Whitney Canyon, Santa Clarita, California



Whitney Canyon is located between Placerita Canyon and Elsmere Canyon in the western San Gabriel Mountains. It is accessed from the park-and-ride at the end of Newhall Avenue (the old San Fernando Road) just east of Highway 14.

The canyon was first called Mud Springs Canyon. In 1888 and 1900, John H. Whitney purchased land at the mouth of the canyon (see the Naming of the Canyon page). For many years the canyon was called both Mud Springs and Whitney, but from the 1940's and on the only name used was Whitney Canyon.

The first oil well was drilled in 1893 and the last well was drilled in 1970. The canyon had many different owners. J. Warren MacClatchie in the 1930's, millionaire oilman Waite Phillips in the 1940's and 50's. He sold out in 1955. Ray Watt paid an estimated $1 million for the land in the late 1980s. Besides the wells, the canyon was always used as a ranch in one way or the other. MacClatchie used it as a horse ranch. It was alway called the Whitney Canyon Ranch, even as new owners took over.

In September of 1964, Dale King opened the Circle K Ranch in the canyon. It specialized in youth groups like Scouts, Cubs, or Brownies. Offered were horseback riding with instruction and other Western activities, like a junior rodeo. There were one day actities up to two week trips. You could also just coming down with your family for a little riding. There were also group picnic and camping areas. By 1974, the Circle K Ranch was replaced by the Marv King Riding Stables.

In 1988, Los Angeles County officials considered the building of an off-road vehicle park in the canyon. This plan was vehemently opposed by local residents and the Walt Disney Company, which had a filming ranch in Placerita Canyon (Golden Oak Ranch). Around the same time, owner Ray Watt submitted plans to Los Angeles County to build houses and condominiums on the property. Watt also offered the canyon as a buffer to the planned Elsmere Canyon landfill, but after the dump proposal died out in the face of fierce opposition, the canyon was offered for sale.

In July of 2002, the Santa Clarita Watershed Recreation and Conservation Authority (a joint agency between the City of Santa Clarita and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy established in 1993) purchased 442 acres including Whitney Canyon from Ray Watt for $4.89 million with funds from the state, the city of Santa Clarita and Proposition 12 (the parks bond approved by voters in 2000). It is now managed by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA).

In March of 2005, Whitney Canyon was annexed into the City of Santa Clarita.

On July 13, 2012, there was a pot bust in the canyon.


Pages:

The Naming of the Canyon and John H. Whitney
Geology
History of Oil Development
Los Angeles Aqueduct
Photos