Peters Canyon Regional Park offers a delightful blend of native vegetation and historic accommodation to human endeavour. The park encompasses 354 acres of coastal sage scrub, riparian, freshwater marsh
and grassland habitats. The 55-acre Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir is home to many
resident and migrating waterfowl. Willows, sycamores and black cottonwoods line the lake
and Peters Canyon Creek which meanders through the canyon.
The park offers a variety of trails providing opportunities for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. The East Ridge View Trail provides a panoramic view of Peters Canyon
and the surrounding area. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of Upper Peters Canyon reservoir
while traversing the Lake View Trail. Peters Canyon Creek Nature Trail guides hikers
through lush groves of willows and rare black cottonwoods supported by a running creek.
Visitors will encounter the park's grassland, coastal sage scrub and riparian habitats as well
as eucalyptus groves on the Lower Canyon Trail.
The wildlife population includes mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, opossums, raccoons and an
occasional mountain lion. Many smaller amphibians, mammals and reptiles abound, attracted by the lure of Peters
Canyon Reservoir and Creek. Cactus wrens, gnatcatchers and rufous-crowned sparrows may be found in the park's
coastal sage scrub and grassland communities. The eucalyptus groves are home to Cooper's, red-tail and red-shouldered hawks that can be seen patrolling the skies for unwary prey.
Peters Canyon Regional Park was originally part of Rancho Lomas de Santiago. During those Spanish days, Peters
Canyon was called Canon de las Ranas or "Canyon of the Frogs." This was attributed to the canyon's drainage into the
Cienega de las Ranas or "Marsh of the Frogs," which is known today as Upper Newport Bay.
In 1897 the rancho was purchased by James Irvine, who leased out the canyon to several farmers. Beginning in
1891, and continuing after the Irvine purchase, James Peters, whom the canyon is named for, dry-farmed barley and
beans in the upper part of the canyon. Peters built his home and planted a eucalyptus grove near Lower Peters Canyon
In 1899, sportsmen from Orange and Santa Ana introduced the game of golf to Orange County. A nine-hole course
was laid out by the Santiago Golf Club. Greens were made of oil-soaked sand and fairways of native soil. A red
clubhouse was built on the ridge that now extends into Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir. The conspicuous building was
seen by those who crossed the canyon between the El Modena Grade and Irvine Regional Park, hence the name "Golf
Canyon" came into use.
Two reservoirs were constructed by the Irvine Ranch. The Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir, was completed in 1931.
The lower reservoir was constructed in 1940. Both basins were used to regulate the Irvine Company's draft from
Santiago Reservoir, as well as conservation of runoff from Peters Canyon watershed. Today the lower reservoir is dry
and serves as a flood control basin.
During World War II, Peters Canyon was used as a training area for the U.S. Army. "Camp Commander," as it was
known, was established in the eucalyptus groves near Little Peters Lake, or what is known today as Lower Peters Canyon
Retarding Basin. Mock battles were staged between Camp Commander and "Camp Rathke," an Army post two miles
away in Irvine Regional Park.
On March 3, 1992, the Irvine Company donated 354 acres of Peters Canyon to the County of Orange to be preserved as open space.