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Harbison Canyon is an unincorporated community in San Diego Countymarker, Californiamarker, United Statesmarker. The Harbison Canyon census-designated place (CDP) had a population of 3,645 as of the 2000 census.


According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Harbison Canyon is located at (32.8203296, -116.8300236), which is near the intersection of Harbison Canyon Road and Frances Drive. This is where most maps place the community. It is located in a canyon between Crestmarker and Alpinemarker. Mail sent to Harbison Canyon is addressed to El Cajonmarker.

According to the United States Census Bureau Harbison Canyon is located at (32.821101, -116.840051). This is approximately 3,100 feet west of the USGS location in undeveloped hills west of the community.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the Harbison Canyon census-designated place (CDP) has a total area of 26.0 km² (10.1 mi²), all land.


As of the census of 2000, there were 3,645 people, 1,274 households, and 983 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 140.0/km² (362.7/mi²). There were 1,311 housing units at an average density of 50.4/km² (130.5/mi²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 90.67% White, 0.47% African American, 1.78% Native American, 1.15% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 2.22% from other races, and 3.59% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.70% of the population.

There were 1,274 households out of which 37.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 63.9% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.8% were non-families. 16.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.86 and the average family size was 3.22.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 27.4% under the age of 18, 7.1% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 27.6% from 45 to 64, and 8.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 104.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.2 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $56,975, and the median income for a family was $60,913. Males had a median income of $41,058 versus $31,371 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $23,914. About 5.1% of families and 4.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.6% of those under age 18 and 3.6% of those age 65 or over.


John Stewart Harbison was born the third child of William and Margaret (Curry) Harbison, on a farm near Freedom, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, on September 29, 1826.
John Stewart Harbison

He became a bee keeper in the tradition of his father, and later migrated to the west coast of the United States. After spending some years in other California locations, he eventually arrived in San Diego aboard the ship "Orizaba" with one hundred and ten colonies of bees on November 28, 1869. In the spring of 1874 he moved with his wife and daughter to a homestead near the Sweetwater River twenty-three miles east of San Diego in a little valley now known as Harbison Canyon. Within seven years time, he was the largest producer of honey in the world, operating 2000 to 3000 hives. At that time, having several hundred hives was considered a large operation.

His success in capitalizing on the vast honey potential of San Diego County, along with his extensive campaign of selling bees to the residents of the county was the major force in making San Diego County the greatest honey producing county in the State of California by 1874, which in turn made California the leading honey producing state of the Union. John Harbison was a major contributor to the theory of bee culture with his development of new tools and methods that characterized the remarkable advances made in nineteenth century apicultural science. Both his brother William and John were important early authors on bee keeping science. Furthermore, he opened up the great retail markets east of the Mississippi River needed to absorb the tremendous honey crops produced in California. John Harbison was worthy of the title bestowed upon him by members of the bee industry-"King of the Beekeepers." He died October 12, 1912, in San Diego at the age of eighty-six. A more extensive biography can be found at The Journal of San Diego History Online.

Harbison Canyon was twice devastated by wildfires, first by the Laguna Fire in 1970 then again by the Cedar Fire on October 26, 2003, the worst firestorm in California history. The town losing 370 homes out of 420 in the community. Homes are still being built now in late 2007. The community was bestowed considerable attention by the news media, which led to a visit within weeks by Governor Gray Davis, Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, his wife Maria (Kennedy-Schriver) Schwarzenegger and President George W Bush. The president arrived by helicopter which landed on the grounds of the Shadow Hills Elementary School.

The community received help in rebuilding from many organizations, most notably from the New York Says Thank You Foundationwhich was created in response to the tremendous support given to New Yorkers from people all over the United States after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. Since 2003, the Harbison Canyon Lions Club has participated in numerous post-disaster rebuilding projects around the U.S. sponsored by the NYSTY Foundation.


Harbison Canyon, after its unfortunate encounters with wildfires, is best known among locals for the presence of a nudist resort, "Sun Island resort". Harbison Canyon is home to Old Ironsides Park, maintained by the County of San Diego Parks and Recreation. Kumeyaay Indian relics can be found near the stream that runs through the park and Canyon. The park also has a community center building where community and civic groups meet.


In the state legislature Harbison Canyon is located in the 36th Senate District, represented by Republican Dennis Hollingsworth, and in the 77th Assembly District, represented by Republican Joel Anderson. Federally, Harbison Canyon is located in California's 52nd congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +9 and is represented by Republican Duncan Hunter.

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