Oil Seeps

Oil seeps are common in Elsmere Canyon and its tributaries. The early native Americans in the Santa Clarita area (called the Tataviam) used the oil for waterproofing baskets, construction, and medicinal purposes. In 1769, Father Crespi (on the Don Gaspar de Portola expedition) reported a village near the mouth of Elsmere Canyon near the present-day Eternal Valley Cemetery. As might be expected, early oil wells, including those in Elsmere Canyon, were often drilled near oil seeps.

Here is an early description of oil seeps in Elsmere Canyon from the California State Mining Bureau 8th Annual Report of the State Mineralogist for the year ending 1888. Although Elsmere is not mentioned by name (it may not have had a name then), the description is undoubtedly for Elsmere Canyon:

"In a canyon on the northern slope of the range of mountains northeast of the San Fernando Railroad tunnel, and five or six miles southeast of Newhall, there are a number of localities of asphaltum, with more or less seepage of petroleum, in two different gulches; and in the eastern gulch, some four hundred or five hundred feet above the valley, a large accumulation of asphaltum extends for something like a quarter of a mile along the bed of the gulch. The seeping oil is black and heavy. The prevailing dip of the rocks here is northwesterly, though some of them dip south or southwest. They occasionally contain pectens and other shells. The bed of the gulch is strewn with granite boulders from the mountains further east."

Oil seep

Oil seeping into water

Another oil seep


Close-up of previous picture. This seep had some unique property that attracted lizards. All the lizards in this picture are dead, some not for very long. This particular boulder was washed away during the heavy rains of 2004-05 and I never saw it again.

Still a lot of oil in some seeps

Fresh oil in this seep

Oil still seeping out of the steep, north-east facing cliff in Elsmere Canyon

Dried up seep from also from the steep, north-east facing cliff

Colorful oil seep above Elsmere 4 well site

Closer view of same seep

This seep is about 50 yards from the above seep and looks similar to it. However, it covers a larger area - about 10 yards wide by 30 yards long. This is a closer view as it begins to go over a cliff in the gulley where it is located.

Closer view of above

Another view showing unusual green color

Another view showing bubbles. There is some water along with the oil in this seep.

Dead bird stuck in the seep. There are actually three birds stuck in this seep.

Some of the seep is dried up. Here it looks like a lava flow.

The 2008 fire really did a number on the above seep. All the colors and dead animals were burned away. You can still see the yellow warning tape. This seep was on fire. (photo taken on 7-18-2009)

Another view of above seep