Towsley Canyon Oil Artifacts (and more)


There are very few oil artifacts in Towsley Canyon. The drilling area was much smaller than Pico Canyon. There were less than 35 wells ever drilled in the canyon and less than 10 of those were drilled before 1900. Most of the remaining artifacts date from after 1940 and are really not very unusual.


Sign for Towsley Canyon near the ranger station and lodge about 1/2 mile west of the parking lot


Marker just below lodge


Here is the lodge. It can actually be rented. The ranger's residence is just to the left. All the structures in this area were built in 1989-1990.


To the right of the lodge is the Sonia Thompson Nature Center. It is now (9/6/2008) occasionally open and manned by volunteers. See the nature center page.


Soon after hiking past the previous buildings is this crib dam. A crib dam is defined as being a barrier acting to reduce the flow of water and as a holding place for debris floating downstream.


This dam was built in 1971 by the US Forest Service


Past the Narrows (see geology page for pictures of the Narrows) looking directly south down the main Towsley Canyon creek bed. This view is perpendicular to the Pico Anticline. You can see the old oil roads in the center and on the left. This is part of the old Towsley claim. Many wells were drilled in this area. The current trail is to the left just out of view of the photo.


On the trail just past the Narrows is this flow of oily water that comes out of the brush on the left. Based on DOG records, this is the location of oil well Haws-Ellsworth 1, spudded in 1943. Obviously, it was not properly capped when it was abandoned.


This is the trail on the east face of the canyon that zig-zags up and over to Wiley Canyon


Here is a different view of the trail to Wiley Canyon. The current public trail is marked with green arrowheads. The red arrowheads are oil seeps. Old roads are also clearly visible below the current trail.


This is a large oil seep on a flat area. It is possible that the oil is leaking from an old well. The view is toward the north with the Narrows in the distance.


This is a close-up of the previous seep. Gas is bubbling out of the oil.


Here is a different seep that looks like it could also have been an old oil well


This is the same seep closer to the creek bed. Could that pipe be part of the original well?


These bricks and seep are just above the main trail. Bricks usually imply that a steam boiler was here. There were certainly oil wells around here.


Closer view of bricks


Above the previous two photos directly on the trail, is this seep. In the past, there have been attempts to build something over the seep for the hikers and bikers. These attempts have failed.


There are a lot of walnut trees in the canyon


Two old barrels (up Temple Canyon)


There must have been a pump in the area. Here are some sucker rods and associated hardware.


This piece of hardware has a large "A" on it


Broken up support on the edge of a road in Temple Canyon for a derrick or pump. There was another one nearby.


This cylinder is about 3 feet long and 8 inches in diameter. There is a similar opening on each end and another opening on the body.


Different view of same cylinder


This is the probable site of the Hammon 4 well, spudded in 1955. The view is toward the east from deep in Temple Canyon.


Old hardware


This cylinder with the big opening and interesting pattern is about two feet wide and 1 foot deep


Inside there is this screen. I don't know what it was used for.


This is a view east down Temple Canyon toward Towsley Canyon. There are probably a few more artifacts in the bottom of the creek bed but there is just too much thick brush to do much looking.


There is also a lot of poison oak down there


This is the old Temple Canyon road from the other (south) side of the creek. Note the green area. The map indicates that there were three wells right there and one of them is still leaking water. Hence, the green area.


Here are some wooden tank hoops hidden in the brush below an old road


Here is an old wooden tank hoop connector among the hoops


Rubber tube


On the old Temple Canyon road there is an open gate and part of a fence. The road to the gate has been washed out. (view toward the west)


End of large pipe


This fence and gate encloses the site of well SWC Resources Towsley 1 (old) probably first drilled between 1915 and 1917. It is up the main canyon on the east side.


Large foundation south, and around a bend of the creek, of the previous one. It is 30x50 feet in size. This is on the site of oil well Limbocker No. 1, spudded in 1941


Closer view of large foundation showing hooks and what looks like a small cellar


Looking down in the "cellar". The water is 1 to 2 feet deep. Whether the cellar is filled with dirt or is deeper I can't tell.


Slightly above and south of the large foundation is this small foundation with these cement "sinks"


Above that is this bottom or top of large tank. My black backpack is in the middle.


This large structure consists of one pipe starting at the bottom, looping around and around to the top, and then going straight back down to the bottom. It is near the Limbocker well site. The loops are about 3 feet in diameter and the whole structure is 11 - 12 feet long.


View looking lengthwise


Nearby there is an old tank (3 feet x 1 foot 4 inches) and a small barrel (2 feet x 1 foot 3 inches). The small barrel has a "USS" stamped on its bottom.


Old roll of steel cable near the large foundation


Old hardware


Large eyebolt


Ham and Eggs


Old riveted tank about 4 feet long and 1 1/2 feet wide



While I was hiking deep in Towsley Canyon going in the direction toward the photographer, I paused here next to that rock with the dark area below it. Suddenly there was that distinct rattle sound that caused me to jump backwards in world record time. Hiking around the rocks I looked back to take this picture. Hidden in the dark area was a good-sized coiled rattlesnake that this picture does not show well. When hiking off trail you have to be aware of your surroundings. Looking back on this incident, I should have been more careful of possible hiding places for rattlesnakes. The large boulders in the creek bed created many of these good hiding places.


From the Van Nuys News of 3/30/1926 comes this article about a proposed scenic route over the Santa Susana Mountains that would use Towsley Canyon as the northern section. Obviously, this road never happened.