|Cañada de Madera|
Map of the Santiago Creek watershed and surroundings
|District||Cleveland National Forest|
|- left||Limestone Canyon, Handy Creek|
|- right||Silverado Canyon, Harding Canyon, Baker Canyon, Black Star Canyon, Fremont Canyon, Weir Canyon|
|Cities||Villa Park, Orange, Santa Ana|
|- location||Cleveland National Forest|
|- elevation||4,870 ft (1,484 m)|
|Mouth||Santa Ana River|
|- location||Santa Ana|
|- elevation||108 ft (33 m)|
|Length||34 mi (55 km)|
|Basin||100.6 sq mi (260.6 km2)|
|Discharge||for Villa Park|
|- average||6.3 cu ft/s (0 m3/s)|
|- max||11,000 cu ft/s (311 m3/s)|
|- min||0 cu ft/s (0 m3/s)|
Santiago Creek is a major watercourse in Orange County in the U.S. state of California. About 34 miles (55 km) long, it drains most of the northern Santa Ana Mountains and is a tributary to the Santa Ana River. It is one of the longest watercourses entirely within the county.
Historically the Santiago Creek provided water for the Tongva Native American group, whose territory extended over much of northern present-day Orange County and into the Los Angeles Basin. Native Americans have inhabited the Santiago Creek and Santa Ana River watershed for at least 12,000 years. The creek was named by the Spanish Gaspar de Portolá expedition of 1769, which crossed the Santa Ana River near the Santiago Creek confluence. A tributary of the creek was the subject of a short-lived silver boom in the 1870s. Present-day Santiago Peak shares its name with the creek. Irvine Lake dam was constructed in 1929, marking the end of the creek's free-flowing state. The creek now contributes a small amount to the municipal water supply of Orange County via pipelines from Irvine Lake.
The Santiago Creek watershed covers about 100.6 square miles (261 km2) in northern Orange County. Much of the upper course of the creek remains in its natural state, while the lower section is now urbanized and includes parts of the cities of Tustin, Orange, and Santa Ana. The creek above Lake Irvine is perennial, but below the lake, the ephemeral creek runs in a channelized course. Along the course of Santiago Creek, there are many recreational areas, including the Cleveland National Forest and Irvine Regional Park.
The main stem of Santiago Creek rises in the Cleveland National Forest, between Santiago Peak and Modjeska Peak, which together form the Saddleback formation. From there, the creek winds west-northwest for the first half of its course and southwest for the remaining half. It receives water from over five major tributaries and is free-flowing for most of the upper half of its course.
From the steep and narrow canyon between Santiago and Modjeska peaks, the creek runs south-southwest then turns sharply west, paralleling a ridge that separates it from the community of Portola Hills. It winds west-northwest, then after leaving the boundary of the national forest, it passes through the city of Modjeska and meets the first major tributary, Harding Canyon, from the right, 22 miles (35 km) from the mouth. As it continues bending northwards, Baker and Silverado creeks merge with Santiago Creek from the right. As the creek passes underneath Santiago Canyon Road, the canyon widens to a broad alluvial valley. The valley walls pull away and decrease in height as the creek begins to sink into the soft deposits and is almost dry by the time it reaches the second Santiago Canyon Road crossing. The creek then empties into Irvine Lake, which is also fed by Limestone Canyon, a left-bank tributary.
Santiago Creek then exits the Santiago Creek Dam, the dam forming Irvine Lake, 19 miles (31 km) from the mouth. The creek below the dam is initially an ephemeral watercourse due to diversions from the reservoir. Directly after leaving the dam the creek meets Fremont Canyon, a right bank tributary, and crosses underneath California State Route 241. It then flows northwest, bisecting Irvine Regional Park, and receives a tributary from Weir Canyon from the right. It then is dammed by the Villa Park Dam to form a flood control reservoir as it enters the city of the same name. The creek then flows in a flood control channel for the remaining 7 miles (11 km) of its course.
Flowing roughly southwest between the cities of Orange and Santa Ana, and after receiving Handy Creek from the left, the creek then crosses under California State Route 55 and 22, bisecting Hart Memorial Park and Santiago Creek Park in the process. The creek then crosses under Interstate 5 and continues west into the Santa Ana River. Its confluence is on the river's left bank, inside the Riverview Golf Course. About 10 miles (16 km) past the confluence with Santiago Creek, the Santa Ana River enters the Pacific Ocean.
The Santiago Creek watershed occupies much of the northwestern end of the Santa Ana Mountains, and is located generally north of the city of Irvine. It is bounded on the south by the San Diego Creek, Aliso Creek and Oso Creek drainage areas, on the southeast by the Trabuco Creek watershed, and on the north and west by tributaries of the Santa Ana River. At 100.6 square miles (261 km2) in size, the Santiago Creek watershed makes up about 3.6% of the entire 2,400-square-mile (6,200 km2) Santa Ana River watershed - but makes up about 65.7% of the 153.2 square miles (397 km2) of Santa Ana River watershed within Orange County, and 10.6% of 948-square-mile (2,460 km2) Orange County. Most of the watershed is unincorporated, but about a third lies within Anaheim, Villa Park, Orange, and Santa Ana.
Elevations in the watershed range from 5,687 feet (1,733 m) at Santiago Peak to 108 feet (33 m) at the Santa Ana River confluence. Although only tiny parts of the Santiago Creek watershed do not lie within Orange County, it closely borders Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The Santa Ana Mountains rise higher on the right bank of the creek (the north bank) than on the left (south) bank, and parts of the northernmost course of the creek run through the Puente Hills.
The major tributary watersheds, in order of their appearance from southeast to northwest (roughly in downstream order) are: Harding Canyon, Williams Canyon, Silverado Canyon, Ladd Canyon (tributary of Silverado Canyon), Baker Canyon, Black Star Canyon, Fremont Canyon, Blind Canyon, and Weir Canyon on the right bank; and Limestone Canyon and Handy Creek on the left bank. Of the right bank tributaries, the Silverado Canyon, Ladd Canyon and Fremont Canyon sub-watersheds each extend a little into Riverside County. The Silverado/Ladd Canyon subwatershed is the largest, and Williams Canyon is the smallest.
Santiago Creek has 10 major tributaries along its course, most of which come in while the creek flows through Santiago Canyon. Fremont Canyon is the largest by length, while Silverado Canyon is largest by size. The largest sub-tributary watershed is Ladd Canyon, a tributary of Silverado Canyon. Many of the upper tributaries are spring-fed and perennial. An uppercase R stands for right bank, and L is for left bank.
|Harding Canyon (R)||3.5||5.6||6|
|Williams Canyon (R)||1.3||2.1||10|
|Silverado Canyon (R)||10.8||17.3||1|
|Baker Canyon (R)||5.5||8.9||8|
|Black Star Canyon (R)||8.5||13.7||3|
|Limestone Canyon (L)||8.7||14.0||5|
|Fremont Canyon (R)||12.0||19.3||2|
|Blind Canyon (R)||2.4||3.9||11|
|Weir Canyon (R)||4.6||7.4||9|
|Handy Creek (L)||6.0||9.65||7|
The dominant geological feature in the Santiago Creek watershed are the Santa Ana Mountains. The northern portion of the mountains, which Santiago Creek drains, is composed of rocks from the pre-Triassic to the Quaternary (251–2.6 MYA). These rocks consist primarily of slate, sandstone, conglomerate, limestone, and other sedimentary rocks. The uplift of the Santa Ana Mountains began approximately 5.5 million years ago along the Elsinore Fault Zone, which extends north from near its namesake Lake Elsinore area.
Before the latter 19th century, Santiago Creek and its tributaries were free flowing perennial streams spilling out of Santa Ana Mountains canyons onto the broad, alluvial floodplain. The creek wound on the plain for the rest of its course to its confluence with the Santa Ana River. coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia), California sycamores (Platanus racemosa), white alders (Alnus rhombifolia), native willows (Salix species), and other riparian habitat vegetation lined the route of the creek and its primary tributaries. The creek and adjacent habitats supported a wide variety of birds, amphibians, fish, insects, and mammals.
Most of the creek originally lay in the territory of the Acjachemen and the Tongva peoples, two large Native American groups of present day Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego Counties. The Acjachemen lived to the south, and the Tongva to the north, of the southwest-running Aliso Creek that flows to the Pacific in an area southeast of the Santiago Creek watershed. An Acjachemen-Tongva boundary terminated at the Aliso Creek headwaters, but it is uncertain where the boundary was that divided Santiago Creek within the native territories. Archaeological evidence suggests that the upper portions of the creek were settled by Native Americans, and some historical accounts including those of the Spanish settlers, mention the Acjachemen lived in the canyon of upper Santiago Creek.
These first inhabitants of the Santiago Creek Canyon lived in semi-permanent villages close to running water. The upper canyon was in the Acjachemen homelands, while the lower (northwestern) part of the watershed, likely downstream of present-day Irvine Lake, was in the Tongva homelands. The Native Americans had been drawn to the area by the abundant riparian zone found along Santiago Creek and some of its perennial tributaries. They subsisted on a diet of primarily acorns, using the ground acorn powder to form a type of porridge known as atole. They ground the acorns in stone mortars carved into large boulders and rock formations, with some remaining in the creek's canyon areas.
In 1769 the Portolá expedition, the first Spanish overland journey to upper Las Californias, crossed the Santa Ana River very near the confluence with Santiago Creek on July 25. They named the creek for the Apostle Santiago el Mayor, as it was the saint's Feast Day. They named the canyon Cañada de Madera (timber canyon). The mountain whose southwestern flank is the creek's headwaters, known as Kalawpa by the indigenous peoples, was renamed Santiago Peak, after the creek.
The Spanish left accounts mentioning the Juaneño, the name given to the Acjachemen by the Spanish missionaries after the founding of Mission San Juan Capistrano, located to the southeast at the confluence of San Juan and Trabuco Creeks.
One of the first settlers in the Santiago Creek watershed was Jose Pablo Grijalva, a former Spanish soldier, who arrived in 1784. He and his son-in-law, José Antonio Yorba, began grazing cattle in Santiago Creek Canyon in the 1790s. He built an adobe house beside Santiago Creek in 1796. Later settlers included the Peraltas and Sepúlvedas.
Three adjoining ranchos were granted within the creek's drainage. The Spanish era Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana (1810), extending from the Santa Ana River to the Santa Ana Mountains, was 25-mile (40 km)-long, 2.5-to-6.5-mile (4.0 to 10.5 km). The later Mexican era land grants were Rancho San Joaquin (1837) and Rancho Lomas de Santiago (1846). Portions of all later became part of the Irvine Ranch.
A well-known massacre of Native Americans occurred in 1831, in present-day Black Star Canyon, which was called Cañada de los Indios (Indian Canyon) in Spanish. The retaliation was one in a series against local Tongva (Gabrielino) Native Americans taking horses from the Mexican ranchos. A party of American fur trappers set out to retrieve stolen horses. They followed hoofprints into Cañada de los Indios, came upon a Tongva village, massacred the native residents, and took the remaining horses. Though some managed to escape, many Indians were killed in the massacre. The village's site is designated as California Historical Landmark #217.
In 1877, two prospectors, Hank Smith and William Curry, discovered silver in present-day Silverado Canyon. Several mines immediately sprang up in the area, the largest of which was known as the Blue Light Mine. During this period, the town of Silverado rose at the confluence of Silverado Creek and Santiago Creek and the boom continued for over three years. Although the height of the mining was in the three or four years following the discovery of silver, smaller-scale mining continued for decades after the initial boom had ended. The last commercial operations at the Blue Light Mine ceased in the 1940s. The mine has continued to issue small amounts of toxic tailings, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, remediation for which the Trabuco Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest began toxic cleanup in 2008.
- Modjeska House
In 1883 Helena Modjeska, a famous actress originally from Poland, purchased the Pleasant family's homestead ranch in Santiago Canyon near the mouth of Harding Creek, the Santiago's first large tributary. She commissioned the renowned New York architect Stanford White to design a country manor house, expanding the Pleasant's house into the landmark Modjeska House in the Arden gardens, within present-day Modjeska Canyon. She lived on the Arden estate, between her European and American theatre season tours, until 1906, and died in 1909. Modjeska Peak, rising 5,496 feet (1,675 m) above Santiago Creek's headwaters, was named in her honor.
Water supply infrastructure
- Santiago Dam
By the 1920s, the Orange/Anaheim/Villa Park area was a prospering agricultural region that depended on water from the Santa Ana River and Santiago Creek for irrigation. Santiago Creek would unleash seasonal floods in the winter and then dwindle to a trickle at the height of the dry season, interrupting irrigation. The Serrano Irrigation District was formed in 1928, and partnered with the Irvine Company and the Carpenter Irrigation District of El Modena, for the construction of Santiago Dam, impounding Lake Irvine. Construction work begun in 1929 and the dam was completed in 1931. The agricultural areas in the creek's lower watershed were replaced by residential and commercial development in the Post-WWII era, but the city of Villa Park and some of the city of Orange still receive their water from Irvine Lake.
- Villa Park Dam
The Villa Park Dam, forming the Villa Park Reservoir further downstream on Santiago Creek, was completed in 1963 also by the Serrano Irrigation District, which by that time, had changed its name to the Serrano Water District. The lower course of Santiago Creek ended up being channelized in the mid-20th century after the passage of the Orange County Flood Control Act of 1927. The dam is now owned by the Orange County Flood Control Division.
|This section requires expansion with: further information about birds, fish, amphibians, and large mammals. (December 2009)|
Historically, Santiago Creek supported a rich riparian community along its shores. The Santa Ana Mountains supported a large population of California grizzly bear, now extinct, and other large mammals such as mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes. Today, the upper Santiago Creek remains much in its natural state, while the lower creek is listed as highly disturbed and no longer supports much native vegetation and wildlife. Historically, the creek is known to have sustained a population of steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), but with the construction of Villa Park and Santiago Creek dams, their anadromous spawning runs from the sea have been destroyed. However, 13 specimens of the land-locked form of steelhead, rainbow trout, were fin-sampled recently from Harding Canyon and genetic analysis has shown them to be of native and not hatchery stocks. Historically, at least two tributaries to Santiago Creek, Silverado and Harding Canyons, also supported steelhead. The watershed now primarily supports introduced fish in Lake Irvine.
Recreation along Santiago Creek, in its watershed, and at its reservoirs includes:
- Lake Irvine
Lake Irvine was opened for fishing in 1941. A fishing license is not required to catch fish at the 700-acre (2.8 km2) reservoir. The lake was stocked with fish in the 1930s beginning with largemouth bass, catfish, and panfish. The lake is still stocked weekly with fish.
- Irvine Regional Park
Irvine Regional Park, created in 1897, now occupies much of the lowermost Santiago Creek Canyon, between Santiago Creek Dam and Villa Park Reservoir. The park was created officially on October 5 of that year as "Orange County Park", and originally it consisted of 160 acres (0.65 km2) of woodland along the riparian course of Santago Creek. At first, Santiago Creek flowed freely through the park, but with the completion of Santiago Dam in 1931, that was no longer possible. A boating pond constructed in 1913 then had to be filled with water piped in from Lake Irvine. The park was expanded to its current size of 477 acres (1.930 km2) in 1971, and has hiking, fishing, boating, and a small zoo.
- Cleveland National Forest
The upper Santiago Creek watershed lies within the Trabuco Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest. The Cleveland National Forest was created in 1908, and expanded to 424,000 acres (1,716 km2) by 1925. Several hiking trails run up the steep canyons in the upper Santiago Creek watershed, leading up tributaries such as Black Star Canyon and Silverado Canyon. The Joplin Trail leads up the canyon above the town of Modjeska to the summit of Modjeska Peak.
- Other recreational areas
Other parks, nature reserves, recreational areas, and historic sites within the Santiago Creek area include:
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Santiago Creek. Retrieved on 9 October 2008.
- San Juan Creek is approximately the same length, and the Santa Ana River is not entirely within Orange County.
- "Cultural Resources Inventory and Evaluation for the Proposed Aliso Creek Inn and Golf Course Project, City of Laguna Beach, Orange County, California". SWCA Environmental Consultants. October 2006. Retrieved 2009-09-09.[dead link]
- www.ocwatersheds.com (unspecified date). Santiago Creek Watershed: County of Orange, California (Map). http://www.ocwatersheds.com/Watersheds/pdfs/santiago_subwatersheds.pdf. Retrieved 2009-09-09.
- "Santa Ana River - Watercourses and Elevation Ranges". Watershed and Coastal Resources Division of Orange County. www.ocwatersheds.com. Retrieved 2009-09-09.
- "Irvine Regional Park History". OC Parks. www.ocparks.com. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- "Santa Ana River-City/County Jurisdiction". Watershed and Coastal Resources Division of Orange County. www.ocwatersheds.com. Retrieved 2009-09-09.
- Stadum, Carol J. "The Geologic History of Orange County". Irvine Valley College. www.ivc.edu. Retrieved 2009-09-12.
- Lewis, Lloyd A. (1941-01-01). "Geology of the northern part of the Santa Ana Mountains, Orange County, California". Caltech Electronic Theses. Retrieved 2009-09-09.[dead link]
- "Santa Ana River Watershed Geology". Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority. www.sawpa.org. Retrieved 2009-09-12.
- Cameron, Constance. "Determining Tribal Boundaries Through Potsherds - An Archaeological Perspective". Pacific Coast Archaeological Society. PCAS Quarterly, 35 (2 & 3), Spring and Summer 1999. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- "Canyon History". Canyon Land Conservation Fund. www.canyonland.org. Retrieved 2009-09-10.
- "Santiago Peak". Angeles Chapter Sierra Club. Hundred Peaks Section. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- Marsh, Diann (9/21/2008 (website publication date)). "Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana: The Grijalva, Yorba, Peralta and Sepulveda Families". Excerpt from 'Santa Ana: An Illustrated History'. www.santaanahistory.com. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- McKinley, David. "Escaping OC: Black Star's Indian Village". The Hornet. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- Hoover and Kyle, p. 256
- "Newsroom - Clean-up Project at the Blue Light Mine Complex". U.S. Forest Service. www.fs.fed.us. September 3, 2008. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- "Urban Water Management Plan: Water Shortage Contingency Plan, Serrano Water District". Serrano Water District. California Environmental Resources Evaluation System. November 1995. pp. 2–3. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- Brennan, Pat (June 19, 2009). "Grand Jury: O.C. imported water supply "very vulnerable"". Green OC (Orange County Register). Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- "Neighborhood Flood Control Introduction". Orange County Flood Control Division. www.ocflood.com. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- "State Route 22/West Orange County Connection Section 4.3: Biology". California Department of Transportation. www.dot.ca.gov. August 2001. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- Anthony J. Clemento, Eric C. Anderson, David Boughton, Derek Girman, John Carlos Garza (2009). "Population genetic structure and ancestry of Oncorhynchus mykiss populations above and below dams in south-central California". Conservation Genetics: 1321–1336. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
- "Steelhead/rainbow trout resources of Orange County". Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration. www.cemar.org. pp. 375–376. Retrieved 2009-09-10.
- "Irvine Lake". Irvine Water District. www.irwd.com. Retrieved 2009-09-11.[dead link]
- "The Lake that Wants for You to Catch Fish". WONews.com. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- "Spotlight: Irvine Regional Park". Los Angeles Times. May 7, 1988. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- "History of the Cleveland National Forest". U.S. Forest Service. www.fs.fed.us. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- Santiago Oaks Regional Park — Homepage
- Santiago Oaks Regional Park — creek, canyon and park history
- Barham Ranch Regional Park
- Modjeska Canyon & Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary
- Irvine Ranch Open Space — Homepage
- The Nature Conservancy: Irvine Ranch Land Reserve
- El Modena Open Space
- Yorba Regional Park
- - City of Orange: Grijalva Park at Santiago Creek
- Wo Hart Memorial Park (701 South Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866)
- Hoover, Mildred Brooke; Kyle, Douglas E. (1990). Historic spots in California. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-1734-6.
- Santiago Creek Watershed Preservation & Restoration Project
- Santiago Creek Greenway Alliance
- Orange County Watershed
|Santa Ana River||Trabuco Creek|
|San Diego Creek||Aliso Creek||Oso Creek|