During the late 1890′s as more foreigners moved into the Escondido region, the city needed to find a way to bring water to their residents. For hundreds of years the Kumeyaay had been getting their water from the San Louis Ray River basin. Henry Rodriguez of the La Jolla Band remembers when the basin was lush. “I look back to what it was like when I was young, around eight or nine years old. It was full of vegetation, clean water and wildlife. Everything looked green. There were dry years, we know that, but there was enough to give us a good life.”
That all changed with the building of the Escondido Canal. The settlers started to purchase land so they could divert the water from the river into the city. They succeeded in gaining those rights and began diverting enough water to supply approximately 67,000 residents. Many of those residents today don’t know that some of their water comes from the canal. Most of the years the canal is dried up, as was such when I went to it, but during the winter after several storms there can be water in the canal once again.
Since the diversion of San Luis Rey River water, the basin has dried up. These areas are the homelands of over 46 Indian bands, including the Rincon, La Jolla, Pauma, Pala, and San Pasqual. In 1950 they initiated proceedings in the Indian Claims Commission which would pay damages to the Indians from the government for failure to protect their land and water rights.
The start of the river that feeds the canal is at Palomar Mountain. From there the water goes into Lake Henshaw. From Lake Henshaw to the start of the canal it runs right by the 76 freeway until the water is captured and put into a canal at approximately 33.266697,-116.89188. From there the water runs into Lake Wohlford. After Lake Wohlford the canal travel through the heart of Escondido. A map of the canal route is below.
The blue line is the part of the canal that I covered by bike. The canal was a nice ride, with nice views of the valley. On Google maps satellite view of the area, it shows water in the canal but that was not what I found. It was quite dry and looked as if no water had run through it in a while. Maybe as we get more rain this winter more water will travel through it.
Right next to where I started on the map (#1) there was a large pipe that crossed to the other side of the canyon. It looked like the pipe may have been full of water but not enough to make it spill over onto the canal. My next quest is to follow the canal all the way from the start to the end. Maybe if we get enough rain it may make a cool place to inter tube or kayak down…
On my scale, I would give this a 2. It is a nice little place to either walk through or bike with a few nice views, but there isn’t much to see and it is a bit out of the way.
As always, please be careful exploring and ALWAYS tell someone where you are going. If you want any more information on this location, don’t hesitate to contact me. Patrick@abandonedsandiego.com
“History — San Luis Rey Indian Water Authority.” Welcome to the San Luis Rey Indian Water Authority — San Luis Rey Indian Water Authority. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. <http://www.slriwa.org/history>.
 ”Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California (American Indians).” U.S. National Park Service – Experience Your America. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/5views/5views1h67.htm>.