Leaving Lake Riverside, Chapter 3: Parks Valley

This is the next chapter of my book, entitled Leaving Lake Riverside. To read the previous chapter, CLICK THIS LINK. For the next chapter, CLICK THIS LINK. To start at the beginning, CLICK THIS LINK. Thanks for reading!

Parks Valley

Portrait of Captain Anza.

This riding stable that Tom Marcial and my stepfather Britt established, was located way out in the sticks, in the middle of about seven square miles of desert that was once known as Parks Valley. Back in the 1860s, a pioneer named David Parks became the first settler in this area. This was Cahuilla (Ka-WEE-ya) Indian territory, but I guess he figured the Cahuillas wouldn’t mind if he were to carve out a piece of their land and start up a cattle ranch.

Parks wasn’t the first man of European descent to visit this land. That honor went to Captain Juan Bautista de Anza, who overnighted in nearby Anza Valley on March 16, 1774, while leading an exploratory expedition. Thanks to Capitan Anza, this area found its way onto old Spanish maps. However, it was hardly ever visited. It was so remote that the Cahuillas were able to maintain their way of life for another hundred years.

The Butterfield Overland Mail Company stage passed through this area from 1858 to 1861, on its way from Fort Smith, Arkansas to San Francisco. But other than a few stage stops, nobody settled this land until the arrival of David Parks in the late-1860s.

Parks and his family slashed and burned the vegetation that grew in Parks Valley, allowing for the growth of abundant grassland, conducive to raising cows and steers. They also built a ranch house on the swidden they’d created, and from that house they ran cattle for the next 70 years.

In 1883, the author Helen Hunt Jackson stayed with the Parks while researching a book. She studied the Cahuilla Indians, as well some of the more colorful characters in the area. This contributed to her classic novel, Ramona, which was published in 1884.

In the 1940s the Parks family sold their vast ranch. Over the next two decades, the real estate wound up changing hands several times, until the San Jacinto Packing Company (SJP) purchased it.

The SJP planted potatoes and grain crops on the land. They also decided they wanted to raise bovines and buffalo, so around 1962 they had some longhorn cattle and four head of buffalo shipped in from Oklahoma.

Also in 1962, the SJP determined that they needed a water reservoir. There was a low basin in the middle of Parks Valley, near the old Parks ranch house. There they drilled a well which produced a whopping 900 gallons per minute. They used this well water to flood the basin and create a small lake, which they named Lake Riverside. Now that’s a funny name, because there was no river nearby to be at the side of. I’m guessing its name was derived from the name of Riverside County, where Parks Valley was situated.

This manmade lake created two small islands, which were formerly knolls, and on those islands lay the gravesites and remains of several members of the old Parks family. It’s a good thing the Parks buried on high ground because those gravesites are still there, perched safely above the waterline, even to this day.

The SJP farmed and ranched this land throughout the 1960s. During that decade, the buffalo were allowed to roam freely, which must have been very effective at keeping trespassers away. The bison multiplied until they reached 15 head by 1970. But by that same year, the SJP had been experiencing crop failures. This was likely due to depletion of nutrients in the soil.

Because of this, they decided to sell their Lake Riverside land. And they ended up selling it to some scam artists. They may not have realized the buyers were scam artists, but time eventually revealed the character of the new owners. These con men were led by Mr. Beaumont, of Beaumont & Associates. Beaumont & Associates was a den of oily-tongued snakes, affiliated with a larger conglomerate of serpents called World Leisure Time, Inc.


21 replies »

  1. When you talk about the novel Ramona, it makes me think of the other Ramona, popular book for kids, written by Beverly Cleary. The books are quite a bit different from each other I am sure. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, they must be. Jackson’s Ramona was a tale about a half-white/Indian girl, who has a botched romance, and who’s foster mother hates her because she’s half-white. She endures a lot of misery before she finally finds a stable and enduring marriage.

      Jackson spent some time in various places in Southern California, including Parks Valley, before writing the book. So there are a lot of places that claim to have been part of the inspiration for her novel.

      Liked by 1 person

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