For centuries people have followed the ancient animal trails through what has become known as San Emigdio Canyon. Making use of trails in this conveniently located canyon were the Indians, the Spanish, the Mexicans and then those from the Eastern shores of this country. Near the bottom of the canyon the traveler was treated to a magnificent view of the Great Valley to the north, the natural lakes just a few miles ahead and peaceful Indian villages.
A major conflict between the opposing Indian nations was recorded in the canyon in the mid-1700’s . A Spanish party from the Santa Barbara Mission gave the canyon it’s present name in 1806. In 1842 Jose Antonio Dominguez of Santa Barbara applied for the lands at the base of the canyon and the Mexican government awarded the San Emigdio Land Grant in July of 1842 – the first of the five Mexican Land Grants in the San Emigdio/Tehachapi Mountain area.
Among the notable owners have been John C. Fremont, Edward F. Beale of Tejon Ranch – who once owned all the major passes into the southern San Joaquin Valley , Los Angeles Sheriff – David Alexander, the Kern County Land Company and the Tenneco Corporation. It is presently under the excellent care of the Wind Wolves Preserve.
By the 1850’s, the route through the canyon, known as El Camino Viejo, was all but abandoned as travelers began to use Grapevine Canyon . Some of the reasoning behind it was that Grapevine was a shorter route but as well the owners of the new rancho established at the base of the canyon did not appreciated the traffic through their ranch.
From the 1850’s to the 1990’s San Emigdio Ranch was a working cattle ranch. Many of the early vaqueros came from the residents of the village located on the creek north of the Ranch headquarters and many from throughout the West came to work on the renowned Rancho.
As presently preserved, Rancho San Emigdio is the only Mexican Land Grant that remains undeveloped and is now larger than it originally was.
Additional information may be found in “A View from the Ridge Route” series