Part of the Puente Hills Preserve, Turnbull Canyon is a 4-mile circle route close to Whittier, California. It is an east-west canyon with a moderately steep drainage that is located in the preserve’s northern-central region. The creek that runs through the canyon supports a small area of riparian woodland where sycamore trees predominate, while the slopes are covered in coastal sage and both native and non-native grasses.
Turnbull Canyon has a semi-arid climate, which is typical of Southern California. It is a little bit cooler here than in some of the locations to the south of the region since the Whittier Hills are very close to the coast, which has an equalizing impact on the climate. It is not unusual to see frost on the ground in the winter, yet temperatures rarely rise beyond 95 degrees in the summer.
Several Tongva (Gabrieleo) Indians are said to have been executed at Turnbull Canyon in the Puente Hills during the early Spanish Colonial Period for sedition against the Spanish and the Franciscan Friars at nearby Mission San Gabriel. Turnbul Canyon allegedly earned the moniker “Hotuuknga” (the valley of darkness/death) as a result. However, it is thought that this mythology is false based on study by John Garside & Marty Shields. In the wetlands close to the modern-day El Monte, some Tongva rebels were put to death. Turnbull Canyon’s original name was Ahwingna, and the mythical word “Hotuuknga” truly applied to the hills surrounding Yorba Linda.
After Scottish immigrant Robert Turnbull purchased the canyon from Whittier businessmen in the 1870s to farm sheep, it was given his name. In the 1880s, he made a profit by reselling the land to the Quakers. After that, Turnbull’s luck ran out; he was killed by a town drunk. The canyon was given the Turnbull name by the Quakers in his honor.
In the 1890s, oil drilling and prospecting expanded into Turnbull Canyon, and a shoddy dirt road was built through it. Two huge cougars chased two oilmen out of the canyon in their wagon in November 1900 when their horses spooked. The first time the route was paved for autos was in 1913.
Since then, a weird assortment of tales and urban legends, including terrible murders, have sprung up around Turnbull Canyon.
Turnbull Canyon is renowned for its view of Rose Hills Memorial Park and the Hsi Lai Temple. Additionally, it has been the subject of legends of paranormal activity and the location of the finding of a missing person’s body.
Next Point of Interest: Whittier Art Gallery