History Mystery No. 20

Aug 19, 2013

No date Devils Gate OutingWhat’s this and where are we?

In this undated photo, presumably shot in the late 1890s, a group on an outing stops at Devil’s Gate.

There’s not much more than a puddle of water in the photo.

Here’s the same location with much more water, probably shot in winter or spring.



No date Devils Gate rushing water

Benjamin Eaton named the gorge Devil’s Gate because of the stone formation that looked like a devil’s profile, right down to the horns.

Eaton, a visionary engineer and later a district attorney and judge, was a founding resident of the Indiana Colony who designed pipelines between 1865 and 1874 that brought water southward from Devil’s Gate and the canyon now named after him, making possible the eventual development of Pasadena.

The three-mile pipeline out of Devil’s Gate brought water directly to a reservoir near the present-day Pasadena Museum of History (Walnut Street at Orange Grove Boulevard). At the south end of this reservoir, another pipeline brought water to the southern portion of the Indian Colony in what is now South Pasadena.

Here’s an early photo in which you can see a section of pipeline along the lower left wall of the gorge.

Eaton pipeline

With water for agricultural irrigation and domestic use, the settlers’ vision was becoming reality.

Here are selected scenes from the 15-minute film Eaton’s Water that was produced with the intention of including water studies in local sixth-grade curriculum:

I’ve never seen the entire film. Does anybody out there have it?

How did the dam come to be?

After torrential floods in 1914 and 1916 that devastated the Arroyo Seco, a bond issue to fund construction of a flood-control dam was placed on the ballot in 1917 for all Los Angeles County voters. It passed.

Here are couple of photos of the 100-foot-tall dam under construction in 1920:

1920 Devils Gate Dam Under Construction II

1920 Devils Gate Dam Under Construction

And here’s the completed project:

No date Devils Gate Dam and reservoir early days-1

I like this long shot that shows the vast upper Arroyo Seco, including where Jet Propulsion Laboratory would someday be built.

No date Devils Gate long

With the construction of the dam, there was no longer any public access to the devil’s profile. Many years later the formation was covered in gunite, rendering it nearly unrecognizable.

Arroyo Concrete Demo 2003 7A

There’s much more detailed history that I could go into — the fight for water rights, improvements to the dam, more flooding, the many plans over the years for the future of Hahamongna — but I’ll let you research all that on your own time.

Copyright © Ann Erdman

Ann Erdman Profile PicAnn Erdman is happily retired after decades of loyal service to the City of Pasadena as Public Information Officer. Her blog can be found at

1 Response for “History Mystery No. 20”

  1. Rob Mahon says:

    Wonderful article detailing a small piece of Pasadena’s rich history!



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