Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

1. A Valley Takes Shape

Historically, few areas have been so influenced by their geology as the Santa Clara River basin.

Raised up from the ocean floor more than one million years ago by a series of stupendous earthquakes, the basin has since been carved by rushing rivers, eroded by blowing winds, and altered by more recent seismic events. Nature has molded some ruggedly beautiful mountains, twisting rocky canyons and a classic river valley which looks from the air like the branches of a tree flowing into the main trunk of the Santa Clara.

The land is located in one of the few transverse (east-west) ranges in the Americas. There are various subdivisions, such as the San Gabriels and Santa Susanas to the south, while the La Liebre and Tehachapi ranges constitute a formidable northern barrier. This barrier has had a profound influence on trade and transportation.

Minerals abound, with gold, silver, copper, zinc, mercury, lead and borax hidden in the earth's crust. Tar seepages and oil pools were important to both early and later inhabitants.

Fault lines radiate up the arroyos like spokes in a wheel. Bouquet, Soledad, San Francisquito and Elderberry, among others, are probably dormant now. But Piru Creek follows the San Gabriel rift, which was considered dormant until 1971, when it suddenly woke up.

Certainly the most celebrated earthquake zone in the country is the mighty San Andreas fault, where the Pacific and Continental plates meet and continuously grind against each other, from the Sea of Cortez to San Francisco Bay. The chain of lakes known as Elizabeth, Muntz, Hughes and Quail are actually sag ponds created by earth slippage and maintained by rainwater runoff. Today they are supplemented by water purchased from the California Aqueduct. The San Andreas last acted up locally in 1857.

The area is rich in fossils, mostly remnants of prehistoric marine life. While occasional mastodon bones or saber-toothed tiger fangs turn up, the hills are literally loaded with snail and pectin shells, evidence that a warm, shallow ocean once covered the land.

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