Today I decided to explore another place that I pass every day on my way home from work, the Devil’s Gate Dam in Pasadena. I know there are tons of urban legends surrounding this particular area but per usual, I refuse to do any concrete research before visiting the area. I don’t want to taint my experience.
First of all, I had a hard time figuring out exactly how I could get to the Devil’s Gate Dam. There is no real park or parking lot, at least one that I could find. One of the website directories, I think it was home locator or something like that, that sent me to a dead-end street. Then another site sent me to Hahamongna Watershed Park. When I arrived there, All I saw was a string of picnic tables. I was hungry and convinced I was in the wrong place so I decided to head home to eat and look up specific directions on how to get to Devil’s Gate Dam.
As fate would have it, I was in the right place without even knowing it. Hahamongna Watershed Park is the correct location for visiting the Devil’s Gate Dam. I parked all the way at the end (the last parking area before the round-about). I honestly had no clue where to go.. There were no signs marking the trails. No maps. I could see several different trails but i figured it would be best to just head toward the 210 freeway–Devil’s Gate in parallel to the freeway.
So I followed a dirt path, jumped over horse created road apples, and eventually wound up at a paved road. I had no idea if I was headed in the right direction. And I was the only one on the path so I couldn’t even ask a local if they knew how to get to the Dam. I decided I would just follow the paved road and see where it would take me. It was a good thing I did because it took me exactly where I wanted to go. After crossing over an old, rusty bridge (of course that would lead to a place called Devil’s Gate Dam), I arrived at the beginning of the Flint Wash Bridge. To my left, I could see what used to be the wash area but it was all dried. You could see a staircase that went from the bottom of the wash up to the top of the bridge. In the distance, I noticed these strange obelisks, in the dried up wash bed. I wonder why obelisks? I made my way across the bridge and half way across, I noticed that the wash and JPL were to my left so I crossed over to see what was to my right. When I looked down, I realized it was the Devil’s Gate Dam. The Flint Wash Bridge is the top of the Devil’s Gate Dam. I was above my destination and I had no idea where I needed to go next in order to get a picture of the front of the Dam, a view many see from the 210 freeway to the south. I finished crossing the bridge and saw the sign for the “Devil’s Gate Dam.” To the north, there were trails leading to JPL but I looked to the south, the area where I wanted to go and all I saw as a tunnel. The tunnel, under Oak Grove Drive, took me to a fenced off area with another Devil’s Gate sign and a locked staircase that lead down to the Dam. I couldn’t actually see the Dam but to my left, I saw a steep rocky path that would take be down to the bottom of the Arroyo Seco Riverbed and hopefully to an area where I could see the front of the Devil’s Gate Dam.
I took a deep breath and started to make my way down the steep rocky path. There was no guard rail so one little slip on these rocks and I would be free-falling down the cliff to my right. My heart was pounding. I was terrified of falling. I inched my way down, occasionally slipping a little on the rocks. I kept telling myself this was a bad idea but I had already started my descent and it was too late to turn back. On my way down, in the distance, I noticed these strange ropes hanging amongst the trees. It almost looked like a hanging tree that they used to talk about in the history books; the kind of hanging trees used by the KKK for lynching. I kept chanting, “this is a bad idea,” over and over until I finally reached the bottom path where I had spotted a few men jogging earlier. The men were coming from an area to the right so I thought perhaps that would take me to the front of Devil’s Gate. There was a clearing ahead and before me I saw this large wooden structure (there was a warning sign on it but I was too freaked out to approach it and read it). This was the structure I had seen in the distance with the dangling ropes. The ropes were actually attached to what appeared to be swings. And in the front of the structure was a dangling symbol of some sort. I will have to see if I can figure out what the symbol meant but my gut tells me it probably has something to do with the occult. I got the chills looking at the structure and just wanted to get away from it. So I continued on the path but it led to the riverbed. Not wanting to cross slippery rocks, I turned around and tried to see where the path would take me–the same direction in which the other joggers were headed.
The first thing I noticed was a wooden plank placed as a makeshift bridge to go over a small pond. I crossed the plank and suddenly noticed a small structure to my left. I looked like a small wooden fort. I decided it wasn’t wise to inspect it and see who was living there. So I continued on the path where I saw a few more joggers and bike riders, all male. I managed to find a spot along the riverbed where I could catch a glimpse of the Dam but it wasn’t the camera angle I wanted. My instincts told me that this wasn’t the right direction. I needed to go back up to the bridge.
The hike back up to the bridge was more terrifying than the hike down. I wasn’t wearing the right shoes to be climbing up slippery rocks and soft dirt. I did my bet to sprint and hop up the cliff as fast as I could. I was too afraid of slipping on one of the rocks and sliding down the cliff. I had never been so happy to see a barbed wire fence before in my life but when I reached the top of the path, I was ecstatic. The sun was setting and it was starting to get dark. The graffiti before me expressed the way I felt. It was an arrow pointing to the tunnel under Oak Grove Drive and it said “Hide. Live.” That is exactly what I wanted to do so I ran through the tunnel.
I sat down on the walkway along the Flint Wash Bridge. After calming myself down and catching my breath, I realized there was a beautiful view of the sunset before me. Any fears I had washed away with the beauty of the skyline before me. I decided it was time to hike back to my car so I started back across the bridge. To my left, I noticed that there was another tunnel under Oak Grove Drive. I decided that I might as well check it out while I was there, then I will hike back to my car.
I made my way through the tunnel and when I reached the end, my heart started to pound. This was the view I was looking for, the front of Devil’s Gate Dam. It had this dark and sinister feel, the polar opposite of what I had experienced on the other side of the tunnel with the majestic sunset. I took a few pictures through the fence before I noticed another tunnel area that offered an even better view of the Dam. I stood there for a few seconds before I ducked down into the small tunnel area. It was an uneasy feeling so I just snapped a picture of the Dam and got out of there as fast as I could. My heart pounded as I ran through the tunnel but I instantly relaxed once I saw the pink clouds in the sky over the San Gabriel Mountains. This was the light, the beauty at the end of this dark and sinister tunnel.
So on the north side of the Flint Wash Bridge, you have the beautiful wilderness with JPL and the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance. It is a feast for the eyes and the sunset view with the bridge is the perfect setting for a romantic moment in a movie. But when you turn to the south side and make your way through the dark tunnels, you enter a world that would provide inspiration for Hitchcock and Stephen King with its dark, suspenseful and intensely dramatic undertones.
So now that I am safe and sound in my own home, it is time to do my research and see if I can find out why an area can go from romanticized beauty to horror movie setting. Stay tuned.
Ah hah! You had an adventure. Did you go back again? Every time you’ll become more experienced and knowledgeable. It always boosts my confidence to achieve competence in something with a little wild element to it. I like how you noticed the romantic and how it’s juxtaposed with the ominous… creepy dam.
Thank you. I haven’t been back to explore the area even though I drive past it all the time. I did meet a woman who writes books about Ghost Hunting, Sally Richards. I told her about the Dam and she has been out there several times to investigate and I know she is planning on going back there. She has found out so much about the area and Jack Parsons. I think the history alone is fascinating. This was the area where they basically invented Rocket Fuel and did their testing. I definitely need to go back.