History

Canyon snow / USFWS

The History of This Land


This area is part of the basin and range geologic region, characterized by linear mountain ranges which are separated by broad, flat basins.  The region was impacted by relatively recent volcanic activity, leaving volcanic plugs and cinder cones visible throughout the San Bernardino Valley.  Earthquakes have further altered the region and helped allow the flow of many springs and seeps.  All of these dynamic geological events have played major roles in shaping the valley, catching and storing crucial water, helping determine the variety of plants and animals present, and creating a beautiful landscape for humans to enjoy. 

The San Bernardino Valley once supported permanently flowing creeks, springs, and marshy wetlands.  In addition, the giant sacaton grassland in the valley was once described as "a luxuriant meadow some eight or ten miles long and a mile wide."  The dependable source of water and grass made the area not only invaluable to a huge diversity of fish and wildlife, but also a center of human activity for centuries. 

The expanding settlement beginning in the late 1800's brought farming, mining, and livestock production, all of which competed for the same precious water.  While the extensive wetlands once provided historic habitat for eight different kinds of native fish, the lowering water table led to severe changes in the habitat and the eventual local extinctions of many species. 

The Coronado expedition passed through the area in search of the fabled seven cities of Cibola during 1540.  The Apache used this region for hunting, gathering, and raiding beginning in the early 1600's.  Jesuit priests established a mission in the San Bernardino Valley during the 1700's. 

During 1889, local bartender, gambler, cattleman, and already three-time murderer Frank Leslie shot and killed his girlfriend on the 7-UP Ranch, escaping through what eventually became known as Leslie Canyon. The Mexican Revolution reached this border area in 1915 when Pancho Villa and his army fought in nearby Aqua Prieta.