San Bernardino Valley

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Coordinates: 34°4′N117°17′W / 34.067°N 117.283°W / 34.067; -117.283


San Bernardino Valley From San Bernardino Mtns.jpg
San Bernardino Valley

The San Bernardino Valley (Spanish : Valle de San Bernardino) is a valley in Southern California located at the south base of the Transverse Ranges. It is bordered on the north by the eastern San Gabriel Mountains and the San Bernardino Mountains; on the east by the San Jacinto Mountains; on the south by the Temescal Mountains and Santa Ana Mountains; and on the west by the Pomona Valley. [1] [2] [3] Elevation varies from 590 feet (180 m) on valley floors near Chino to 1,380 feet (420 m) near San Bernardino and Redlands. [4] The valley floor is home to over 80% of the more than 4 million people of the Inland Empire region. [3]


The San Bernardino Valley was originally inhabited by Californian Native Americans, including the Serrano, Cahuilla, and Tongva tribes. The Mohave Trail, a trade route from the Mohave villages on the Colorado River that crossed the Mojave Desert from spring to spring and then followed the Mojave River upstream, entered the valley from the slopes of Monument Peak in the San Bernardino Mountains.

The Spanish missionaries established the Politana rancheria in the valley in 1810, an estancia, or ranch outpost, of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel. It was built to graze cattle, and for Indian Reductions of the Serrano people and Cahuilla people into Mission Indians. After being destroyed in a revolt, the estancia was later reestablished as San Bernardino de Sena Estancia in 1830. It is now a California Historical Landmark and museum in Redlands.

From 1829, the Old Spanish Trail from New Mexico to Alta California was established and entered the valley through Crowder Canyon and the lower canyon of Cajon Pass.

In 1841, Governor Juan B. Alvarado of Alta California issued a Mexican land grant for Rancho San Bernardino, which included most of the San Bernardino Valley, to José del Carmen Lugo, José Maria Lugo, Vincente Lugo, and their cousin Jose Diego Sepulveda. Included were all of the original estencia buildings: the chapel, a tile kiln, a lime kiln, and a grist mill.

By offering land, José Maria Lugo convinced a group of settlers from Abiquiu, New Mexico to settle on his rancho at Politania and defend against Indian raiders and outlaws preying on the herds of the Ranchos in Southern California. These emigrants first colonized Politana on the Rancho San Bernardino in 1842. Don Lorenzo Trujillo brought the first colony of settlers from New Mexico to settle on land provided by the Lugos about one half mile south of the Indian village of La Politana. Later they moved to found a new village known as "La Placita de los Trujillos", later called La Placita on the south side of the Santa Ana River.

American settlers in the region included soldiers from the Mormon Battalion in 1847, after the California Campaign of the Mexican–American War was won by the U.S. [5] In 1851, the Lugo family sold Rancho San Bernardino to a group of almost 500 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) led by Captain David Seely (later first Stake President), Captain Jefferson Hunt, and Captain Andrew Lytle, and also included Apostles Amasa M. Lyman and Charles C. Rich.

San Bernardino, California, city and village, 1909.jpg
Panorama of the San Bernardino Valley in 1909.


The San Bernardino Valley was cut from fast moving water flows from mountain ranges in the north, east and south that collectively drain into the Santa Ana River basin, which drains to the Pacific Ocean through Riverside and Orange County. [6] The valley connects several open space natural areas, mountains and valley vistas. The San Bernardino Valley is surrounded by nature preserves, national forests, and recreational areas. Many people travel through the valley for a variety of outdoor mountain sports, including skiing, hiking, biking, and ballooning—in the mountain resorts of Crestline, Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear City.

Once part of U.S. Route 66, the San Bernardino Valley is now crossed by two Interstate routes. Interstate 15 enters the valley from the south, and exits on the north over Cajon Pass to the Mojave Desert. Interstate 10 enters the valley from Pomona in the west, and exits on the east over San Gorgonio Pass to the Colorado Desert and Coachella Valley.

Joan Didion, in her essay "Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream," describes the San Bernardino Valley as " certain ways an alien place: not the coastal California of the subtropical twilights and the soft westerlies of the Pacific but a harsher California, haunted by the Mojave just beyond the mountains, devastated by the hot dry Santa Ana wind that comes down through the passes at 100 miles an hour and works on the nerves." [7]


The San Bernardino Valley encompasses one of two drainage basins of the Santa Ana River, the Inland Santa Ana Basin. [8] Underneath the surface area of this drainage basin, which takes excess rain water out of the valley, are several large ground water sub-basins, underlain by the impermeable granitic rock of the Perris Block, which capture water in aquifers underground. Designated ground water sub-basins include: Chino, Rialto-Colton, Riverside-Arlington, San Bernardino (Bunker Hill), Yucaipa and San Timoteo. [9] The San Bernardino or Bunker Hill basin is bounded on the northeast by the San Bernardino Mountains, northwest by the San Gabriel Mountains, southwest by the San Timoteo badlands, and southeast by the Crafton Hills. [10] [11]

The San Andreas Fault and San Jacinto Fault zones enter the valley along the San Bernardino Mountains and San Jacinto Mountains, respectively. The two fault lines converge to less than 10 km apart in the city of San Bernardino, and less than 3 km in the northwestern part of the basin near the Cajon Pass. [10] [12]

Cities and communities


Occasional January snowfall in the eastern San Bernardino Valley, Shandin Hills are visible in the background. Sbsnow 2.jpg
Occasional January snowfall in the eastern San Bernardino Valley, Shandin Hills are visible in the background.

The climate is Mediterranean with cool-to-cold, wet, and in some cases snowy winters, and dry, hot summers. Usually the areas north of Interstate 210 and east of Interstate 215 see colder weather in the winter with occasional snowfall. Sage scrub and the Yucca plant are the predominant natural vegetation along washes and uplands; it intergrades with chaparral at elevations of 600 to 700 meters. Other vegetation consists of a patchwork of grasslands, riparian woodlands, and mixed hardwood forests, which border the valley in the mountains on the north and east. [4] The Santa Ana winds blow into the valley from the Cajon Pass, which exits the valley's north end between the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains. At times, the seasonal Santa Ana winds are felt particularly strongly in the San Bernardino area as warm and dry air is channeled through nearby Cajon Pass during the autumn months. This phenomenon markedly increases the wildfire danger in the foothill, canyon, and mountain communities, which the cycle of cold, wet winters and dry summers helps create.

Monthly Normal High and Low Temperatures for San Bernardino [13]
Avg high °F70717479859510210310086787084
Avg low °F42434550555964656458494352

Local attractions

The Route 66 Rendezvous in downtown San Bernardino attracts about half a million people annually from all over the world to watch California's largest classical car show. [14] Although not in the valley, the San Bernardino Mountains attract a significant amount of tourism to the valley as people drive up to the local resorts, especially in the winter months. A famous ski resort in the area is Big Bear. Other famous mountain communities with large amounts of tourism include Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear Lake, and Crestline.

National forests surrounding the high valley include the Cleveland National Forest and the San Bernardino National Forest. [15]


Junction of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains. The I-210 (Foothill Freeway) runs parallel, I-215 intersects leading to the Cajon Pass. San Bernardino Valley, San Gabriel, SB Mountains, I-215.jpg
Junction of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains. The I-210 (Foothill Freeway) runs parallel, I-215 intersects leading to the Cajon Pass.

Despite a significant number of the cities and towns being "bedroom communities" with residents commuting to nearby Los Angeles or Orange counties for work, the San Bernardino Valley is an important transportation center to the state and country. Located approximately 70 miles east of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, a high percentage of goods destined for the rest of the country as well as items on their way out to the world pass through the valley, most of it on trains or trucks. Both Union Pacific and BNSF have tracks that run through the valley. In addition, BNSF has an intermodal transfer facility in San Bernardino. The valley is also crossed by two major interstates and their auxiliaries. Additionally, the communities in the mountains north of the valley are served by several state highways. Mass transit trains and buses both serve the valley. Also, goods and people movement by air is available via two commercial international airports as well as several general aviation air fields. The Greater San Bernardino Area, along with the rest of the Inland Empire, is ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the American's unhealthiest commutes. [16]


Mass transportation

Although a high percentage of valley residents drive their own cars, there are several available options for mass transit. The largest bus agency in the Greater San Bernardino area is Omnitrans, which covers virtually the entire valley. [17] The Omni lines also meet lines for Foothill Transit and Riverside Transit Agency buses, providing connectivity to Riverside County and Los Angeles County. The area is also served by Metrolink's San Bernardino Line and the Inland Empire–Orange County Line. These lines lead to the Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas.


The two main railroads in the valley are Union Pacific (UP) and BNSF. Both have extensive yards in the valley and it is an important area for national movement of goods. UP tracks enter the valley from the south alongside the BNSF tracks in Colton/Grand Terrace. They then continue north until the Colton Crossing, where they then turn east. Union Pacific also has a second set of tracks that were the Southern Pacific tracks until they took over SP. These tracks enter the valley from the west through Ontario, passing alongside I-10 until Loma Linda, where they turn and exit the valley to the southeast. The BNSF track enters the valley from the south by Colton/Grand Terrace as well, but continues north at the Colton Crossing. It then enters the intermodal and car transfer yards, where it turns east for about one mile. It then turns north again, running alongside I-215 until it meets I-15 in Devore and exits the valley via the Cajon Pass. Union Pacific also has a line that exits the valley through the pass. The Colton Crossing, located in Colton, is the point where the tracks of the two companies cross.


New San Bernardino International Airport Terminal SBD terminal.jpg
New San Bernardino International Airport Terminal

The San Bernardino Valley is served by two major commercial airports.

Airport IATA code ICAO code County
Ontario International Airport ONTKONT San Bernardino
San Bernardino International Airport SBDKSBD San Bernardino

See also

Related Research Articles

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Southern California is a geographic and cultural region that generally comprises the southern portion of the U.S. state of California. It includes the Los Angeles metropolitan area, the second most populous urban agglomeration in the United States. The region generally contains ten of California's 58 counties: Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">San Bernardino County, California</span> County in southern California, United States

San Bernardino County, officially the County of San Bernardino, is a county located in the southern portion of the U.S. state of California, and is located within the Inland Empire area. As of the 2020 U.S. Census, the population was 2,181,654, making it the fifth-most populous county in California and the 14th-most populous in the United States. The county seat is San Bernardino.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">San Bernardino, California</span> City in California, United States

San Bernardino is a city and county seat of San Bernardino County, California, United States. Located in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, the city had a population of 222,101 in the 2020 census, making it the 18th-largest city in California. San Bernardino is the economic, cultural, and political hub of the San Bernardino Valley and the Inland Empire. The governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico have established the metropolitan area’s only consulates in the downtown area of the city. Additionally, San Bernardino serves as an anchor city to the 3rd largest metropolitan area in California and the 13th largest metropolitan area in the United States; the San Bernardino-Riverside MSA.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">San Gabriel Mountains</span> Mountain range of the Transverse Ranges in California, United States

The San Gabriel Mountains are a mountain range located in northern Los Angeles County and western San Bernardino County, California, United States. The mountain range is part of the Transverse Ranges and lies between the Los Angeles Basin and the Mojave Desert, with Interstate 5 to the west and Interstate 15 to the east. The range lies in, and is surrounded by, the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests, with the San Andreas Fault as its northern border.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pomona Valley</span> Valley in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties in California

The Pomona Valley is located in the Greater Los Angeles Area between the San Gabriel Valley and San Bernardino Valley in Southern California. The valley is approximately 30 miles (48 km) east of downtown Los Angeles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Transverse Ranges</span> Group of mountain ranges of southern California

The Transverse Ranges are a group of mountain ranges of southern California, in the Pacific Coast Ranges physiographic region in North America. The Transverse Ranges begin at the southern end of the California Coast Ranges and lie within Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Kern counties. The Peninsular Ranges lie to the south. The name Transverse Ranges is due to their east–west orientation, making them transverse to the general northwest–southeast orientation of most of California's coastal mountains.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Santa Ana River</span> River in California, United States

The Santa Ana River is the largest river entirely within Southern California in the United States. It rises in the San Bernardino Mountains and flows for most of its length through San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, before cutting through the northern Santa Ana Mountains via Santa Ana Canyon and flowing southwest through urban Orange County to drain into the Pacific Ocean. The Santa Ana River is 96 miles (154 km) long, and its drainage basin is 2,650 square miles (6,900 km2) in size.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">San Bernardino Mountains</span> Mountain range of the Transverse Ranges in California, United States

The San Bernardino Mountains are a high and rugged mountain range in Southern California in the United States. Situated north and northeast of San Bernardino and spanning two California counties, the range tops out at 11,503 feet (3,506 m) at San Gorgonio Mountain – the tallest peak in all of Southern California. The San Bernardinos form a significant region of wilderness and are popular for hiking and skiing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cajon Pass</span> Mountain pass in Southern California

Cajon Pass is a mountain pass between the San Bernardino Mountains to the east and the San Gabriel Mountains to the west in Southern California. Created by the movements of the San Andreas Fault, it has an elevation of 3,777 ft (1,151 m). Located in the Mojave Desert, the pass is an important link from the Greater San Bernardino Area to the Victor Valley, and northeast to Las Vegas. The Cajon Pass area is on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Fred Thomas Perris was Chief Engineer of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway, who oversaw the construction of the last leg of the 2nd Transcontinental Railroad from Barstow, California through Cajon Pass and down to San Bernardino and Los Angeles, a task that employed six thousand laborers, and is still in use by BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad He also laid, track from Riverside, California to San Diego, California laying out a series to town sites along the track, one of which, Perris, California was named in his honor. The city of Perris, California, a station on the California Southern Railroad, was named in his honor.(Its Cajon Pass. Not El Cajon Pass according to Chard Walkers "Cajon. Rail Passage To The Pacific")

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of San Bernardino, California</span> Aspect of history

San Bernardino, California, was named in 1810.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">San Timoteo Canyon</span> Landform in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, California

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rancho San Bernardino</span> Mexican land grant in modern day San Bernardino county, California

Rancho San Bernardino was a 35,509-acre (143.70 km2) Mexican land grant in present-day San Bernardino County, California given in 1842 by Governor Juan B. Alvarado to José del Carmen Lugo, José María Lugo, Vicente Lugo, and Diego Sepulveda. The grant included a large part of the San Bernardino valley, and encompassed present-day San Bernardino, Fontana, Rialto, Redlands and Colton.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Transportation in the Inland Empire</span>

Many of the existing freeways in Southern California's Inland Empire were completed in the late 1970s. The only exception is the segment of the Foothill Freeway, State Route 210 between San Dimas and San Bernardino, completed in July 2007. In general, most of the higher paying jobs are located in Los Angeles and Orange County. Thus, workers must commute daily up to two hours in each direction on the existing network. As the population increases, traffic congestion is also projected to increase. In 2007, Forbes magazine ranked the area first in its list of America's most unhealthy commutes, beating every other major metropolitan area in the country, as Inland area drivers breathe the unhealthiest air and have the highest rate of fatal auto accidents per capita.

Juan Antonio (1783–1863), Cahuilla name: Cooswootna, Yampoochee,, was a major chief of the Mountain Band of the Cahuilla from the 1840s to 1863.

Politana or Apolitana was the first Spanish settlement in the San Bernardino Valley of California. It was established as a mission chapel and supply station by the Mission San Gabriel in the a rancheria of the Guachama Indians that lived on the bluff that is now known as Bunker Hill, near Lytle Creek. Besides the Guachama, it was also at various times the home for colonists from New Mexico and Cahuilla people. Its most prominent landmark today is the St. Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church on Colton Avenue, just southwest of the Inland Center Mall, in San Bernardino, California.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saahatpa, California</span> Historic site in Saahatpa, California

Saahatpa was a former Cahuilla settlement in Riverside County. It was a settlement of Juan Antonio's Mountain Cahuilla from 1851 to 1863. It was located in a valley that branched to the northeast from San Timoteo Canyon. The site is marked by California Historical Landmark #749, and is located at the abandoned Brookside Rest Area on westbound Interstate 10 in modern-day Calimesa, California, nearly 3 miles northwest of the I-10/SR 60 junction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Inland Empire</span> Metropolitan area in California, United States

The Inland Empire (IE) is a metropolitan area and region inland of and adjacent to coastal Southern California, centering around the cities of San Bernardino and Riverside, and bordering Los Angeles County to the west. It includes the cities of western Riverside County and southwestern San Bernardino County, and is considered to include the desert communities of the Coachella and Victor Valleys, respectively on the other sides of the San Gorgonio Pass and San Bernardino Mountains from the Santa Ana River watershed that forms the bulk of the Inland Empire; a much broader definition includes all of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The combined land area of the counties of the Inland Empire is larger than ten U.S. states—West Virginia, Maryland, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island.

The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) is the successor to San Bernardino Associated Governments which is responsible for administering the Measure I half-cent tax which San Bernardino County voters passed most recently in 2004. SBCTA conducts transportation planning, construction, and operation in San Bernardino County, California. SBCTA is a joint powers authority comprising all the cities in the county and the county itself. Every city and county supervisor is provided one seat on the board and it also includes a nonvoting member from Caltrans District 8.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Guachama Rancheria</span> Historic site in Loma Linda, California

Kaawchama, alternatively referred to as Wa’aachnga, was a significant Tongva village in the San Bernardino Valley located in what is now west Redlands, California. The village became referred to by the Spanish as the Guachama Rancheria in 1810 after a supply station was constructed at the village for Mission San Gabriel, which then became part of Rancho San Bernardino following the secularization of the missions in 1833.


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