the Other California. There are always surprises in this state, no matter where you go. The strangely sloping hills and rugged mountains that ring the valley hide some interesting secrets.
Yesterday's post was a mystery question, and as the commenters correctly surmised, the Santa Clarita Valley is the location of four very intriguing geological sites. Stay tuned for the other three in coming blog posts. Today I want to talk about the very first gold rush in California's history.
Most people in our state are familiar with the Gold Rush, the one in 1848 in which James Marshall discovered flakes of gold in the Sierra Nevada foothills at Coloma while building a sawmill for John Sutter. The forty-niners. The Mother Lode. Black Bart and Joaquin Murrieta. Fewer people realize that this seminal event was actually the second gold rush in California's history.
Compared to the one that followed in 1848, the rush was relatively inconsequential. The Mexicans were not very interested in advertising the find to the world at large, and the gold played out after only a few years. It did however mean that Mexicans who were familiar with mining methods were situated just a few hundred miles from the Sierra Mother Lode. They played an important role in many of the early gold discoveries in 1848 and 1849.
Placerita Canyon State Park just off Highway 14 near the town of Newhall. There are few signs of mining left, but the canyon is a pleasant place to explore. We saw woodpeckers and hawks during our short visit. Los Angeles County Parks administers an excellent nature center with an unusually detailed display of the local rock types. A nice network of trails can be followed, including a paved handicapped accessible trail to the Oak of the Golden Dream (top of the post).
Speaking of golden dreams, keep your eye on the north side of the road as you return to Highway 14. Ensconced in the oak woodland you will see a somewhat bizarre looking development. This is the Golden Oak Ranch, a permanent movie set that has been owned by the Disney Corporation since 1959. Even though you can't visit the place, you've probably seen it many times over in the movies. And if you make movies, you can rent the ranch!
This link to the California Geological Survey has the classic story of the California's gold rushes, originally published in the 1948 Geologic Guide to Highway 49. In the next post we will take a closer look at the rocks in Placerita Canyon. It turns out they are kind of old. Well, really old.