by Kent Duryee
"What catches the eye when looking from a mountain top out over the agoraphobic distance of a desert, any desert, is first the un-earthly harshness. But under that harshness, one senses a soul, or heart. It is this heart and soul that intrigue the viewer, and give him reason to pause."
I wrote the above as part of the introduction to this web site several years ago. I figure not too many read it, because the Web is not a place where people go to read, necessarily. Instead, it is a place where people go for information. The point I was trying to make, though, was how important our deserts are in this time of urban sprawl, growing population, and the general speed with which we live our lives. Here then, you will find information about a place that has not fallen victim, yet, to the mad rush of urban Southern California.
I hope that in a small way, this site can serve to remind you that the desert is out there, and that there are things, like water falls and roadrunners, which exist far from the world of cell phones, cars, and clocks. The natural world is still there, waiting, just on the other side of our windows.
The site is divided into chapters. They can be seen on the left in the navigation pane.
It is through an understanding of the natural world that we gain a deeper, more intimate understanding of our own role in the ongoing history of where we live. These pages have information on the geography and plant life of the region. In the future, it would be nice to include information on the birds and other animals found in the deserts of Southeastern California.
After the natural history pages, the links turn toward human history. The original inhabitants are first. The Diegueño, Cahuilla and Kumeyaay tribes, and even those people that came before them, left traces of their long history in the desert. We are fortunate to be left with so many examples of these tribes' existence in the form of rock art, village sites and other taces of these ancient people within the protection of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
With the coming of the Anza expeditions in the late 1700's, pre-history in the desert region of Southern California came to an end. With the coming of Spain's military and religious power came the Mission system, which extended it's strong influence far beyond the coastal regions where the missions were built.
Gold, the United States & Western Expansion
Around New Years Day, 1776, when the Colonies on the eastern seaboard were plotting their freedom from England, the Anza Expedition, consisting of almost 300 people, passed through what is now Anza-Borrego Desert State Park on their way to found their own colony.
This colony on the Pacific Coast would become known as San Francisco. It was into this famous bay that thousands of gold-seekeers would pour, bringing, for good or ill, the westward expansion of the new United States. In the desert, these events were hailed first by the arrival of troops in the form of the Mormon Batallion. This group forged the first wagon road across the desert southwest, and made what became known as the Southern Immigrant route and later the Butterfield Stage route possible.
After the Gold Rush
Through the rest of the 19th and into the 20th centuries, the Anza-Borrego region saw human traffic increase and subside in response to economic and technologic factors. Many people came to the region to homestead and farm. Cattle ranching was a major economic factor during this period. With the inventions of the car and air conditioning, the desert southwest witnessed a boom in population. As the eras of the past drifted into memory, myths and legends sprang up. Anza-Borrego has its share, and some are recounted in the Myths & Legends pages.
What's to come of it all?
I'm looking forward to putting up more information about the formation of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, along with more on the history of the area from the mid-1900's up to the present day. Our deserts here in Southern California are precious places, and deserve our pride, and any protection we can provide. They are an awesome responsibility. Each of us wants to, and has the right, to enjoy them. Future generations will judge us by how well we enjoy and care for them today.