Our park has a long and proud history of Hollywood productions that began with the black and white silent films "Daddy Long Legs" (1919) starring Mary Pickford, “Annie Laurie” (1927) with Lillian Gish and then on into the sound era with "Tarzan Escapes" (1935) starring Johnnie Weissmuller & Maureen O'Sullivan and "Blockade" (1938) with Henry Fonda.
In 1946, 20th Century Fox Studios bought 2,000 acres of what is now the park to use as their “shooting ranch” like Paramount Studios did earlier with Paramount Ranch not far away. Fox used the property six years earlier to shoot their Oscar winning classic “How Green Was My Valley”
Other notable films shot (at least in part) on Century Ranch include: "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse” (1948) starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy; "Viva Zapata" (1952) starring Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn; "Daniel Boone" (TV series - 1964) with Fess Parker; "Dr. Dolittle" (1967) with Rex Harrison and “Planet of the Apes" (1968) with Charleton Heston and Roddy McDowell (large set near Century Lake pictured above).
The ranch was used extensively in the western "Love Me Tender" (1956) with Elvis Presley, appears as a copper mine in "Broken Lance" (1954) with Spencer Tracy and Robert Wagner and is seen briefly in "The Seven Year Itch" (1955) with Marilyn Monroe.
Just a year after their apes took the world by storm, Fox released the smash "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katherine Ross. While most of the film was shot in Colorado and Utah, part of the famous jump into the river was done by stuntmen at Century Lake (with plenty of Hollywood magic helping out) because the river in Colorado seen in the film wasn’t deep enough to support such a high jump.
Fox Ranch was purchased by the State of California in 1974 and opened as public parkland in 1976. The home used for "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" stands today in the park and serves as administrative offices for California State Parks.
The last large production shot in the park was “Pleasantville” (1998) with Tobey McGuire and Reese Witherspoon. The entire 1950’s town seen in the film was constructed on top of what is now the lower parking lot. When you drive in that lot, you are driving on the old streets of a movie set.
Shooting a scene from "How Green Was My Valley"
Elvis Presley between
takes while filming
"Love Me Tender"
Spencer Tracy and Robert Wagner (left)
in "Broken Lance"
Seeking a rural setting in which to enjoy the outdoors, a group of wealthy Los Angeles businessmen formed the Crags Country Club in 1900 and bought 2,000 acres along Malibu Creek that would later become Malibu Creek State Park.
Around 1903, the club constructed a 50-foot high dam, creating a seven-acre lake that attracted waterfowl and was stocked with trout giving club members a private duck hunting and fishing preserve. This dam and lake would later be named Century Dam and Century Lake by 20th Century Fox Studios after they bought the property.
The club built a three-level, 7,500 square foot lodge In Bavarian Alps architecture. The main floor had three fireplaces, a commercial kitchen, a large main lobby game room with tables and chairs for games and conversation, a dance floor and dressing rooms for those who used the tennis court and pool. Upstairs were ten bedrooms, each with their own dressing room.
So what happened to this grand club? Because of the steep costs of joining the club, only the financially established could be members. The average member age was likely over 50 and over the years, their long trips from the city to the club were less frequent. Today’s 45 minute trip took almost two hours on the dirt and gravel roads. Without new, younger members paying dues, the club began to decline, fell into disrepair and closed in 1936.
The foundation of the grand lodge remains today above Malibu Creek along with plenty of ghosts from a more glamourous time.
The Crags Club lodge & tennis court above Malibu Creek c. 1915
Children of members relax in front of what is now the visitor's center
The foundation of the grand lodge remains today.
From 1951 to 1967, during his tenure as governor of California, Ronald Reagan and his family spent many weekends at their 250 acre ranch, a thoroughbred horse farm dubbed “Yearling Row” (hence “Yearling Trail” there now).
Reagan was also very popular with lake residents when he was a local. But that popularity took a hit when, just before he sold his ranch to the California State Parks Dept., he signed an easement so that the Edison company could run power lines and erect towers through the property. Actor Strother Martin, a Malibu Lakeside resident, coined a saying after the Edison controversy that is remembered today: "The people at the lake - they are out of love…with the Gov."
As a nod to history, California State Parks is planning a full equestrian center with trailer parking and campsites for the western end of the ranch
Ronald and Nancy ride beside the main barn (right) that stands today
Next to the old main driveway near Lake Vista Drive & Mulholland Hwy.
The first known occupants of the area now Malibu Creek State Park were the friendly Chumash Indians The very designation of the area comes from the name of a Chumash village pronounced “Umalibu” by the Spanish. The original form may have been (hu-)mal-iwu which means “it makes a loud noise all the time over there” referring to the surf.
Many of the hiking trails in Malibu Creek State Park were originally footpaths that the Chumash would use to travel from village to village and from inland areas to the sea.
The Chumash subsisted on seeds, fish and other sea animals and hunted deer, rabbit and antelope. Acorns and corn were ground up and turned into an edible paste that was a dietary staple for the Chumash and part of nearly every meal.
The Chumash created mortars by carving smooth walled cavities into rock and used a secondary rock as a pestle to do the actual grinding. A large mortar carved in a rock remains today in the park where it has been for perhaps 5,000 years or more.
Built in 1863, the home of California pioneer homesteader Don Pedro Alcantra Sepulveda stands today on its original site just west of the corner of Las Virgenes Road and Mulholland Highway.
Pedro Sepulveda and his wife Soledad raised their twelve children at this small home near Las Virgenes Creek. The rancho was farmed and the many crops grown there included field corn, beans, potatoes, turnips and onions. A mulberry tree planted by Don Pedro well over 100 years ago thrives today and is still bearing fruit. Sepulveda supported his family as a charcoal maker and supplier of oak firewood that heated the fine homes in Los Angeles of the day. His roundtrip to the city with a wagonload of wood took three days at the time when the 101 freeway was nothing but a narrow dirt trail.
The Sepulveda Adobe was inhabited from the time of its construction until 1980. Badly damaged in the 1994 earthquake, seismic retrofitting and restoration began eight years later, shepherded by the California State Parks Dept. The historic Sepulveda Adobe now with protective wood walls is open to the public during special events.
"Planet of the Apes" 1968
at Century Lake
The exciting new edition of the bestselling local history book
"Three Magical Miles"
that covers Malibu Creek State Park and the surrounding area
that is full of fascinating
history that few people know about.
This amazing book is packed with over 300 photographs covering hundreds of movies, historic buildings, a famous race track and much more - all near the park.
A must-have for any fan of Malibu Creek State Park, this book is sold at the park visitor center and here