Reams could be written about the principle architect of Pines to Palms and Banning to Idyllwild highways 74 and 243. Urban trekkers spin up scenic mountain passes, navigate banking contours, climb upwards of 4,000 feet to emerge safely in a pristine alpine forest community. Mountain residents rely on the highways’ designs and everyone’s wise driving habits, to regularly traverse steadily-increasing altitudes to carry on the business of life in the lively worlds below, returning home safely.
Lake Fulmor is another direct descendent of A.C. Fulmor’s creative eye. Elegant by any standard, the lake’s reflections seem to recognize each pilgrim in its fragile body of water; decades pass and still families return — case in point, the recent Fulmor family reunion.
Alexander Choate Fulmor began his career as a Riverside County surveyer in 1916. By 1932, he surveyed and supervised construction of the Ortega Highway. Fulmor subsequently opened his own engineering firm in Riverside, Fulmor and Davison. Early Idyllwild settler Claudius Emerson hired the firm to survey the entire sector he owned surrounding Tollgate. A portion of Fulmor’s payment was a lot located on Country Club Drive, which served as a family getaway until about 1952.
By 1933 “the road builder,” as Fulmor was known, began design and supervising the building of what would come to be known as highways 74 and 243. The project would prove life-altering for early residents. But by early 1940s, funding was withdrawn due to war expenses and construction stalled. Construction resumed in 1946.
According to Hollis Fulmor, a granddaughter and Idyllwild resident, “Grandpa, while surveying, hired two American Indian trackers to help determine the highway’s eventual route prior to construction of Highway 74. The trackers showed him the trails native residents took to the desert. Grandpa wanted to follow the land’s natural contours and avoid blasting as much as possible, a sentiment that stemmed from an abiding respect for both the land and local tribes.”
One of Fulmor’s visions for Highway 243 included repositioning the old road to create a shorter route, and creating a lake in a small canyon adjoining the highway as a recreational area for visitors and residents. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved the lake project and then named it after Fulmor in recognition of his services.
Fulmor’s crews engineered a small dam on Indian Creek, sometimes referred to as Hall Creek, which also supported the highway. The design allowed Indian Creek to continue its journey after forming one of Southern California’s most endearing lakes. Fulmor Lake was dedicated in 1950; Jane Powell, an exceptional dancer and actress during Hollywood’s golden age, cut the ribbon.
The lake is managed by California Fish and Game and is stocked with rainbow trout spring, summer and fall. An Adventure Pass is still required to visit the lake, which takes about 30 minutes to walk around. The half-moon-shaped deck is an ideal place for viewing or fishing; the stone work and picnic sites were installed more recently.
“Granddad was very unassuming and spoke little of his work,” said Hollis. “But community service was very important for him and my father followed in his footsteps. Grandpa was also an amateur botanist, always pointing out the names of trees and bushes, making sure we took note of the natural environment.
“He and our grandmother Ruby were adored by the family for the humble elegance in their characters. They lived as pinnacles of integrity, setting a great example for us all because of their high scholastic standards as well,” recalls Hollis. “The entire family is grateful for their role in our lives.”