The Oxnard Plain is a large coastal plain in southwest Ventura County, California bounded by the Santa Monica Mountains, the Santa Susana Mountains, and Oak Ridge (beyond which lies the Conejo Valley) to the east, the Topatopa Mountains to the north, the Santa Clara River Valley to the northeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south and west. The Oxnard Plain is also home to the western half of the Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura Metro Area which includes the cities of Oxnard, Ventura, Camarillo, Port Hueneme and Santa Paula, as well as the unincorporated towns of Channel Islands, El Rio, Saticoy and Somis.
This alluvial plain has been formed chiefly by the deposition of sediments from Calleguas Creek and Santa Clara River before they flow into the Pacific Ocean. The Santa Clara River is one the largest river systems along the coast of Southern California and only one of two remaining river systems in the region that remain in their natural states and not channelized by concrete. The alluvial deposits from these rivers are generally a few hundred feet (30 metres) thick and lie over Pleistocene and Pliocene sedimentary rocks.
This coastline is among the longest stretches of continuous, linear beaches in the state. While there is an abrupt transition to a steep rocky shore on the south just past Point Mugu, the sandy beaches continue north to the Ventura River. This is also one of the most engineered coastline in the state with the Port of Hueneme, Channel Islands Harbor, and Ventura Harbor along with breakwaters, jetties and groins.(p56)
The agriculture on the Oxnard Plain contributes to Ventura County being one of the principal agricultural counties in the state. The high quality soils, adequate water supply, favorable climate, long growing season, and level topography are characteristic of the Oxnard Plain where the top cash crops are strawberries, raspberries, nursery stock, celery, tomatoes, lima beans, and cut flowers. The acreage devoted to various Oriental vegetables such as Bok choi is also increasing.
In addition to agriculture, the Oxnard Plain contains a considerable petroleum reserve. Several active oil fields underlie the Plain – the Oxnard Oil Field, east of Oxnard, the West Montalvo Oil Field, along the coast south of the outlet of the Santa Clara River, and the Santa Clara Avenue Oil Field north of U.S. Highway 101 near El Rio. There are also several smaller abandoned oil fields. Oil facilities are interspersed with agricultural land uses both east and west of Oxnard.
Human settlement at over 5000 B.C.E. has been documented in nearby coastal sites. Calleguas Creek and the Santa Clara River were populated with many Native American villages as evidenced by archeological sites such as the Calleguas Creek Site that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Several sites have also been documented at Point Mugu. Unfortunately all the archeological sites on the plain have been disturbed by bulldozers, erosion, farming, gophers, and other cultural and natural sources of disturbance.
James Saviers bought property in Rancho Colonia in 1862. He was a blacksmith and farmer who grew and sold eucalyptus trees used to protect crops from hot dry winds on the treeless plain. Settlers Gottfried Maulhardt and Christian Borchard along with Christian's son, John Edward, and nephew, Caspar began farming with 30 acres (12 ha) of wheat and barley in 1867. New markets for the grain opened up when a shipping wharf was first constructed in 1871 at Hueneme. Irish Immigrant Dominick McGrath arrived in 1874 with his wife and children to begin farming on the plain. Lima beans eventually became the dominant crop.
The Oxnard Brothers built the American Beet Sugar Company factory on land in the middle portion of the plain that they bought from James Saviers. He became a judge and an honorary justice of the peace: Saviers Road was named after him in the new city of Oxnard that arose around the factory. The railroad reached the area in 1898 when the Montalvo Cutoff crossed the Santa Clara River. The tracks turned east at the townsite and were extended to Santa Susana in Simi Valley. The coast route was rerouted through Oxnard in 1904 with the completion of the Santa Susana Tunnel as this became the most direct route between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In 1911, J. Smeaton Chase noted the "prosperous fields of beans and beets" as he descended from the Santa Monica Mountains onto the Oxnard Plain during his 2,000-mile (3,200 km) horseback journey from Mexico to Oregon. In his book about the journey, he describes the "sleepy little coast village of Hueneme" as a "ghost of a once flourishing town" due to the establishment of a beet-sugar factory. The once busy port had drastically declined as passenger and freight traffic shifted to the railroad.
In 1903, this transition in agriculture found Japanese and Mexican sugar beet workers and labor contractors united in protest as the growers backed by financiers slashed the wage rate by 50 percent and sought to eliminate independent labor agents. The workers formed the Japanese Mexican Labor Association to press their concerns. While one ethnic group can often be pitted against another to undermine labor solidarity, the Oxnard Strike of 1903 unified them, Their efforts has brought the industry to a standstill until their demands were met.
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