Peters Canyon

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

Peters Canyon Regional Park has experienced many changes since 1846 when it was part of a Mexican land grant of 47,000 acres made to Teodosio Yorba, who called it Rancho Lomas de Santiago (Hills of St. James.)

The section that would become Peters Canyon was known as Canon de las Ranas (Canyon of the Frogs) because it drained into the Cienega de las Ranas (Marsh of the Frogs), now Upper Newport Bay. James Irvine purchased the rancho in 1897 and leased the canyon to several farmers including James Peters who had been dry farming barley and beans in the upper part of it since 1891. Peters built a house and planted a eucalyptus grove near Little Peters Lake in the lower part of the canyon.

A group of men from Orange and Santa Ana leased land in the canyon from Irvine in 1899, formed the Santiago Golf Club and built a nine-hole course. Greens were oil-soaked sand with fairways of hard dirt. Golfers traveled to the club by buggy and bicycle, carrying their lunches since their bright red clubhouse served no food. Later moving to the bluffs of Upper Newport Bay, then to Newport Blvd., they reorganized as the Santa Ana Country Club in 1923.

Water came to the canyon when Irvine built two reservoirs, Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir in 1931 and a lower reservoir (Little Peters Lake now a flood control basin) in 1940. The basins regulated the Irvine Company's draft from Santiago Reservoir and conserved runoff from the canyon's watershed. Agriculture including orange groves thrived with the availability of water.

Peters Canyon was used as a training area for the U.S. Army during World War II. Established in the eucalyptus grove near Little Peters Lake, Camp Commander fought mock battles with Camp Rathke, an Army post two miles away in Irvine Regional Park.

The Irvine Company dedicated 354 acres of Peters Canyon to the County of Orange on March 3, 1992. Preserved as open space, Peters Canyon Regional Park, abounds with coastal sage, scrub, riparian, freshwater marsh and grassland habitats. Willows, sycamores and black cottonwood grow along Peters Canyon Creek. Wild life and birds are often encountered by those who hike, ride mountain bikes or horses on the many trails.

Aren't we lucky to have this beautiful area in our back yard?


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