The Santa Monica Mountains are as ripe in biodiversity as they are rich in history and Peter Strauss Ranch—home to historic Lake Enchanto—offers a bit of both.
Tucked away to the side of Mulholland Highway in Agoura Hills, the failed 1930s resort was once described as a magical wonderland for both adults and children. Now in ruins, the foundations of the once popular hotspot are being reclaimed by the surrounding oak and wetlands under the ownership of the National Park Service.
The land bought by Warren Shobert and Arthur Edeson in 1930s—after its original owner Harry Miller, an automobile manufacturer, lost his fortune in the Great Depression—was turned into a resort. Called Lake Enchanto by the two entrepreneurs, the resort boasted to have the largest swimming pool in the west coast, which has long been out-of-use since its closure in the 1960s.
The circular 650,000 gallon sized pool lies to the west of the property and was just one of the attractions in a resort that featured live pony and horse rides, an amphitheater, rocket car rides, a merry-go-round, a beach area and boat rentals, according to the National Park Service.
Unfortunately for Sobert and Edeson, the resort failed due to the stiff competition wrought on by the opening of Knott’s Berry Farm in the 1940s and Disneyland in the mid 1950s. The dam that held the lake was left in disrepair and eventually burst, flooding the area downstream.
A great example of how quickly Mother Nature reclaims her property, the area now offers glimpses into a wide array of local plants and animals.
The short five-mile trail begins from the picnic area just to the south eastern side of the Ranch House and Terrazzo Dane Floor. Moving past the old exotic bird aviary, the path ascends above a grassy open-air amphitheater.
Winding up and away from manmade structures, the path gently rolls up and down as it delves into the canopied hillside. The trail is smooth and well-kept and provides a small bridge and several steps on its climbs and descents.
Rich in flora to either side, from the reds of elderberries to the yellows of poppies, a spectrum of colors and species can be spotted on the hike. The short path is mostly shaded and when the blue of the sky does break through its wooded canopy, one can see the surrounding ridge top views.
For those who wish to see more ruins, take a right at the fork before reaching the end of the path. After the turn, stay to the left to enter a canyon hiding the ruins of home, which was possibly destroyed by the bursting dam in the 1960s. Look for a crushed blue truck and the home's old foundations hanging under the bulging roots of an old oak.
The area of the old ruins is rich with bird life and one can see the beginnings of a lush wetland starting to form.
For more information about the ranch’s history and a map click here.