It is believed that the Chumash lived in Topanga Canyon in aboriginal times. When the Spaniards arrived in Topanga Canyon in 1771, they founded the San Gabriel Mission. They named the Native Americans living there “Gabrielinos.” The natives left no written records. Much of what we know of them has been derived from writings of the Spanish and the study of their campgrounds and other artifacts dating back thousands of years.
In 1783 the city of Los Angeles was established, which eventually became a United States territory in 1848. With the signing of the Homestead Bill by Abraham Lincoln, more people began to move to Santa Monica and in 1885 the first ranch was built in Topanga Canyon. At the turn of the century people from Los Angeles would come to the canyon on hunting trips. In the early 1900s more settlers began to move up into the mountains. Some built small resorts for people to come and camp, take scenic auto trips and get out of the city.
Artists, actors and musicians began to move into the canyon, including Will Geer of the “Waltons,” who started the original Theatricum Botanicum or Theater of Plants. Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Burl Ives, Odetta, Ramblin' Jack Elliot and many others played and contributed to the start of the Topanga Theatre. The “Father of Folk Music,” Woody Guthrie lived in Topanga Canyon and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell was known as the “lady of the canyon.” In 1961, the canyon had its first "Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest."
Today, the annual Topanga Days Country Fair celebrates the adventurous and artistic history of Topanga. The Topanga Canyon Docents are dedicated to the preservation of the area’s natural habitat and to the education of all who live there. The Topanga Community Club is located in this lovely rural area about six miles north of Pacific Coast Highway. The Community House is a gathering place for numerous Topanga educational and recreational groups. A testament to the unique nature of this community is Topanga Canyon Boulevard, which is home to most area businesses. The boulevard boasts five streetlights, one traffic signal and, believe it or not, one turtle crossing.
Topanga State Park is one of the world’s largest wild lands and a great place to hike, starting with a weekend getaway to Trippet Ranch. The park is bordered by Pacific Palisades and Brentwood on the south and on the east by Rustic Canyon. Characterized by oak woodlands and chaparral vegetation, the park features 36 miles of trails that wind through open grassland and live oaks and offer spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
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