Malibu Canyon

Last November a monster fire called Woolsey started in the Santa Susanna mountains north of Simi Valley and churned its way all the way to the Pacific Ocean.  Along the way it burned nearly 100,000 acres, destroyed more than 1,500 structures, and killed three people.  300,000 people (including your favorite monkey) were evacuated.

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On its way to the ocean the fire raced through Malibu Canyon, a rugged wilderness in the Santa Monica mountains burning much of what was in its path. A few days after the fire was over the rains started.  Within a week or so there was new growth.  After a winter of near record rains the Malibu Canyon area is literally bursting in green and the river is full. What a difference a season makes.

Kongo took a hike to check it all out.

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California poppies after the fires

Wildfires are part of the natural eco system of Southern California.  After laying dormant for years, the heat from the fire breaks down the tough outer seed shell of many varieties of wildflower and when the rains come, the area erupts in color.  Orange California poppies, purple lupin, creamy snapdragons, wild cucumber, larkspur, and others bust forth.  Even the live oaks survive because their tough bark insulates the inner tree allowing it to recover even when the branches are burned to a crisp.

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A massive live oak scorched by the fires begins to show new growth as shown in the image below.  Fire ecology is actually pretty cool.

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Purple lupin growing from the ashes under a live oak tree

A great place to observe the effects of the fire and nature’s recovery is at Malibu Canyon State Park, a short drive from Kongo’s tree house in nearby Newbury Park. While parts of the park are still closed and camping is temporarily suspended, there are still plenty of great hiking trails along Malibu Creek.

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The deep gorges and rock formations in Malibu Canyon will remind you of Yosemite.

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The area is also a popular spot for rock climbing and several adventure seekers were taking advantage of a nice day to scale vertical cliffs along the river.

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About three miles from the park entrance is Century Lake, a reservoir built in the early 1900s and named after 20th Century Fox after it later purchased the property. Many movies were filmed in this area of Malibu Canyon and the popular series MASH was set a mile from the lake.  (Access to the MASH movie site is now closed due to fire damage)

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The top of Century Dam and a view from downstream courtesy of

Malibu Creek
Photo from
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Century Lake

Now is a great time to visit the park. The hills are lush and unbelievably green.  Wildflowers dust the hilltops, hawks circle overhead, the creek rushes by, and nature is at its best. Hard to believe you’re only 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

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Travel safe.  Have fun.

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