carbon and Luzerne Counties.

Although sawmills returned to harvest the second and third growth forest, Penn Forest remained largely undeveloped. Bear Creek Lakes was the first development in the township and since its beginnings. Penn Forest has been one of the fastest growing townships in Carbon County.

In 2001, after an inspection detected undermining of the spillway, Bear Creek Lake was drained and repaired. The lake refilled itself over the winter and the following spring from its underground springs. When the lake was originally formed, chief engineer from Joseph Beers Construction Company believed that the water in the lake probably originated in the mountains of Vermont or New Hampshire and is not of local origin.

When the site was originally cleared for the lake, the site was logged and the lake's waters covered the tree stumps. When the lake was drained, the tree stumps dried out and after the lake refilled, hundreds of stumps floated to the surface. The community formed a stump crew and over several months hauled away enough stumps, some with root spread close to twenty feet in diameter, to easily fill the infield of a baseball field.

Bear Creek Lake covers 160-acres, is 1-1/4 miles long has approximately 3-1/2 miles of shoreline. The maximum depth is approximately 30-feet.

BEAR CREEK LAKES CIVIC ASSOCIATION
57 Pool Drive, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229

Office: 570-325-3334  Email:  bclca@ptd.net

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