Edgar McGregor

Edgar McGregor is a climatology senior at San Jose State University. He has collected litter from Eaton Canyon and other natural areas for over 1,400 days. Edgar's climate activist #EarthCleanUp account on Twitter has over 35,000 followers.

A car parked in a parking lot

Vehicle Break-Ins Continue To Plague Eaton Canyon

On Saturday, March 23, 2024, yet another vehicle was broken into in the main parking lot at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center. The vehicle had its rear passenger window smashed in broad daylight by thieves looking to steal what was in the car’s backseat. Despite repeated attempts by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to stop the problem, the thieves remain at large. 

Last summer on August 12th, eight vehicles in the overflow lot were targeted by thieves who made it in and out of the park in under 15 minutes. Most vehicles broken into were luxury cars. Break-ins have been reported at both the Midwick dirt parking pad and the Pinecrest Gate in the past 12 months. However, the overflow lot beside the Nature Center is where they occur most often.

Park patrons speaking with police officers after their vehicle was broken into.
Park patrons speaking with police officers after their vehicle was broken into, August 2023

Never leave anything in your vehicle when visiting Eaton Canyon, especially purses, credit cards, electronics, luggage, or backpacks. Hiding these items under your seat may not be sufficient to stop your vehicle from being targeted. If you aren’t taking it with you onto the trail, do not bring it to the canyon. 

A car parked on the side of a vehicle

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A group of people on a rock

2023 Was Eaton Canyon’s Busiest Year Ever. Will 2024 Be Worse?

Eaton Canyon, with its 7 part-time and 4 full-time staff, stands out as the most heavily staffed Nature Center among all Los Angeles County Natural Area parks. This distinction can be attributed to the canyon being stupid popular, so much so it was the #1 most popular hiking destination in Southern California on AllTrails.com for half of 2023.

Determining the annual visitation to Eaton Canyon proves challenging due to the lack of reliable numerical data. Online traffic statistics from platforms like Google Trends and AllTrails.com are available, but their reliability is questionable as they do not specifically reflect the park’s visitation. Those webpages are prone to external rises and falls in traffic that may not reflect Eaton Canyon’s specifically. Additionally, factors such as changes in social media platforms, search engines, and the canyon’s fluctuating publicity further degrade the quality of this data.

So, another method will need to be used. There are a multitude of factors that impact visitation to Eaton Canyon including, but not limited to:

  • The time of year
  • Creek levels
  • Current weather conditions 
  • Current state of the economy
  • Whether or not there is a super bloom ongoing
  • Whether or not Eaton Canyon has gotten publicity recently
  • Whether or not other nearby hiking trails are closed due to wildfires or construction

To address this, an alternative method has been developed and explored, with the specific criteria kept confidential to preserve its future reliability. This method categorizes each month into six classifications: Empty, quiet, normal, busy, crowded, and Disneyland, indicating the level of popularity. The warmer the color, the more popular the park during that month. After some serious number crunching, this was the result:

Notable events like the May 2020 lockdown visitation surge, the June 2020 – May 2021 reservation system, and 2023’s impressive water year show up in the data using this method, validating its credibility and ability to capture fluctuations in Eaton Canyon’s visitation rates. It should be remembered that each month is presented as a whole, recognizing that busy periods may have quiet days and vice versa.

According to this dataset, May is indeed the most popular time of year at Eaton Canyon. The canyon’s busy season lasts from January through July, whereas the quiet season lasts from August through December. This correlates well with when the waterfall is flowing at its highest capacity throughout the year.

With another wet winter in the books, a possible super bloom later this spring, and Big Santa Anita Canyon still being closed from the 2020 Bobcat Fire, it is plausible that 2024 will beat 2023 for the busiest year on record at Eaton Canyon. That being said, August 2023’s Hurricane Hilary renewed creek levels in the canyon, keeping the typical spring-early summer visitation surge cranking through November

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A close up of a lush green hillside

Eaton Canyon Reaches Water Year Average For A Second Winter In A Row

For only the ninth time in 116 years of record keeping, back-to-back wetter than average winters have occured in this part of Southern California. The mood in mid-January 2024 was bleak as only 3.00″ of rain had fallen for the entire water year so far. However, as expected, the months of February and March can not and should not be counted out. After a behemoth atmospheric river and a series of moderate storms in February, the 2023-2024 water year is officially above average in Eaton Canyon as of March 2nd! The annual average rainfall is 19.60″. 

Despite the February 4-7, 2024 atmospheric river being so powerful in Los Angeles County, no appreciable flooding of any magnitude occurred in Eaton Wash. The over 8.00″ of rain that fell in the single storm was not even enough to move a log people had been using a bridge across the first crossing since winter 2023. The reason why was because rain rates failed to reach even 1.00″ / hr in the canyon, and with 30 years of vegetation growth since the last wildfire, soils were pretty capable of soaking everything up. 

A bird sitting on top of a grass covered field

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