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The Santa Ana Mountains are a short peninsular mountain range along the coast of Southern California in the United Statesmarker. They extend for approximately 35 mi (56 km) southeast of the Los Angeles Basin largely along the border between Orangemarker and Riversidemarker counties.


The range starts in the north with the Chino Hillsmarker, heading southeast of the Puente Hillsmarker. Its northern section is divided by Santa Ana Canyon, through which the Santa Ana River flows. Its northernmost summit, at , is Sierra Peak. From there, the major summits are Pleasants Peak, ; Bedford Peak, ; and Bald Peak, . The next two peaks, Modjeskamarker, ; and Santiagomarker, , the highest summit in the range; form Saddleback Ridgemarker. The Saddleback, located approximately 20 mi (32 km) east of Santa Anamarker, is visible from much of Southern California, and is usually the only part of the range high enough to be dusted with snow in winter storms.

South of Saddleback are Trabuco Peak, ; Los Pinos Peak, ; Elsinore Peak, ; Sitton Peak, ; Margarita Peak, ; and Redonda Mesa, . The range ends roughly at the Santa Margarita River.

Most waterways draining the Santa Anas are ephemeral. The major streams rising from the range typically drain west into the Pacific Ocean, including the Santa Ana River and its tributaries and Santiago Creek, San Diego Creek, Aliso Creek, San Juan Creek, San Mateo Creek and Santa Margarita River. Water from the east side of the range empties into Lake Elsinoremarker and Temescal Creek a tributary to the Santa Ana River.

Much of the range is within the Trabuco Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forestmarker, although some parts are still owned by two century-old ranches: the Irvine Ranch (Originally known as the Yorba Family's Rancho Lomas de Santiagomarker and Rancho Mission Viejomarker (Originally recorded as Rancho MisiĆ³n Vieja).

The mountains include a subrange called the Elsinore Mountains. These include the mountains which are west of Lake Elsinoremarker and are the lowest portion of the range. Elsinore Peak marks the highpoint of this area.


At the time of the first Spanish exploration, the Santa Anas were settled by three main groups of indigenous peoples, the Tongva in the north, and the Acjachemen and Payomkowishum in the south.

A handful of historic sites remain in the range today. Registered California Historical Landmarks include an Indian Village Site in Black Star Canyon, Flores Peak, the mining boomtown sites of Carbondale and Silverado, and Helena Modjeska's homemarker.

The last wild grizzly bear in the Santa Ana Mountains was shot and killed in the mountains in 1908. The mountains are also the site of a famed Indian massacre in 1831 in Black Star Canyon.

Gray Wolf, Pronghorn Antelope, and California Condor also occurred in the range.

Natural Resources

As part of the California Floristic Province, the Santa Ana Mountains host a diverse array of plant species within distinctive natural (plant) communities, including Coastal Sage Scrub, Chaparral, Riparian Woodland, Southern Oak Woodland, Rocky Outcrop, Vernal Pool, Valley Grassland, and Montane Coniferous Forest. One of the southernmost stands of Madrones can be found in Trabuco Canyon. Groves of Knobcone Pine can be found around Pleasants Peak. Big-cone Douglas Fir and Coulter Pine can be found at the higher elevations. Rare flowers like the Intermediate Mariposa Lily, Heart-leaved Pitcher Sage (associated with the Tecate Cypress), and Chocolate Lily are difficult to find, but breathtaking to observe. Fragrant sages, evergreen shrubs and trees, perennial bunchgrasses, strange succulents, and fire-following flowers adorn the rugged terrain.

A surprising variety of wildlife species can be found, including Mountain Lion, Mule Deer, Bobcat, Coyote, Gray Fox, Badger, Ringtail, Spotted Skunk, Western Gray Squirrel, Woodrat, Kangaroo Rat, Bats, Spotted Owl, Western Pond Turtle, Southern Steelhead Trout, Coast Horned Lizard, Least Bell's Vireo, Golden Eagle, Mountain Quail, Canyon Wren, Speckled Rattlesnake, Arroyo Toad, Western Spadefoot Toad, California Treefrog, California Sister Butterfly, Tarantula, and many more.

A number of minerals have been mined in the range, though none were very profitable. Commercial resources collected since the 1870s have included metals lead, silver, tin, and zinc, and minerals clay, coal, gypsum, and limestone. Parts of the range have been used to graze domestic livestock and harvest timber since the late 1700s. As the surrounding cities have grown, the water of the range's creeks has become a particularly valued resource.


The mountains form a natural barrier between the fast-growing Inland Empiremarker region to the east and the job centers of Orange County to the west. Only one freeway, the Riverside Freeway (State Route 91), and a narrow and winding mountain highway, State Route 74, connect the regions. Highway 91, which follows the Santa Ana River through a pass between the Santa Ana Mountains on the south and the Chino Hills on the north, is one of California's most congested routes. Because of this, several proposals have been floated to dig a highway tunnel through the Santa Ana Mountains, although the multi-billion-dollar idea has drawn criticism from environmentalists and others concerned about cost and safety in the earthquake-prone region.


  1. Orange County - 1889 to 1909

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