dispatches & explored

Lookout! No. 9: Santa Paula Peak

santa paula peak
First and third images courtesy Bob Muschitz.

Ah, Santa Paula Peak. The lookout here was built in 1930 (per Brown, though some sources say 1931), and seems to be one of the more forgotten lookout sites in the southern Los Padres.

I’m inclined to chalk that up primarily to the fact that its primary access — via Timber Canyon in Fillmore — is a pretty restrictive approach, and that its secondary access — via the East Fork of Santa Paula Canyon — gets very little traffic (especially after the 2005 floods that scoured that canyon).

The Crux

My son and I above Bluff Camp

Early in its life the lookout narrowly escaped destruction by the Matilija Fire, the same conflagration that destroyed the Reyes Peak Lookout; Cermak’s fire history recounts how on 18 September 1932 the lookout was surrounded by flames, but was saved by a desperate backfire.

Peak Dog

Santa Paula Peak Monument

I haven’t found a definitive answer as yet, but initial research seems to indicate the Santa Paula Peak lookout suffered its destruction during the 1948 Wheeler Springs fire. (This is that part where I declare the fate of this lookout remains another mystery — I’ll report subsequent findings, of course.) While the peak itself is a frequent and favorite target of local peak-baggers and HPS die-hards, it has for the most part been but a minor curiosity to area hikers.

In the Eocene-era geology on the southern flanks, geologists have unearthed good examples of Spatangus tapinus (sea urchins) … the biostratigraphy isn’t on par with, say, Pine Mountain, but there’s some interesting stuff here as well. (See Givens’ study of Eocene molluscan biostratigraphy of the Pine Mountain area for the definitive coverage.)

Santa Paula Peak: The Geology

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4 Responses to Lookout! No. 9: Santa Paula Peak

  1. George Armstrong says:

    Craig, very interesting story as are all of your posts. I would really like to get to the LPNF to hike more often as I used to drive by when I dove the channel islands a lot marveled at it from a distance. Not as carefree now but hope to make a trip back to the north side again next spring.

  2. Dave Bula says:

    Another great post, Craig. Records that I have indicate that this lookout, as well as the one that was on Reyes Peak, and the original earlier lookout on Hi Mountain, all were of the 4AR type. 14×14 with a higher steeply pitched roof. This was the standard design used in Region 5 (California) of the USFS up through about 1932. The Hi Mtn. one was built in 1926, and Reyes had a phone liine built to it in 1927, so the lookout was probably built around that same time. Santa Paula Peak came a little bit later, probably in 1930.

    • craig says:

      Thanks for the intel, Dave. I have some photos of the Reyes Peak LO before it was lost in the Matilija Fire, which I’ll share in a follow-up post soon. As much as I like the “later” designs like Thorn Point, 4AR is likely my favorite. The true “old school.”

  3. FRANCISCO hernandez says:

    Magnifique!

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