Bolsa Chica Gun Club
In 1899, the Bolsa Chica Gun Club was formed by a group of wealthy businessmen from Los Angeles and Pasadena. The duck-hunting club catered to politicians, bankers, celebrities, oil men, and businessmen, who spent long weekends hunting in the coastal wetlands. The Bolsa Chica Gun Club lodge was demolished after the Club was disbanded in the mid 1960s. The trails within the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve pass by the Gun Club site, currently fenced off from the general public.
Backstory and Context
By 1905, there were 23 shooting clubs in the wetlands of Los Angeles and Orange counties devoted to duck hunting. The Bolsa Chica Gun Club was one of the wealthiest. At the time, the Los Angeles Herald reported the opening of hunting season: "There was an exodus of khaki-clad men from Los Angeles last night. Trolley cars and trains took them away by hundreds, and automobiles and livery rigs conveyed scores to the chaparral and the club houses by the shores." Henry Huntington's Red Car made a stop near the Bolsa Chica Gun Club specifically for hunters.
Memberships in the Bolsa Chica Gun Club initially started at $1,000, then later rose to $75,000, making the club more exclusive. Some of the 3,400-acre Bolsa Chica Gun Club members were staggeringly wealthy for the time. Among them Hulett Merritt, a financier who had sold his interests in the Merritt - Rockefeller syndicate in 1891 for more than $81 million, J. S. Torrance, director of the Pacific Steel Company, Isaac Milbank, director of the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company, and H.L. Story, president of the Railroad Men's Railway Company and member of the Pasadena Audubon Society.
When the Gun Club's earthen dams blocked the natural tidal flow, they incurred the wrath of local ranchers and farmers who protested the dams as an obstruction of navigable waters. Four hundred ranchers petitioned the War Department and, later, petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt, but lost. During the conflict, the Gun Club reported acts of vandalism and that "some one in the dead of night obtained access to the dredger and bored an auger hole in its bottom" and sank it. The Gun Club offered a $500 reward to identify the culprit.
Despite the local community's call to preserve the hunting lodge, the Bolsa Chica Gun Club was demolished in the mid 1960s. The wetlands remained blocked from the natural tidal flow until August 2006 when a wetlands restoration project re-opened the inlet, a century after the Gun Club's battle with local farmers and ranchers.
Today, visitors can walk trails through the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, now protected from development, to view wildlife and peek through the fence at the former Bolsa Chica Gun Club property.
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. California Department of Fish and Wildlife. . Accessed March 26, 2018. https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/Bolsa-Chica-ER.
Urashima, Mary. Wintersburg's Okuda family and memories of life on the Bolsa Chica Gun Club. Historic Wintersburg. May 16, 2012. Accessed March 26, 2018. http://historicwintersburg.blogspot.com/2012/05/wintersburgs-okuda-family-and-bolsa.html.
Jepsen, Chris. Duck hunting at Bolsa Chica. O.C. History Roundup. October 29, 2009. Accessed March 26, 2018. http://ochistorical.blogspot.com/2009/10/duck-hunting-on-bolsa-chica.html.
Jepsen, Chris. Bolsa Chica Gun Club, Huntington Beach (again). O.C. History Roundup. November 08, 2009. Accessed March 26, 2018. http://ochistorical.blogspot.com/2009/11/bolsa-chica-gun-club-huntington-beach.html.
Historic Context and Survey Report. City of Huntington Beach. . Accessed March 26, 2018. https://www.huntingtonbeachca.gov/files/users/planning/Historic_Context_and_Survey_Report_Final_Draf....