With sweeping views, recreational areas, and large swaths of native plants and wildlife, the Baldwin Hills are a much loved open space and landmark in Los Angeles. Over the course of the region’s development, the role of the Baldwin Hills has shifted dramatically, from foraging ground for the native Tongva people, to sheep and cattle grazing area, to oil field, residential neighborhood, and island of wildlife habitat.
In the very long-term history of the Los Angeles region, the Baldwin Hills have played a crucial role in the movement of water and formation of habitats. Prior to the channelization of the Los Angeles River, the river periodically switched courses across the basin during seasonal heavy rains and flooding. When flowing to the west, the Los Angeles River ran into the Baldwin Hills and detoured northwest, which created a series of wetland habitats around its eastern base and deposited sediment near the coast that was worked down coast into a massive system of sand dunes. Over the millennia, these dunes formed the sandstone underlying the coastal prairie plant community, a now vanished area of wildflowers and vernal pools. In 1825, a flood caused the Los Angeles River to flow southerly, where it continues to flow today, leaving the wetlands around the base of the Baldwin Hills to eventually dry up. Although many of these historic habitats of coastal prairie, alkali flats, and vernal pools have been lost to development and the channelization of the Los Angeles River, the intact coastal scrub habitat of the Baldwin Hills provides a glimpse into LA’s past.
For more information:
- Ballona Historical Ecology
- Baldwin Hills Geology – R. Ramirez, J. Shuttleworth (1982)
- Baldwin Hills Ecology – Dave Marqua (1982)
- Baldwin Hills Community Standards District (2008 and ongoing)