The mission of California State Parks is
to provide for the health, inspiration and
education of the people of California by helping
to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological
diversity, protecting its most valued natural and
cultural resources, and creating opportunities
for high-quality outdoor recreation.
One of the
in the Los Angeles
basin is returning
to its natural state,
California State Parks supports equal access.
Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who
need assistance should contact the park at
(310) 558-5547. If you need this publication in an
alternate format, contact email@example.com.
CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296-0001
For information call: (800) 777-0369
(916) 653-6995, outside the U.S.
711, TTY relay service
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
6300 Hetzler Road
Culver City, CA 90232
© 2016 California State Parks
with the help of visitors
Developers planned to build a 241-home subdivision, Vista Pacifica, on
this hill. Local residents and conservation advocates pushed a lengthy
grassroots effort to save one of the few large islands of semi-wild land
left in the Los Angeles basin. Although the hill had been graded and
its top leveled for housing, park proponents envisioned an oasis in the
urban stampede. After six years of fundraising and community activism,
this open space became part of nearby Kenneth Hahn State Recreation
Area (formerly Baldwin Hills SRA) in 2002. Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
opened to the public in 2009. Volunteers and park staff are restoring
native plants, hoping to attract once-abundant birds and wildlife back to
Student volunteers from the
Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Program
plant prickly pear cactus, hoping
to attract cactus wrens back to
the park. Los Angeles Audubon
supports the Baldwin Hills
Greenhouse, Restoration, and
Leadership programs for students
from L.A.’s urban core. Alumni who
develop their natural and research
skills in these programs return from
college to mentor others.
isitors find magnificent panoramic
vistas at this 58-acre ecological island
in the midst of urban Los Angeles. Earn the
view after hiking up a steeply inclined trail
or by completing a heart-pumping climb
up 282 steps.
An uplifting recreational opportunity away
from concrete and urban sprawl, Baldwin
Hills Scenic Overlook’s restored coastal
sage scrub habitat invites a closeness with
nature. As the land is gradually brought
back to its original habitat, animals and
native plants are returning, allowing future
generations to enjoy them. This park
tells an unfolding story of restoration,
community, and hope.
Evidence shows that humans have lived in
this area for about 10,000 years. Traditional
Tongva territory encompasses portions of
today’s Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside,
and San Bernardino Counties and the four
southern Channel Islands.
As expert hunters and gatherers with a
complex social system, the Tongva were
a prosperous, adaptable, and creative
people — one of the most populous
and wealthy of all California Indian groups.
Technological innovations and specialized
skills such as building canoes — known
as ti’ats — were highly regarded. Rituals,
healing, artwork, songs, and extensive oral
traditions were central to Tongva culture.
Many Tongva villages occupied the fertile
basin that is now Los Angeles, including
settlements along nearby Ballona Creek.
The Tongva were renamed “Gabrieliño”
by the Spanish after they recruited the
Tongva to build Mission San Gabriel,
founded in 1771.
Today’s Gabrielino/Tongva people revere
and pass along their cultural heritage to
Mexico’s governor Vicente de Sola granted
more than 3,000 acres, called Rancho
Rincón de los Bueyes (Corner of the Oxen),
to Bernardo Higuera and Cornelio Lopez
in 1821. The rancho is now present-day
Cheviot Hills, Rancho Park, northeast Culver
City, and a portion of Baldwin Hills with
To the west lies 14,000-acre Rancho La
Ballona, granted by Governor Juan Alvarado
to Ygnacio and Augustin Machado and
Felipe and Tomas Talamantes in 1839. The
Future site of Baldwin Hills
Scenic Overlook, 1940
two ranchos runs
Overlook at the
top of the steps.
Most of the
E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin
once lay in a
third Mexican rancho, Cienega o Paso de
la Tijera (Swamp or Pass of the Scissors)
granted to Vicente Sanchez in 1843.
By 1886, Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin had
acquired most of this rancho. A noted
19th-century pioneer who made his first
fortune in gold mining stock, Baldwin
owned land and businesses from Los
Angeles to Lake Tahoe.
Earthquakes and Oil Wells
The landform known today as Baldwin
Hills was uplifted by earthquakes
occurring on the Newport-Inglewood fault.
Movement along the 40-mile-long fault
created the hills with the 420-foot peak
now known as the Overlook.
Extraction of fossil fuels — oil and
natural gas — has dominated these hills
since 1924, when Standard Oil found a
sizable petroleum reserve.
Within a year, drillers were pumping
more than 50,000 barrels of oil each day.
Since then, drilling has lowered the
surface of the Baldwin Hills oil field by as
much as ten feet. Taking liquid from the
ground results in this lowering process,
known as subsidence. Visitors can see
mechanical pumpjacks still bobbing for oil
on the hills near the park.
Los Angeles Public Library
Baldwin Hills Dam
Despite the presence of many earthquake
faults, the Los Angeles City Department of
Water and Power built a 20-acre reservoir in
the hills between La Cienega Boulevard and
La Brea Avenue. Holding nearly 300 million
gallons of water, the Baldwin Hills Dam was
completed in 1951. Three years later, an
oil company began injecting salt water into
nearby oil fields to get more oil.
On December 14, 1963, a caretaker at the
reservoir noticed the dam was leaking. The
area below the dam was evacuated. When
the dam gave way, 130 to 180 million gallons
rushed out of the reservoir — destroying
homes and cars in a swath of mud and
debris. Five people were killed, 64 homes
were destroyed, and another 117 homes and
96 apartment buildings were damaged.
The dam’s failure was variously attributed
to oilfield subsidence and water injection,
seismic movement, and poor dam
construction design. The reservoir’s former
site is now a large, grassy basin in the
Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, which
opened in 1984.
Within a network of parks and trails in the
Baldwin Hills Parklands, take an invigorating
walk to the Overlook along a one-mile trail
that provides unexpected vistas at each
turn, or climb the 282 steps from Jefferson
Baldwin Hills Dam fails, 1963
Blvd. to the park’s 420-foot peak. Both
birdwatching and picnicking at the top can
Interpretive Programs and Events
Park staff offer free opportunities year round
for the community to engage with nature and
L.A.’s dynamic culture. Summer programs
such as Junior Rangers for 7- to 12-year-olds,
and educational programs for K-12 schools
are also available. Please check
www.parks.ca.gov/bhso for visitor center
hours. The park’s free film and exhibits
illustrate the grassroots efforts that led to the
preservation of this “natural” island from the
commercial and residential development
Special Event Rental
The architecturally renowned, 10,300-squarefoot visitor center includes a conference
room and theater, and an enclosed pavilion
The Skyline Terrace is also available to rent
for weddings, meetings, and other events
hosting up to 250 guests. Rental prices,
photographs, rules, and other guidelines can
be found at www.parks.ca.gov/bhsoevents.
Paved paths lead to the accessible visitor
center, its theater, and the outdoor Skyline
Terrace amphitheater. Parking and restrooms
are accessible. The steps, unpaved trails, and
roadway are steep.
• Pedestrians are encouraged to use the
trails, not the road. Please do not walk in
the center of the roadway. Face oncoming
traffic when walking uphill and downhill.
• All natural and cultural resources are
protected by state law and may not be
removed or disturbed.
• Stay on designated trails to preserve
natural features. Shortcuts through park
habitat contribute to erosion.
• Except for service animals, leashed dogs
are allowed only on the paved road and
parking area. Do not leave dogs in a car.
• Alcohol and drug use is prohibited.
• Firearms and fireworks are prohibited.
• Riding a bicycle on unpaved trails is
Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook hosts the Weather and Climate segment of the California
State Parks PORTS program.
One of several statewide PORTS programs showcasing differing state parks’ habitats,
Baldwin Hills’ PORTS segments are delivered through live videoconferences into
diverse classrooms all across California, thanks to high-speed
With support from a wide variety of partners, Baldwin Hills
PORTS lessons explain weather patterns and the effects of
climate change on the Los Angeles basin and our state in
general. The park’s hillside perch gives students an interactive
opportunity to learn about influences on weather — smog,
wind, inversion layers, and human impacts on the environment.
For information or to schedule a class PORTS program,
NEARBY STATE PARKS
• Los Angeles State Historic Park
1245 N. Spring St., Los Angeles 90012
• Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area
4100 South La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles 90056 (323) 298-3660
• Will Rogers State Historic Park
1501 Will Rogers State Park Road
Pacific Palisades 90272
“Ranger Jennifer” connects to a classroom.
The park’s native
vegetation, as in
most urban areas, has
suffered from years of Anise swallowtail
soil disturbances and butterfly
invasion by non-native
grasses and such plants as fennel, wild
radish, and black mustard. Volunteer and
park staff restoration efforts are bringing
back essential wildlife habitat to the park.
Desert cottontail rabbit
Coastal sage scrub habitat supports
species diversity. Some of the native
species commonly seen here are droughttolerant and can be used in residential
landscaping — California sagebrush, coastal
prickly pear cactus, toyon, deerweed, giant
wild rye, laurel sumac, and mulefat.
A native plant garden near the pavilion is
surrounded by terraced seating.
Walkers may spot a desert cottontail rabbit
or a gray fox. Gopher, coachwhip, and
California king snakes are nonvenomous,
protected residents of the park. A sideblotched lizard or a western fence lizard
may dart onto the path.
More than 240 species of birds rely on
this park for food and shelter, including
western meadowlarks, kingbirds, barn
swallows, American kestrels, white-tailed
kites, lesser goldfinches, and California
At one time, the trapdoor spider, cactus
wren, burrowing owl, and black-tailed
jackrabbit also made their homes here.
With ongoing park habitat-restoration
efforts, perhaps one day these species
Native plants from left to right: Bush sunflower, white sage, blue-eyed grass, evening primrose, and red toyon berries
© 2016 California State Parks
C U LV E R C I T Y
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Baldwin Hills Angeles
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