When the first pioneers settled this region, they crowded the banks of the Arroyo Seco and created a culture and lifestyle that was vigorous and alluring. Gardens, craftsman bungalows, hand-printed books, tile, outdoor competition, athletic events enriched the lives of our early settlers with an enthusiasm they trumpeted across the county. Many of the recorded the abundant fish and wildlife found in the Arroyo Seco.
Here is the testimony of Charles Holder, the renowned sportsman, outdoorsman, hunter and fisher of Southern California, one of the founders of the Tournament of Roses.
In a delightful little book published in 1893, "All About Pasadena," he wrote:
"To the west of Pasadena extends the caņon of the Arroyo Seco, which means literally, a dry river. In the summer there is in the bed a little stream which now and then disappears, really forming a good body of water, though out of sight, and in the winter, after a rain, bearing in its torturous channel a rushing torrent of great power, the drainage of the great caņon of the Arroyo that extends a third of the way across the Sierra Madre range.
At Pasadena the Arroyo forms a complete jungle, a most attractive resort for the walker or equestrian. Tall sycamore trees rear their graceful forms, while over the limbs and branches are festoons of the wild grape, clematis, and other vines, so luxuriant that they form a complete bower in many places. Live oaks, the willow, alder, and a variety of trees grow here, with vines and flowering plants innumerable, so that in the winter season the Arroyo becomes a literal garden.
In and out among the trees, a trail has been worn, often leading down to the bed of the brook; and here one can wander for hours at Christmas time in this leafy retreat, with the birds singing all about, and trout darting from the horse's feet. Between the point known as Park Place and that a mile or two south, the Arroyo is thickly wooded; but to the north it branches out, becomes wider and low brush, cacti and the yucca are the principal forms of vegetation. Here there is a good carriage road reached from Park Place, which can be followed to Devil's Gate, where, or near by, a road leads out of the Arroyo. Equestrians can keep on and pass Devil's Gate, fording the stream; but carriages take the road referred to, finding another a little farther on, leading down into the Arroyo again, where a cross road is found. One to the left passes over into La Caņada Valley, while that to the right carries you on up the Arroyo into the mountains and to Switzer's. The La Caņada drive may be continued for two or three miles, then returning by Verdugo Caņon, a pleasant valley, well wooded and attractive. A shorter ride, and particularly pleasant for equestrians, is to follow down the La Caņada road for a mile or so, then turn to the left, and return to Pasadena through the hills.
"By following the Arroyo road north we are brought to the mouth of the caņon, hung with wild grape and ivy; and for three miles when the water is not high, the ride, especially for those on horseback, is a continual delight; the road winding between the high walls of the caņon, skirted by rich vegetation and abounding in flows and ferns."
Lloyd B. Austin, the proprietor of Switzer's resort in a 1936 talk to the Pasadena Historical Society said,
"At a distance 'Arroyo Seco' may be only soft Spanish for 'Dry gulch,' but from the first day of the Pasadena colony, every hunter or fisherman who ventured beyond the granite gateway a mile above Devil's Gate brought back tantalizing stories of trout pools, foaming cascades and groves of live oaks, sycamore and spruce hemmed in by imposing cliff walls . . . 3 One morning three anglers reported a catch of 240 trout below the site of the ranger station."