SANTA FE DAM: A Hidden Jewel of Southern California

  • Posted on 23 October 2019
  • By Ann Croissant
It has been said, the best way to remember a place you have never been to is to visualize it in your mind’s eye. Santa Fe Dam, I’m sure you have driven by dozens of times without making an effort to look until you really see: the unusual habitat, the history (early California and contemporary scientific), the unique plant community (the rarest in Los Angeles County), even the trails that criss-cross the park (the regional Trails Compass). 
Santa Fe Dam is an element of the Los Angeles County Drainage Area (LACDA) flood control system. Watersheds are more than just drainage areas in and around our communities. They are necessary to support habitat for plants and animals, and they provide drinking water for people and wildlife. They also provide the opportunity for recreation and enjoyment of nature. The primary purpose of Santa Fe Dam is to provide flood protection to downstream communities along the San Gabriel River between the Santa Fe Dam and Whittier Narrows Dam, and, in conjunction with the Whittier Narrows Dam, provide flood protection along the Rio Hondo Channel, the Los Angeles River, and the San Gabriel River.
The Greater San Gabriel Valley is home to more than five million people of probably more than a hundred languages, according to the available data. Also, of statistical importance to this region are data relating to industrialization, superfund sites, depth of the alluvium, alluvial fan quality, the amazing rarity of the plant community, more than 400 bird species, the amazing liverwort blooms in the earliest of springtimes, a dozen or more herps and reptiles, the biodiversity and endangered species: plants and animals, the great concern about the decline in the arthropods. Not to mention the geologic wonders all around, including the surrounding patterns of fault-lines, the earthquake lab, and the lowest point in the Valley where noteworthy Cal-Tech speed of light determination, and contemporary carbon dioxide measurement is happening... and there is a whole lot more. 
The second authorized purpose of the Santa Fe Dam is to provide recreation opportunities. This “amazing” place actually does “escape the imagination” – it looks so uninteresting and bland from the freeways until you begin to visit and discover what the majority of LA County does not know. CAUTION: It can become addictive!
At the turn of the century, San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy (SGMRC) was asked by the Board of Supervisors and LA County Parks to introduce the public to this “amazing” place. We continue to do so – learning more each year.
As a brief intro to the more than 600 acres of the Santa Fe Dam Basin, which includes Santa Fe Dam, plus Park and Nature Center and Wildland Area, and numerous trail ways that “compass” the Park:  south to Seal Beach, west to Los Angeles, north to Mt Baldy or the Trails of the Angeles, and east to the Inland Empire (IE).  The Park is the Trails Compass for eastern Los Angeles County.
There are so many “one of a kind” features about the area: What the indigenous peoples called the “Great Blue Wall” – the east/west transverse wall of the San Gabriel Mountains. Another amazing fact: The San Gabriels are one of the few Transverse or “east/west” mountain ranges in the world. This geologic feature also attests to the amazing dynamics of biodiversity in this unusual range – among the top 10 most biodiverse locations in the Continental U.S.A.  
What's in your mind's eye now that you want to see and experience at Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area/ LA County Park and Nature Center?
Check out the attached map of the Santa Fe Dam Basin and join us on November 23, 2019 from 9 am-  12 noon for a Meet & Greet “ Learn & Restore” opportunity at the Santa Fe Dam/ Nature Center. Come meet new Sierra Club volunteers, discover ways to get involved with the Sierra Club, learn about invasive weeds and how to manage them. The event is free and family-friendly. Beginning level restoration work, all are welcome! 
Come and experience the uniqueness of this AMAZING place firsthand. 
For more information reach out to Ann Croissant, Ph.D. Director/ Santa Fe Dam or go to the San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy

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