Towsley Canyon, Santa Clarita, California

Looking west into Towsley Canyon showing the north flank of the Pico Anticline. This is before "the Narrows" and nearly a mile west of the parking lot.

Towsley Canyon was named for Darius A. Towsley. Little is known about him.

The canyon drains north from the Oat Mountain Syncline perpendicularly through the Pico Anticline and then easternly into the Santa Clara River valley.

After a relatively open westernly hike of a little over a mile from the parking lot, there is a left hand turn in the road/trail where it cuts through the north flank of the anticline through a narrow opening. This is called "the Narrows". Here there are excellant exposures of Towsley Formation conglomerates and sandstones. After passing through the narrows, the canyon opens up and you are looking at the area where most of the oil wells were. You now are in the shales of the Modelo Formation, the oldest rocks in the canyon.

There were originally many oil seeps in the canyon. Today, there are still about five that I have seen. The public trail itself loops up the east face of the canyon where it eventually decends into Wiley Canyon on the other side.

You can just make out the old oil well roads at the bottom of the canyon below the trail and running up the tributary (Temple Canyon) to the west. There are very few oil artifacts in the canyon. The majority of them are pipes and barrels.

The Orange County Register of 4/7/1983 reported that Towsley Canyon was a recommended site for a toxic waste dump by the state. Towsley Canyon, along with Elsmere Canyon, was also considered for a dump by Los Angeles County in the 1980's and 1990's (see the Elsmere Canyon Dump Page).

In December of 1989 the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy purchased 145 acres from the Rivendale Ranch Company for $500,000 at the mouth of Towsley Canyon. This new "Towsley Canyon Park", which included deed restrictions not allowing industrial traffic such as dump trucks, just about killed plans for a dump in Towsley Canyon. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is a state agency that acquires parks and trails in the Santa Monica Mountains and the Rim of the Valley Corridor, which includes the Santa Susana Mountains.

In April of 1991 the Conservancy purchased an additional 453 acres in Towsley Canyon consisting of two parcels of land for $6.5 million. This land was also owned by Rivendale. Rivendale bought one of the parcels from the landowner (Joel Brandon) and resold it to the Conservancy at a $1 million loss. Rivendale absorbed the loss because, at the time, they planned a commercial and residential development along the Old Road opposite the entrance to Towsley Canyon and prefered a park there instead of a dump.

In October of 1992 Towsley Canyon Park was renamed "Ed Davis Park in Towsley Canyon".

In April of 1995 the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy bought 3035 acres of land in the Santa Susana Mountains for $4.9 million from Chevron Corporation, who had owned the land for more than a century. The land includes portions of Pico, Towsley, Wiley, Leaming, Rice, and East canyons. It also includes Mentryville and the first commercial oil well in California (see the Pico Canyon Page). The City of Santa Clarita provided about $2 million by purchasing the Conservancy owned 53 acre Rivendale tract along the Old Road near the mouth of Towsley Canyon. The Conservancy had bought the land from Rivendale sometime after 1991 as a further step in stopping the proposed Towsley Canyon dump. The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) was later deeded the land to own and manage. See the Rivendale section of the Towsley Canyon page on the SCVHistory website. Parking is free on the city owned land in the first large parking lot.


Geology of Towsley Canyon
History of Oil Development
St. Bernard Oil Company Well No. 1
Oil Artifacts and More
Sonia Thompson Nature Center
Darius Towsley
The Haws Family - Last Residents of Towsley Canyon