Sacred Heritage — Where “The People Who Came Before” Visited
Several Indian tribes of Southern California considered San Gorgonio Mountain one of their sacred places. The Serrano and Cahuilla Indian people lived at the base of San Gorgonio Mountain, and came to the mountains to gather food, medicinal plants, basket making material and to hunt deer and other animals. The San Gorgonio Pass served as a major trade route that led from Arizona to the California coast.
The Cahuilla Indian people from Palm Springs talked about “the people who came before.” It was said that these ancient ancestors could fly, and San Gorgonio Mountain was one of several sacred peaks in Southern California where the ancient ancestors visited. The Luiseño Indian people, whose territory lies 50 miles to the south, considered San Gorgonio Mountain sacred and the older brother of Mount San Jacinto; both peaks were considered among the first born of Earth Mother.
In the late 1700s, Spanish missionaries built Rancho San Gorgonio, the easternmost outpost of the San Gabriel Mission. After the Holcomb Valley gold rush of 1860, ranchers used the area for grazing sheep, horses, and cattle. Old driveways, watering holes, and campsites remain a part of the landscape today. Although not particularly successful, many miners prospected in the southeastern portions of the San Bernardino Mountains. Evidence still remains in the form of old cabins, mine shafts, prospecting pits and refuse deposits.
By the mid-1920s, drastic changes had occurred, and the area began attracting 75,000 to 100,000 people annually to the San Bernardino Mountains for recreation and outdoor enjoyment. It was during this time that the movement to protect this unique area began.
Habitat Linkages — an Ecological Social Network
The Sand to Snow National Monument is an incredibly diverse protected area with a wide range of ecosystems ranging from lowland Mojave and Colorado deserts, riparian forests, creosote bush scrub and woodlands, fresh water marshes, Mediterranean chaparral and alpine conifer forests. Hundreds of springs rise to the surface at South Fork Meadows, the origin of the South Fork of the Santa Ana River.
The San Gorgonio Wilderness contains large un-fragmented habitat areas with no roads, and serves as an important habitat linkage area between the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountain ranges.
The area has been important to biological and ecological research, as well as studies of climate and land use change, and the impact of fire and invasive species management. The area has a remarkable species richness that makes it one of the most biodiverse areas in southern California.
Twelve federally listed threatened and endangered animal species live in this dramatic landscape, which is also famous for its oases frequented by over 240 species of birds. The area is home to the southern-most stand of Quaking Aspen trees and habitat for the California spotted owl. There are also two research natural areas, one with relatively undisturbed vegetation that provides excellent wildlife habitat including one of the highest densities of black bear habitats in Southern California.