Native People

The area near Yucaipa was known as a crossroads for traveling indigenous people. The Cahuilla were traditionally active in the area of Wildwood Canyon, as were the Serrano and Gabrieleno native people.

Early Pioneers

The first recorded landowner was mountain man James Waters, who started a hog ranch on the fringe of the current park property in the 1850s. The area was called “Hog Cañon” (the Spanish word for canyon) until the 1920s. Later settlers included rancher Louis Morris and the Brooks family, who staked mining claims in the area. The Wildwood Lodge resort was built in the 1920s; investors planned to sell more than 500 lots in a country-club development. Few lots were sold, and the property was foreclosed in 1928. Property tax defaults led to the sale of the development to Vernon Hunt, who bought up area ranches and the former Wildwood Lodge in 1940 to build Hunt Ranch. Hi-Up House was owned by the McCollough family. During the Great Depression in 1932, Charles McCollough lost his Pasadena apple farm to foreclosure. He borrowed $500 to purchase 88 acres in Yucaipa and brought his family to live off the land—digging wells and water tunnels to irrigate their gardens and orchards, and raising rabbits and bees. The McColloughs lived in a converted chicken coop for 13 years while they built a new home, using recycled and found materials. Some remnants of Hunt Ranch and the Hi-Up House buildings are still on the property.

Preserving the Land

After a flood threatened developers’ plans to build subdivisions, California State Parks (supported by local conservationists) acquired Wildwood Canyon’s 900 acres. On May 9, 2003, a dedication ceremony was held at Wildwood Canyon.