Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park

History

Native Americans
Anthropologists believe Pinnacles was intermittently occupied by small groups of Native Americans. Evidence in the form of arrowheads and acorn grinding stones have been discovered within the monument. Native Americans called Costanoans (a word derived from Spanish for "people of the coast") inhabited western central California. Two local subgroups of the Costanoans, the Chalone and Mutsun, visited Pinnacles. Subgroup populations ranged between 50 and 500 people. The Chalone lived west of Pinnacles in the Salinas River valley and the Mutsun lived to the north and east in the San Juan Bautista area and along the San Benito river.

Spanish Missionaries
The Spanish had a dramatic impact on the Native Americans who frequented Pinnacles. They traveled into California from Mexico and eventually established 21 religious missions between 1769 and 1823, stretching from San Diego to Sonoma. The mission closest to Pinnacles was built in Soledad in 1791. The Chalone Indians lived in the area east of Soledad Mission -- close to what is now the western side of PinnaclesNational Monument.

Willingly or not, many of the Chalone and Mutsun people became neophytes (baptized mission workers); however, the mission way of life was devastating to Indian people. A combination of diseases brought by the Spaniards and harsh changes to their way of life killed many Chalone and Mutsun people, and damaged their cultures. In 1770 the Indian population in California, which was already dropping from the effects of european diseases, was estimated at 300,000. By the mid-1800s, it was cut in half.

Early Settlers
In 1891 Schuyler Hain, a homesteader, arrived in the Pinnacles area from Michigan. During the next twenty years he became known as the "Father of Pinnacles" leading tours up through Bear Valley and into the caves. Hain spoke to groups and wrote articles urging preservation of the area and acted as unofficial caretaker for many years. His efforts proved fruitful with the establishment of Pinnacles as a 2500 acre national monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Horace Bacon established a ranch opposite the eastern entrance and was the school master at Bear Valley School (located on Hwy 25 one mile north of the Hwy 25 and Hwy 146 junction) for twenty years. In 1920 a one-way dirt road was constructed up to the Bear Gulch area making access to the caves easier for the increasing numbers of local residents who enjoyed camping and picnicking in the monument.

Civilian Conservation Corps
In 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps established a camp in what is now the Old Pinnacles trailhead area. From 1933 to 1942, during cooler winter months, the CCC accomplished many projects. The dirt road up to Bear Gulch was widened, paved and completed in 1934. The CCC improved many of the trails that had been established by the early homesteaders, including the exciting steep and narrow trail that winds through the HighPeaks. They constructed the dam that forms the Bear Gulch reservoir and improved the trail into the caves, adding concrete steps and guard rails. Beginning in 1936 the CCC boys guided visitors through the caves using lanterns.

Present Day
Since 1908, the Monument increased in bits and pieces to its present size of about 26,000 acres. Many visitors come to hike, picnic, birdwatch, rock climb, learn about geology and plants, see wild animals or perhaps to simply enjoy the wilderness which offers peace and quiet.