Treasures of the Valley » Mike lawler

The Spring at Indian Springs Still Flows

Many old timers remember the Indian Springs swimming pool that was just east of Montrose on Verdugo Road. The big pool was wildly popular to the youth of the valley between its 1929 opening until its closure in the mid-’60s. It was then that the little canyon the pool was located in was filled to street level and the Indian Springs Shopping Center, where Vons and CVS Pharmacy are today, was built on top.

But with all this talk about Indian Springs, where’s the spring? Well, it was there – and still is – buried about 75 feet beneath the shopping center. Here’s the story of Indian Springs.

Modern topo maps show a “blue line stream” (indicating flowing water) running from the San Gabriel Mountains southward between Hilliard and Alta Canyada Avenue. It continues south under the intersection of the 2 Freeway offramp and Foothill, until it hits the hard granite of the San Rafael Mountains. There (beneath the UA Theaters) it sinks into the ground, but re-emerges through sub-surface fissures as a spring, into what used to be a deep canyon, now the site of the Indian Springs Shopping Center. From there the stream continues south.

Historically, this little canyon was lush with growth and many huge oaks took root there. The local Indians undoubtedly took advantage of the cool shady site and camped there, thus lending some justification to the name Indian Springs. On a crudely drawn map of the Crescenta Valley from 1843, the little canyon is called out as a “cienega,” or spring, lush in contrast to the valley floor of sagebrush around it.

In the 1920s, developer Charles Bowden decided to build a resort in the wooded canyon. A road was built down to the resort, about where the entrance to the shopping center is today. The road wound down into the deep canyon, quite a bit below street level. The resort had an American Indian theme and its centerpiece was a massive swimming pool, initially planned to be fed by the waters of the spring. Sadly, the flow of the spring was not strong enough to supply the Olympic sized pool, so water from other sources was used instead. The little stream was allowed to continue through the resort, crossing under Verdugo Road in front of where Marshall’s is today, and flowed south through a gully that was filled to build Montrose Park. (You can still find remnants of the deep gully at the north end of the park.)

I recently sat down with Ray King, a retired heavy equipment operator who helped to build the shopping center over the old resort site. He tells me that in 1966 the pool and buildings were demolished and he graded the west side of the Indian Springs property for a Shopping Bag (now Marshall’s). In 1969, they started filling the canyon, but had to first re-route the still flowing spring. He excavated down to bedrock on the spring site at the far east end of the canyon behind where Radio Shack is today. He tells me there was a strong flow coming out of the rock face. They put a good layer of crushed rock around the spring, and laid a 63-inch storm drain at the source. The pipe ran diagonally across the property to about the beginning of the Marshall’s property and then turned toward Verdugo Road, where presumably the spring water would flow into the storm drains. On top of this went about 60 to 80 feet of fill dirt (from construction at Verdugo Hills Hospital and Adventist Hospital) until it reached the level of today’s parking lot.

Ray told me there’s a manhole cover in the parking lot over an access hole going down to the drain pipe. Ray thinks that if you pulled up the cover you’d be able to hear the spring water burbling through the pipe.

It’s sad to think of that spring buried deep below the parking lot, but it’s also intriguing and inspiring to think that it still flows as it has for thousands of years.