A Brief History of Red Rock Canyon 


For many millions of years, the Red Rock Canyon area was primarily home for many species of animals. After severe climate shifts people began to leave their stamp on history and on Red Rock Canyon. 

As early as 8700 BC there is evidence of Native Americans who referred to themselves as the Nuwa, but are locally known as the Kawaiisu tribes. They moved seasonally between the areas surrounding Red Rock and the Tehachapi Mountains. 

In the early 1800s people once again flocked to Red Rock Canyon to explore the area, or discover riches. A brief period of mining began during the 1800s and early 1900s. Building up small settlements and an active era of stage coach travel right through the Canyon, up until it was displaced by the California and Nevada Railway. In 1896, Rudolph Hagen obtained the water rights for the area and begun operating the Red Rock stage station, a post office, and small settlements. Hagen would continue to own the land until it becomes a State Park. 

In the early 1900s more progress was to be made, starting with William Mullholland passing through Red Rock on his search for water for Los Angeles. Thus, beginning the stages for the Aqueduct that would carry water from the North to Los Angeles. In 1908 a brief railroad, known as The Red Rock Railroad, was built to carry supplies for the construction of the aqueduct, which would finally be completed 5 years later. You can see the piping running through the hills on the east side of the 14 freeway as you travel North or South. 

By the 1920’s Red Rock once again saw an influx from two new industries, movies and recreation. The motion picture industry began to utilize the Canyon as a backdrop for many movies. Over the course of decades more than 140 movies were filmed here. During this time the world is revolutionized by automobile transportation and people begin to explore more of their surroundings. It was this time that citizens began demanding that Red Rock Canyon be preserved as a public park. 

In 1968, the California Legislature began appropriating funds to begin the purchase of Red Rock Canyon. However, it wasn’t until the early 70’s that it began to function as a recreation area, with the first Rangers stationed here, and in 1980 Red Rock was re-designated as a State Park. In 1994, Congress approved the Desert Protection Act and Red Rock is expanded to encompass the 27,000 acres it is today. 

November 1997 saw a major setback as the area is struck by a severe thunderstorm, unleashing nearly 15 inches of rain and damaging much of the park’s facilities. As Red Rock proves with great adversary comes great resilience. Three years later Red Rock is rebuilt and once again open for the public to enjoy.