Santa Rosa Plateau Current and Historical News

The latest news is at the bottom of this page.


?. There is a new trail in the "old part" of the Reserve, the Los Santos, which goes to Hidden Valley and the higher elevations of the Mesa de Colorado. The trail now continues north to the new parking lot on Tenaja Road.

?. The Sycamore Trail is closed indefinitely for restoration.

?. Entrance fees of $2 for each adult, and $1 for each child under 12 are now required. Call 909 275 4310 for more information.

?. The entrance to the Reserve at Clinton Keith Road and Tenaja Road is now permanently closed. The main entrance is about 3 miles north of that former entrance along Clinton Keith Road, just south of Avenida la Cresta on the east side of Clinton Keith Road. There is a new parking lot and entrance at Hidden Valley just down Tenaja Road from the closed entrance. The entrance at the vernal pool trailhead remains open.


March 1. The Vista Grande trail is closed at Cole Creek because the bridge was washed out by recent storms. (Ron Graybill)

Spring. The Sylvan Ranch acquisition is now open to hiking, biking and horsing, with the trails displayed on the free maps at all trailheads.

July. A controlled burn probably occurred on July 15 and 16, 1998 in the area around the adobes

November 18. A controlled burn covering about 143 acres on the Clay Hill portion near Mesa de Burro.

late 1998 or early 1999. Clinton Keith / Tenaja Road has been beautifully paved from the 90° turn at the old entrance to Tenaja Road and Via Volcano. The "rough road" part is now only from north of the 90° turn to the Visitor Center.


June?. A controlled burn south of the Los Santos Road and Ranch Road occurred in mid-1999.

July. Pictures from five Southern California photographers were displayed at the visitors center through 9/26/99. The exhibit featured pictures of wildflowers, hazy sunrises, meadows and rare species like the Engelmann oak. (Ron Graybill; the Riverside Press Enterprise, 7/19/99)

The Nature Conservancy is purchasing a 2,000-acre "Trabuco Ranger District Corridor", which will eventually link the 8,000-acre Santa Rosa reserve to the 135,000-acre Trabuco Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest. People who buy in the corridor agree not to install high-intensity lighting or fence off their property.

"The corridor will allow mountain lions, bobcats, badgers and deer to remain alive in healthy populations," said Rob Hicks, the reserve interpreter. "The Santa Rosa plateau is an island. As human development increases, the area of open spaces shrinks. By creating links between these islands, we're helping populations of animals to survive well into the future." (Riverside Press Enterprise, 7/19/99.)


Spring?. A new much larger parking lot was opened on the Sylvan Ranch portion, north of the Hidden Valley Parking lot. The lot is suitable for horse trailers. (sometime between July 1999 and early 2000)

Summer. Only a small area was burned in summer 2000, perhaps as a reaction to the New Mexico controlled burn that went out of control. The major control burn was of the area east of Fault Road, north of Monument Road, and west of Waterline Road. A much smaller burn was conducted just east of the old gate, at the 90° bend in Clinton Keith.

September. The official Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve site goes online with most of the basic information about the reserve, including the trail map and aerial photo of the reserve.


November 15. The Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for eight threatened plants, including the thread-leaved brodiaea (Brodiaea filifolia), found near the main Vernal Pool.

The thread-leaved brodiaea is listed as threatened, and in 1998, just 37 populations were known in southern California. 15 are in the cities of Vista, San Marcos and Carlsbad in northern San Diego County. The remaining 22 populations are scattered within Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego and San Bernardino counties, including at the Santa Rosa Plateau.


March. A mountain lion was killed primarily due to the ignorance of a new property owner on the Santa Rosa Plateau. The property owner created a corral on his property for his horse, and then left the horse in the corral alone for days on end. This was, of course, like opening a grocery store for the mountain lions in the area.

Once a mountain lion learned how easy it was to kill a captive animal, the lion went on to kill two llamas and a dog.

Sadly, California Fish and Game officials issued a permit for the killing of the lion. The owner of the llamas hired a tracker and within a few days the lion was killed adjacent to a wildlife corridor linking the Santa Rosa Ecological Reserve to the Cleveland National Forest.

"The killing was a major setback, wildlife officials said, in their efforts to protect the species by providing a safe passage for the lions traveling between the Santa Rosa Ecological Reserve and the Cleveland National Forest."

Mountain lions in the entire Santa Ana Mountain range are already too few in number to survive in-breeding problems within a hundred years or so. Much effort has been devoted recently to create a wildlife corridor between the Santa Ana Mountains and the Palomar Range to avoid this. Senseless killings like this (due to the land owner's ignorance) will only make the lions more like to become extinct in the entire Santa Ana range.

Sources: NCT 11/4/02; Paul Beier (Northern Arizona University); personal knowledge.

June 10. Thieves broke into the Visitor Center and stole $10,000 worth of equipment and cash, including four computers (of which two were brand-new and had not yet been installed), four Motorola hand-held radios, and $650 in cash.

An alarm system has now been installed, along with a safe to hold cash.

Unfortunately, files on the computers had not been backed up, so the loss of data is also significant.

Source: NCT 7/30/02; Rob Hicks.

August 8. The Punta Mesa and Adobe Loop trails were closed to the public after a hiker reported seeing an injured lion two weeks ago. The hiker said that this lion seemed to be following or watching him instead of running away.

The male hiker has been hiking the area for six years and has reported lion sightings in the past, but he never felt uncomfortable seeing lions before this encounter.

Carole Bell said "He would start walking and the lion would walk. When he stopped the lion stopped." The man threw some rocks to scare the lion away but it finally left the hiker only after he walked into an open field, she said.

"As the lion left the area, the man noticed it was limping with an injury to one of its hind legs, according to Bell, who said most wildlife injuries on the plateau happen when animals are hit by cars while crossing roads."

The trails were closed for the protection of the public and the animal. We already lost one mountain lion eight months ago (see above). This loss was already significant, since there are only 15-20 that live in the Santa Ana Mountains.

The closure will remain in effect until more information can be gathered about the injured lion.

Four motion-sensitive cameras will be installed, and tracking stations made of decomposed granite and gypsum powder to record footprints.

Source: NCT 8/9/02; 11/4/02.

September 21. Four marines rappelled down cliffs and used a motorized winch to remove trash dumped at a steep embankment, including old tires and a sofa.

Source: NCT 9/22/02.

September. Hikers will soon be asked to "wipe their boots" before entering trails, using brushes that will be installed at trailheads, to help prevent invasive non-native plant species from entering the Preserve along with the hikers. Carole Bell said that "Staff members and researchers will also soon start rinsing off cars, boots and clothing before entering the reserve".

Invasive weeds are a major problem for almost every preserve. They displace native plants and animals due to the competitive advantage that they have without being subject to the predators in their land of origin. It is much easier and far less costly to prevent them from becoming established in an area than to try to eliminate them afterward.

Sources: NCT 9/26/02; personal knowledge.

November 4. In the last week, vandals stole one of the four cameras used to monitor the unhealthy mountain lion. And some hikers and bikers have trespassed onto the closed trails, causing Carole Bell to say that additional trails may be closed to the public.

Los Angeles Zoo officials concluded from a picture taken by one of those cameras that the mountain lion was "ailing and appeared thin".

"Now the trails won't be open until February at the earliest," Bell said. "Before we can reopen the trail, we have to determine whether the lion is still injured and can't do that if people keep vandalizing the area and stealing our cameras."

"Right now all the data is being destroyed by hikers and mountain bikers," Bell said this week. "If we can't keep people from accessing the closed trails, I won't be able to collect more information on the condition of the lion."

Source: NCT 11/4/02.



October - December. The Punta Mesa Trail was closed off and on during this period due to a hunter trespassing and firing shots. Despite several attempts to catch the hunter, he was not caught. Fortunately, for unknown reasons, the hunter apparently no longer was present.


January. On Monday, 3 January 2005, the entire SRPER was closed to the public because of the extremely muddy trails, damaged bridges, and the forecast of continued rain. Hiking was not really possible or enjoyable there anyway, since nearly all the trails were either mud pits, rivers or ponds. The few hikers braving conditions were damaging the vegetation along the sides of trail by trampling it rather than walk in the trails. Several trails were impassable because bridges washed out on 12/29/04. Our streams were very high, and not possible to cross without the bridges.

Repairs to the trails and bridges were made, with pea gravel and mini-culverts placed on the worst sections. The SRPER reopened on Saturday, 22 January 2005.

February. On Saturday, 12 February 2005, the entire SRPER was once again closed to the public because of the extremely muddy trails, damaged bridges, and the forecast of continued rain.

Go to Field Guide to the Santa Rosa Plateau

Copyright © 1996-2005 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 12 February 2005