for John C. Fremont, who as a major of the California Battalion
led his men and artillery through this gap to support the attack on
Los Angeles during the Mexican War. The troops had unopposed
passage, since the defenders had fallen back, and Fremont was able to
occupy San Fernando Mission.
Antiquated wooden derricks straggling up the slopes on both sides
of the road at 29.6 m. mark one of the producing districts of the
NEWHALL-VENTURA OIL FIELD, birthplace of California's petroleum
The first recorded use of oil from this area was in 1850 when
Andres Pico, Mexican general and brother of Pio Pico, the last Mexi-
can Governor of California, collected seepage in Pico Canyon, several
miles west of US 6, and distilled it in a copper still and worm to obtain
petroleum for the lamps at San Fernando Mission.
Although various attempts were thereafter made to commercialize
the deposits, the oil industry as such was not organized until 1875
TOUR 7 393
when a spring-hole was completed in Pico Canyon. This well yielded
approximately six barrels of oil a day from a 75-foot depth. Subse-
quently the California Star Oil Works Company, first West Coast oil
concern, took over the well and built a refinery near Newhall.
In 1882 two Pennsylvania oil men began drilling in the area.
Occasionally other companies and independent operators did some drill-
ing here. In 1916 the last well was sunk by the Standard Oil Com-
pany of California. Between 1875 and 1937 the field yielded a total
of 55,669,587 barrels of oil. Of approximately 235 wells that had
been drilled, 85 were still daily producing one to five barrels each in
Until recently NEWHALL PASS, which US 6 traverses, was a bottle-
neck for travelers between the San Joaquin and Antelope valleys,
and the Los Angeles area. Here the trails of explorers, trappers,
priests, and soldiers converged. Francisco Garces, the Spanish priest-
explorer, used the pass in 1776; Fremont in 1847; an d tne remnants
of Captain John Doty's Jayhawker party, which left the main party
and took a short cut across the deserts from Salt Lake City to Los
Angeles in 1849-50. Suffering great hardships while crossing Death
Valley and the Mojave Desert, the 32 survivors of the party of 37
were given beds and food at Rancho San Francisquito, which included
the Newhall area.
Through the pass went the early stages, and in 1875 the Southern
Pacific engineers selected the route through the pass to carry their
rails between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Until 1930, US 99
came through the pass; it now follows easier grades to the west.
At 31.7 m. is a junction with Railroad Canyon Rd.
Left here to NEWHALL REFINERY, 0.3 m. (open; free), the first in California,
built in 1876 by D. G. Scofield's California Star Oil Works Company to refine
crude petroleum from the Pico Canyon field. In the beginning, the refinery
could produce only 20 barrels of oil a day. After seven years of operation
it was closed, and thereafter oil from Pico Canyon was shipped in tank cars
to a refinery at Alameda. In 1924 the Pioneers Petroleum Society of Cali-
fornia acquired the abandoned refinery, and some land around it, to make it
a memorial to California's early petroleum producers. The carefully restored
stills, retorts, and vats are seen grouped together in a small canyon. The
four stills, with a combined capacity of 330 barrels, rest on brick furnaces
below a ridge on which the old receiving tank stands.
The towering stills, spiderv drip racks, and other units of the Union Oil
Company's modern refinery, just east of the antiquated pioneer plant, show
the sharp contrast between past and present refining methods.
Crowning a low spur of the Santa Susana Mountains (L) at 32.2
m., is the white castellated MANSION OF WILLIAM S. HART (private),
former two-gun motion-picture actor. The turreted structure of me-
dieval appearance is the home of Hart and his invalid sister, Mary,
and stands on the Hart Horseshoe Ranch.
NEWHALL, 32.4 m. (1,273 alt., 1,104 P<>P-)> was the first oil
boom town in the state. Following the exploitation of petroleum
deposits in the Pico Canyon district in 1875, a village with many frame
394 LOS ANGELES
cafes and saloons sprang up. Even after the peak of the boom was over,
it was sustained by the automobile traffic. The rerouting of US 99
to the west, the diminished oil output, and the 1939 rerouting of the
highway now transcontinental US 6 to the east, have reduced the
town to the position of a trade center for ranchers in near-by canyons.
Both town and pass were named for Henry M. Newhall, a native
of Massachusetts, who came to California in 1850. Newhall helped to
promote various California railroads and was an owner of much land.
At 32.9 m. is a junction with Placerita Canyon Rd.
Right here into PLACERITA CANYON to MONOGRAM PICTURES CORPORATION
SET LOT, 0.5 m. (no visitors). False-front buildings of the type needed in
frontier town scenes are visible above the trees (L).
Below the level of the road (L) at 3.6 m., is the OAK OF THE GOLDEN
LEGEND, supposed to mark the site of the first discovery of gold in the state.
The bronze plaque that formerly identified the tree was stolen by a souvenir
hunter. The story follows the traditional lines of treasure-discovery legends.
It is said that one Don Francisco Lopez, sitting under the tree on March 9,
1842, was pulling up wild onions near him to supplement his noonday lunch.
He noted glittering particles adhering to the onion roots, and collected enough
to head for the assay office in Los Angeles, where he was informed that the
particles were gold. News of the discovery precipitated a stampede of fortune
hunters from southern California and Mexico preceding the gold rush of
1849 in northern California by seven years.
SAUGUS, 34.9 m. (1,171 alt., 151 pop.), is a railroad junction
town whose railroad station (R) is considered by Hollywood studios so
typically the rural American depot that it has been the background in
hundreds of pictures.
At 35.8 m. US 6 veers sharply east and enters MINT CANYON,
so named because of the small mint beds still occasionally found in it
during the rainy season. The old Mint Canyon Road was one of the
earliest routes into the Mojave Desert.
At 37.7 m. the trunk of the LOS ANGELES AQUEDUCT is
seen climbing over the ridge ( L) from Bouquet Canyon. It crosses the
Santa Clara River bottoms, and mounts the opposite range on its way
to the San Fernando Reservoirs. The aqueduct (see Pueblo to Me-
tropolis) brings water from an intake at Aberdeen, in Inyo County,
through Owens Valley along the rough eastern foothills of the Sierra
Nevada, bores through mountain barriers, bridges, canyons, and bur-
rows under miles of desert.
US 6 spans the SANTA CLARA RIVER, 40 m., an insignificant
trickle of water down a gravelly, rock-strewn bed for much of the
year, but a torrent when swollen by mountain waters in winter. The
section of the river below the San Francisquito Creek confluence, four
miles west of this crossing, was the scene of a flood in 1928 in which
451 people died and which caused $12,000,000 worth of damage. The
flood was caused by the breaking of the St. Francis Dam, 15 miles
northeast of Saugus in San Francisquito Canyon, which sent a 9O-foot
wall of water down the narrow canyon.
At 53.2 m. is a junction with Agua Dulce (sweet water) Rd.
TOUR 7 395
Right here 2.4 m. to Toney Ranch Rd. ; L. here crossing the A. R. TONEY
RANCH (adm. 25$ a car; overnight camping 50$; camping and picnic grounds,
tables and fireplaces), to the VASQUEZ ROCKS, 3.1 m., towering eroded sand-
stone crags, volcanic masses, and distorted boulders. The mesa out of which
the rocks rise is studded with juniper and yucca. The rugged area has been
used for locale shots in many motion pictures.
This tricky maze was a favorite hangout of Tiburcio Vasquez, who is said
to have hidden here and in many other spots in southern California while
evading in accredited will-o-the-wisp fashion, the punitive efforts of the
combined constabulary of five counties. Born at Monterey in .1839 an d exe ~
cuted a scant 36 years later, Vasquez, in his short lifetime, carved a career
in crime second only to that of Joaquin Murietta in the annals of California
outlawry. He first became embroiled with the law at age of 14, stabbing
a constable during a quarrel at a Monterey fandango. Escaping into the hills,
he joined a band of horse thieves, and eventually graduated to the leadership
of his own company of desperados. Mounted on a beautiful cream-white horse,
Vasquez performed his acts of cunning as well as daring, and led his maraud-
ing bandidos through a succession of rapes, pillages, robberies, and murders.
For years posses and vigilantes were unable to capture him, partly because
of the sympathy and aid rendered to him by a disgruntled peasantry. Accord-
ing to modern standards, however, Vasquez' monetary rewards were trifling:
his brigands never divided more than $2,000 among themselves. A propensity
for philandering led to his ultimate downfall. Abadon Leiva, one of his
men, discovered Vasquez with Senora Leiva and betrayed him. He impressed
spectators at his hanging on March 19, 1875, in San Jose, by his calm and
dignity, his manner of dying bearing out his proudest boast that he was
At the TONEY RANCH HOUSE, 3.3 m., the motor road ends. From here a
foot trail leads 1.3 m. through rough canyon country to the VASQUEZ CAVES
on the GEORGE SCHAEFER RANCH (adm. 25$; camping 50$) in ESCONDIDO
(hidden) CANYON, at the lower end of Agua Dulce Canyon. The caves in
sandstone cliffs in which the Vasquez bandits are alleged to have lived, are
simply deep depressions sheltered by overhanging ledges. In the larger ones
picnic tables, stoves, and other facilities have been placed.
An arch of unhewn stone (L), at 58.1 m. is the entrance to
MOUNTAIN HOME, a nonsectarian retreat for needy girls operated by
Christ Faith Mission of Los Angeles. Two stone dormitories, built
by members of the mission, and a frame tabernacle stand on the treeless
mesa about 200 yards from the road.
At 61.5 m. is a junction with Governor Mine Rd.
Left here to the GOVERNOR MINE, formerly the Old New York, 13 m.
Although the mine is referred to as the oldest gold working in Los Angeles
County, evidence to support the statement is inconclusive since the claim
was abandoned in early days. It was relocated in 1889 and was worked
sporadically until the early i92o's. The advance of gold prices in 1933
encouraged its owners to reopen.
East of the Governor Mine Road junction, US 6 Mint Canyon
Road runs for several miles between hills scarred with prospect holes,
abandoned workings and mining properties with low-grade ore. As
the road descends the slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains, vistas of
desert appear between low hills. At 72.5 m. the highway straightens
out on the floor of Antelope Valley and heads north between irrigated
orchards and alfalfa fields.
ANTELOPE VALLEY, named for the great herds of antelope
396 LOS ANGELES
that ranged here in early days, is on the southwestern edge of the
Mojave Desert. Low hills the Lovejoy Buttes separate it from the
desert itself. The valley, in Los Angeles and Kern Counties, covers
approximately 2,500 square miles, and was reclaimed through tapping
the large natural reservoir of water underlying it a supply constantly
replenished by mountain runoff. In the area including parts of 36
Los Angeles County townships are approximately 100,000 acres under
cultivation, more than half of it in producing hay, grain, and fruit.
Chicken and turkey ranching has been and is still important in the
valley, but cattle ranching, once the valley's mainstay, is disappearing.
On spring weekends thousands visit Antelope Valley, particularly
the uncultivated stretches, to view the desert blooms. The colorful
show begins in early March, comes to a peak during April and con-
tinues through May and even into June.
The best-known and first flower to appear is the California poppy,
which after sufficient winter rains floods the valley with gold. Some-
times at the height of bloom, the yellow of a single 2O-mile stretch of
poppies is visible from a peak 40 miles away. This low-growing satin-
textured flower, though predominantly golden, is quite variable in color,
ranging from cream-white through lemon and pure canary to a deep
With the poppies, and after they are gone, come the blue lupines,
more common on the coast, but occasionally covering the floor of the
valley with what appear from a distance to be pools of blue water.
With these arrive the purple-fringed desert asters, and the coreopsis on
wiry stalks in shades of yellow and copper. A high note of color is
added by the scarlet Indian paintbrush, the bracts of which seem to
have been dipped in a brilliant vermilion.
Mixed with the chaparral on the hills are spikes of larkspur dark
purple-blue, and the rose-pink blossoms of the prickly gilia. The
encelia, or bush sunflower, also called brittle-bush, is seen everywhere
in the chaparral, lighting the gray-green brush with its silvery leaves
and pale-gold flowers. In later spring the scarlet larkspur shoots flame-
colored spires to a height of six feet or more, beside tall yellow senecios
and rose live-forevers. The feathery pink and white bloom of the
wild buckwheat can be identified by the murmur of bees seeking its
honey. A summer variant of the buckwheat, turkish rugging, grows
close to the ground and covers arid spots with a rough rosy carpet.
After most of the early chaparral blooms have disappeared, a low-
growing plant appropriately named blazing-star opens flowers looking
like enormous buttercups.
The typical flowers of the Mojave Desert apart from poppies and
lupines, which are also common in the chaparral include the desert
abronia, a creeping vine that covers the sand for miles with clusters of
fragrant lavender-rose flowers; purple phacelia, or heliotrope; and
desert mallow, bearing brick-red or lavender blossoms resembling small
hollyhocks. During March and April the desert lily sends up a tall
blue-green stem carrying from 4 to 18 white lilies with pale green
TOUR 7 397
bands radiating from their center. The short-lived desert evening
primrose does not open until sunset, when it quickly unfolds a multitude
of luminous white blooms that wither and turn a rose color with the
next morning's sun.
The most spectacular of the Mojave Desert flowers is the yucca
Mohavensis, or Spanish bayonet. The rather clumsy rough trunk of
this yucca, with its clumps of bristling rigid leaves, bears distaff-shaped
panicles a foot or two long, of small white waxen bells, intensely fra-
grant. Like the Joshua tree (see below), they are fertilized by a night-
flying moth. The fruit ripens in September into a purple-black sugar-
laden "date," prized by the Indians, who also use the yucca leaf-fibers
for weaving horse-blankets, ropes, and baskets.
All cactus flowers present a curious contrast to the formidable
plants that bear them, without exception being delicate and silken-
textured. The opuntia Mohavensis, the prickly pear of the Mojave,
has a lemon-yellow bloom; the beavertail cactus, also an opuntia, has a
purple-rose flower with purple filaments. Still another opuntia, the
shaggy grizzly-bear, produces a gold or rose-red bloom, and the spiked
long-spine cactus a flower of deep magenta. Even the foxtail cactus,
having the appearance of a small bottle-washer, is topped with a circle
of silvery-pink blooms.
The desert trees have a brief but vivid blooming season. The in-
conspicuous mesquite is transformed in spring with tender green foliage
and swinging yellow tassels. The fruit of this tree is a bean, spiral-
twisted in some varieties, sweet and highly nutritious. The bark, as
well as the leaves and branches, of the palo verde is bright green, and
the whole tree appears lighted with small golden blooms. In the desert
washes is the dead-looking indigo bush, or smoke-tree, which bears,
late in the spring, pea-shaped blossoms of rich blue (see Tour 2).
Because vandals carried away automobile-loads of dying flowers,
most southern California counties have passed strict protective ordi-
nances, making it illegal, under severe penalties, to pluck or harm the
desert and mountain flora. Particularly protected are the desert-lily,
the Spanish bayonet, the Joshua tree, the indigo bush, the ocotillo, and
all varieties of cacti.
PALMDALE, 73.2 m. (2,660 alt., 1,419 pop.), at the southern
end of Antelope Valley, is the trading center of poultry and cattle
ranchers and fruit growers. Palmdale was one of a dozen socialist
colonies founded in Antelope Valley between 1883 and 1914. It was
established by German Lutherans in 1886 at a place two miles east of
the present town, and named for the Joshua trees surrounding it, in
the belief that the trees were a kind of palm. Two years later the
colonists moved to this place to be near the Southern Pacific Railroad
At Palmdale the route turns R. from US 6 on State 138, the Pear-
State 138 traverses irrigated orchards growing Bartlett pears, then,
at 75 m., suddenly moves into the Mojave Desert, a waste broken only
398 LOS ANGELES
to the southeast by an oasis of green foliage that marks the settlement
of Little Rock (see below).
Isolated Joshua trees appear at 75.1 m. among the mesquite and
sage, increasing rapidly in number until they form a forest on both
sides. At 75.3 m. the road bisects the site of old Palmdale, from which
the Joshua trees stretch across the mesa beyond the range of vision.
This is the JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL MONUMENT estab-
lished to preserve them. Not a true tree, the Joshua is a giant yucca
and a member of the lily family. It was named by early Mormon
settlers who remembered the book of Joshua: "Thou shalt follow the
way pointed for thee by the trees."
The Joshua tree is found extensively in the Mojave, and in sections
of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. During the early years of its growth
it is a branchless stalk, standing like a pole on the desert, but it gradu-
ally puts forth clumsy limbs pointing out and upward and bristling
at the ends with bayonet-like leaves of a dark gray-green. As these
leaves die, they turn grayish-brown and lie back along the branches,
giving the plant an odd shaggy outline. Blossoms appear on the end of
each branch, from March to June, depending on the advent of warm
weather and the altitude. The trees appear to hold the clusters of
waxy cream-white flowers with stiff-armed gestures. Though delicate
in contrast to the rough dark trunk, the flowers are rather coarse when
viewed closely, having the texture of thin leather and a faint mush-
For fertilization, the flower of the Joshua depends on a small
night-flying moth which lays her eggs in the blossom, at the same time
rubbing off the pollen gathered on her body. The period of flowering
and seed production is very short in spite of the slow growth of the
plant, and by the end of June the large fleshy pods have ripened.
To facilitate this process, the Joshua sends out an intricate array of
fine roots near the surface, thus making the most of the brief spring
rains. Far underneath, however, are powerful roots that tap under-
ground waters and provide anchorage against the hard seasonal winds
on the open desert.
The age of the Joshuas is popularly compared to that of the
Sequoias. Actually, it is impossible to determine the age of the indi-
vidual plants, since they have no annual rings, and they grow so slowly
that specimens kept under observation for long periods of time have
shown practically no change. But undoubtedly some of the largest
have been living for hundreds of years. An indication of their age is
the number of branches; none of the plants grow taller than 40 feet.
Before the trees had been protected by Federal law, various schemes
for commercializing the Antelope Valley Joshuas had been promoted.
The Atlantic and Pacific Fiber Company had been organized in Eng-
land and had contracted to furnish paper pulp from the Joshuas for
the London Daily Telegraph. The concern had acquired 52,000 acres
of land, employed crews of Chinese to cut down the trees, and con-
verted a near-by ore stamp mill for reduction of the trees to pulp.
TOUR 7 399
The scheme failed because the first shipment of pulp spoiled on the
way to England; and a cloudburst, in February 1886, routed the Chi-
nese cutting crew.
LITTLE ROCK CREEK, 82.5 m. } seasonally brings mountain trout
to the desert. Normally these San Gabriel Mountain waters vanish
in the sands at the desert's edge. But in the spring, when melting
snows at the headwaters swell it to a torrent, the stream extends well
into the desert along Little Rock Wash. As the water subsides, the
trout are left stranded on the sand and in pools and can be caught by
LITTLE ROCK, 83.5 m. (2,888 alt., 150 pop.), is an isolated
settlement surrounded by irrigated orchards. Settled by Quakers in the
1890'$, it is the trade center of ranchers on 2,000 acres of land pro-
ducing pears and miscellaneous fruits.
PEARBLOSSOM, 89.3 m. (2,910 alt.), consists of a few houses,
one store, and a garage. The pear orchards that gave it its name have
largely reverted to desert, because of the increased competition from
other sections. Pearblossom's general store and garage outfit motoring,
hiking, and packing trips into the San Gabriel Mountains, and pros-
pecting trips into the desert.
At 90.1 m. is a junction with Big Pines Rd., which becomes the
Left (straight ahead) on State 138 to Lovejoy Springs Rd., 3 m., and L.
on this road to the ANTELOPE VALLEY INDIAN MUSEUM, 15 m. (open daily 8-6;
adm. 25$). Perched on the boulder-strewn south slope of Piute Butte on the
site of an ancient Mohave Indian village, the long, rambling frame and stone
museum building houses a private collection of Indian relics and artifacts,
mostly gathered by Howard Edwards, amateur archeologist, and his wife over
a period of 12 years. Exhibits are arranged sequentially to tell the story of
Southwestern Indian life. The evolution of the grinding stone, for instance,
is illustrated by a carefully arranged and labeled series of metates and mortars,
and other items are similarly displayed in series. Paintings depict the life of
prehistoric desert dwellers.
The pear orchards and vineyards of the 5OO-acre DARLING RANCH
(R), 91.2 m., testify to the magic effect of water on the semiarid
regions. Little Rock Creek, with a year-round flow at this point,
winds across the ranch toward the desert.
VALYERMO. CAMP (R), 96.2 m., is operated by the Los Angeles
Police Department for underprivileged children. Dormitories, a mess
hall, and playfields occupy the site of this former CCC Camp in the
foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Basketball and volleyball
courts, a baseball diamond, swimming pool, community hall, and other
recreational facilities have been provided.
The inhabitants of VALYERMO, 97.1 m. (3,894 alt.), a tree-
bowered settlement near the junction of Shoemaker and Big Rock
Creek Canyons, are almost all employees of Valyermo Ranch, owned
by Dr. Levi Noble, who has spent many years studying the geology
of Death Valley.
At 97.4 m. is a junction with Big Rock Creek Rd.
4OO LOS ANGELES
Right here to a hiking trail, 0.7 m.; R. on the trail to the DEVIL'S PUNCH
BOWL, 1.2 m., in a region of upheaval along the line of the San Andreas fault
(see below). Jumbled masses of fantastically eroded rock litter the floor of
the bowl, and in the canyon walls are varying strata, some steeply tilted. The
Punch Bowl was probably formed by a subterranean disturbance and subse-
quently weathered. From the marine fossils in formations near the crest of
the ridge, and sedimentary deposits underlying the black shale in the bowl,
it is deduced that a sea once covered the area.
East of Valyermo the road rises sharply and winds circuitously up
the broken north scarp of the San Gabriels, crossing a boundary of the
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST (see Tour A) at 100.1 m. (no
smoking except in camps and places of habitation}.
At 105.7 m. Big Pines Road mounts a rocky rampart (L), and
reveals a wide view over tree-clad foothills and the Mojave Desert.
Northwest, appearing deceptively close in the clear air, is the blue bulk
of the Tehachapi Mountains, on the northern rim of the desert.
At the WEST GATE RANGER STATION, 106.1 m., the western ap-
proach to Big Pines County Camp, drivers must register (no fee}.
East of the station the route moves into the big-timber country.