Irvine Ranch Conservancy: Cañada de los Bueyes

(Continued from 11-30-08) The next stop on our Irvine Ranch Conservancy tour was in Weir Canyon -- once called Cañada de los Bueyes (Canyon of the Oxen). The historical marker (behind Mike Boeck in the photo above,) reads, "Through this canyon in Mexican days, oxen-drawn carretas carried hides to the embarcadero at San Juan Capistrano. Commemorated by El Viaje de Portola, April 16, 1971."
The embarcadero was called Bahia de Capistrano. In modern terms, it ranged from the Dana Point headlands to Doheny State Beach. This is where trading ships came to trade with Mission San Juan Capistrano. People sometimes hauled cow hides (a.k.a. "California bank notes") and other goods more than 75 miles to do business here. Hides were the heart of Southern California's economy.
This illustration from Terry Stephenson's book, Caminos Viejos, shows a carreta traveling through Orange County - probably at the peak of the hide trade, in the early 1800s. Stephenson once wrote that the name, Los Bueyes, "probably dates back to the first or second generation of the Yorbas."
Althought it seems rugged and round-about today, Cañada de los Bueyes was considered a quick route to Capistrano for those living in inland areas like the Santa Ana Canyon and Riverside. As historian Phil Brigandi put it, "We look at this today and say, 'THIS is a shortcut?'"
The group photo above shows some of our group near the Canyon's historical marker. Included are (from left to right) Jim Sleeper, Phil Brigandi, Maria Hall-Brown, Mike Bornia and Chris Epting. More photos from our tour (and from other parts of the Irvine Ranch) can be viewed on my Flickr account.
(To be continued...)