Some motorists will note the Juan Bautista De Anza Trail signs that are now located along sections of highway in Arizona and California. But few know the remarkable story of the man it is named for and the historic trek he led over 1,200 miles of rugged Arizona and California territory.
Starting in Rosario, Mexico, De Anza led 240 colonists, men, women and children, first to Tubac, Arizona, then to Southern California and finally ending in San Francisco. This all took place in 1775 when the region was still under the Spanish flag. In Arizona the route takes one through the Sonoran Desert.
Bringing this remarkable expedition to the attention of all Americans has been a joint effort of tourism organizations in Arizona and California and the National Park Service. Following portions of the trail today gives the traveler some insight both in the Indian cultures they passed through but also, in places, the difficulties they faced.
The journey is well documented by diaries kept by Juan Bautista De Anza and Father Pedro Font who accompanied the group of travelers. Only one life was lost in the long trek, a woman who died during childbirth. But three children were born while on the trail and all lived.
Almost every motorist in California has driven some part of the Trail. Highway 101 follows the route from the San Fernando Valley to Santa Barbara. In Central California the trail follows Highway One. Recently we were on the Trail when we took Highway One from Lompoc to Guadalupe.
Much of the route is now urban development but there are a few places where the Trail goes through country that has changed little since the brave expedition's passing. One such place in Southern California is where the Trail follows Road S22 from Borrego Springs, then to Highways 79 and 371. North of Paso Robles the trail leaves Highway 101 for a short distance and then again as it follows a route to San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo and then the Presido at Monterey. It then rejoins Highway 101 to San Francisco.
If you live in Los Angeles you can walk a short distance of the Trail which follows the Los Angeles River. Get on the Trail at Riverside Drive at Oros Road or at Los Feliz Boulevard. About one and one-half miles of the Trail are marked.
The National Park Service has published an excellent Map and Guide of the Trail with excepts from the diaries of Captain De Anza and Father Font. For more information write or call Anza National Historic Trail, 1111 Jackson Street Oakland, Calif. 94607 or call 510 817-1223. On the web at www.nps.gov/juba. To read the original journals go on line to http://anza.uoregon.edu.
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