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Fort Tejon in Pictures

Fort Tejon Historical State Park

Fort Tejon is located in the Grapevine Canyon of Lebec, the main route between California's great central valley and Southern California. The fort was established to protect and control the Indians who were living on the Sebastian Indian Reservation and to protect both the Indians and white settlers from raids by the Paiutes, Chemeheui, Mojave, and other Indian groups of the desert regions to the south east. Fort Tejon was first garrisoned by the United States Army on August 10, 1854 and was abandoned ten years later on September 11, 1864.

The gold discovery drew thousands of people to California in the 1850s, bringing about confrontations between the Indians, miners and the land hungry settlers. The U.S. government tried to mitigate the situation by establishing reservations, including, in 1853, the Sebastian Indian Reservation at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. In July 1854 Lieutenant Alfred Latimer and a small detachment of dragoons established a camp at the reservation. However, the new camp lacked water, forage for horses, and timber for construction. That August Major J.L. Donaldson, the Quartermaster, moved the post to the top of Grapevine Canyon, 17 miles southwest of the reservation. This site contained everything necessary to sustain a large military outpost.

The First U.S. Dragoons arrived on August 10, 1854, and began construction of more than 40 military buildings. A small civilian community developed just south of the fort to provide supplies and labor to the military. In 1858 the Overland Mail Company established a station in the sutler’s (trader’s) store at the fort. For almost ten years, Fort Tejon provided a source of employment, protection, and social activities for local residents. The foremost duties of the Dragoons stationed here were to protect and control the Indians living on the Sebastian Indian Reservation. The Dragoons’ wide-ranging patrols covered most of central and Southern California and sometimes extended as far as Utah.

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the Dragoons were sent to guard Los Angeles and later transferred east to fight in the war. In the summer of 1862, violence erupted between the encroaching white settlers and the Owens Valley Paiutes, who wanted to protect their lands. Three cavalry companies of California Volunteers forcibly moved the Paiute to the Sebastian Indian Reservation but the authorities there refused to accept responsibility for them. In 1863 several hundred of these Indians were brought to Fort Tejon, which was then being used by the California Volunteers. With little or no food, clothing, or other support, the Indians’ ranks were thinned by disease, starvation, and desertion until the summer of 1864 when they were transferred to the Tule River Indian Reservation. That year the U.S. Army closed Fort Tejon, formally ending its career as an active military post.

There are restored adobes from the original fort and the Fort Tejon museum features exhibits on army life and local history. The park offers a visitor’s center, campgrounds, restrooms, picnic tables, Civil War and Dragoon era reenactments and demonstrations during the year – see schedule below. You’ll also find a number of magnificent 400 year-old valley oak trees dotted throughout the park, a creek and abundant wildlife.

Fort Tejon is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The visitor center and historic buildings are open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Stay on designated trails or mowed grassy areas. Fort Tejon is pet-friendly but pets must be kept on a leash.

Wheelchair accessible features include various buildings, exhibits, the visitor center, and the Officers’ Quarters. Picnic tables, restrooms, and parking near the visitor center and park office are accessible and the interpretive trail around the historic park grounds is generally accessible.

Stinging Nettle

Experience frontier California life of the 1850s and 1860s

Talk with soldiers who grumble about fatigue details. Visit the Blacksmith at his forge, the carpenter in his shop, or the soldiers in the barracks. Servants, cooks, officers, laundresses, and laborers are eager to share their stories with you.

Surround yourself with the sounds, sights and colors of the past. Smell and hear the bubbling stew simmering over an open hearth fire place. Hear the musketoons fire, the blast of the cannon, and see clothing of the era. You can witness women mending clothes, soldiers polishing brass, people stomping around in the adobe brick pit, cooks churning butter or children playing a game of graces.

Come take a step back in time and join with the men, women and children of Fort Tejon. Relive a day out of the past. These Living History demonstrations take place on the first Sunday of each month year around. At Fort Tejon, visitors are always welcome and the modern world is checked at the gate.

Fort Tejon – Dragoon Era 1856 Schedule

Take a step back in time and experience the daily army life of the solders and civilians in early California at Fort Tejon. At Fort Tejon California Historic Park, visitors can witness life at this U.S. Army post of the Far West. Fort Tejon was a crossroads of California’s many cultures and diverse ideas of the 1850s. Visitors are invited to view the living history demonstrations of everyday life of the common soldier and civilian men, women and children at this Lebec mountain outpost right off Interstate I-5 in the grapevine area of the Tejon Pass.

All events are held on the first Saturday of each month from 10:00am to 3:00pm. Call the Fort Tejon State historic park office at (661) 248-6692 to confirm times and dates.

Fort Tejon – Civil War Battle Demonstrations and Reenactment Schedule

See the troops of the Infantry, Calvary, and Artillery from the Union and Confederate Armies at Fort Tejon. Guided tours of the Union and Confederate camps take place between each battle. Other presentations are Manual of Arms, Artillery, and Civilian Life.

All mock battle demonstrations are held on the third Sunday of each month at 10:30am and 1:30pm. Mock battles are approximately 30 minutes in length. Call the Fort Tejon State historic park office at (661) 248-6692 to confirm times and dates.

Fort Tejon – California’s Civil War

Commemorating the Garrison and Civilian Community of Fort Tejon during the Civil War.  Find out how California reacted to the great civil that was embroiling the rest of nation.  See how California’s lived back in the Wild West days of the California frontier.  You’ll meet soldiers and civilians that kept California in the United States of America. Call the Fort Tejon State historic park office at (661) 248-6692 to confirm times and dates.

Fort Tejon – 1856 July 4th Celebration

Come celebrate the 4th of July in 1856. The 1856 Fourth of July celebration offers you a unique opportunity to experience a 1856 style Fourth of July celebration at this Army outpost of the era. You’ll see a 31-gun salute from the post’s cannons in honor of 31 states in the Union in 1856. Call the Fort Tejon State historic park office at (661) 248-6692 to confirm times and dates.

Fort Tejon Campgrounds – Quail Canyon

The Fort Tejon campground is available year-round for groups and individuals except on Living History weekends. The campground is located in the west end of the park and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and wilderness. The campground is drive-in and provides, picnic tables, drinking water, BBQs, and restrooms. Click the link below to download a Fort Tejon map that includes the Quail Canyon campground.

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For group Campground Reservations, contact the California State Park Campground Service at 800-444-7275.

Fort Tejon Wildlife and Natural History

Fort Tejon plant and animal life is unique based on the fort’s geographical location where several ecological regions merge, including the Central Valley, the Sierra Nevada, the Mojave Desert, and Southern California. Fort Tejon’s main natural plant vegetation is oak woodlands. These woodlands provide shelter and cover for a variety of animals, including the California condor. You’ll find western blue scrub jays and various species of woodpeckers that feed on acorns.

Fort Tejon creek runs year-round and serves as the main source of water and attraction for many animals native to the area. There is also a riparian woodland and freshwater marsh that runs along Grapevine Creek that is home to native reptiles and birds. This wetland attracts most of the mammals living in the area, including black tailed mule deer, the black tailed rabbit, bobcats, ground squirrels, opossums, and badgers during the warmer summer months.

Fort Tejon’s grassy areas are home to seed-eating birds, many insects, and small mammals making them ideal hunting grounds for coyotes, foxes, and larger birds of prey. You can often see deer grazing in the Fort Tejon meadows during the late afternoon hours in the spring and summer months. California poppies are among the many wildflowers to be found in the park.

Poison Oak and Stinging Nettle – Beware of these plants around Fort Tejon

Poison oak and stinging nettle are found in wilderness areas throughout California. These plants thrive in the moist Fort Tejon woodlands, thickets, along the Fort Tejon creek, near the old water wells once used by the army, and along partially shaded trails. Reactions to these plants can be mild to severe and should be treated immediately at the park by washing the affected area. Consult your doctor for additional treatment advice.

Stinging Nettle may appear harmless, but the plant is covered with tiny hypodermic needles that carry an acidic substance that can cause mild to severe stinging, painful blistering, hives, and even numbness in the area of the skin exposed to the plant. The pictures below will help you identify this plant.

Stinging Nettle


Stinging Nettle


Poison oak and poison sumac are plants that can cause a mild to severe skin rash. The red, uncomfortable, and itchy rash often shows up in lines or streaks and is marked by blisters or raised areas in the form of hives. Remember, leaves of three, let them be! The pictures below will help you identify these plants.


Poison Oak


Poison Oak


For additional information on Fort Tejon vegetation and other plants located within the park that should be avoided, contact the Fort Tejon Park office at 661-248-6692.

Fort Tejon Earthquake of 1857– The largest earthquake in California with a magnitude of 7.9-8.0

This earthquake occurred on the San Andreas fault, which ruptured from near Parkfield almost to Wrightwood. A horizontal displacement of as much as 9 meters was observed on the Carrizo Plain. It caused only one fatality. A comparison of this shock to the San Francisco earthquake, which occurred on the San Andreas fault on April 18, 1906, shows that the fault break in 1906 was longer but that the maximum and average displacements in 1857 were larger.

Instances of seiching, fissuring, sandblows and hydrologic changes were reported from Sacramento to the Colorado River delta. Ground fissures were observed in the beds of the Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and Santa Clara Rivers and at Santa Barbara. Sandblows occurred at Santa Barbara and in the flood plain of the Santa Clara River. One report describes sunken trees, possibly associated with liquefaction, in the area between Stockton and Sacramento.

Property loss was heavy at Fort Tejon, an Army post about 7 kilometers from the San Andreas fault. Two buildings were declared unsafe, three others were damaged extensively but were habitable, and still others sustained moderate damage. About 20 kilometers west of Fort Tejon, trees were uprooted, and buildings were destroyed between Fort Tejon and Elizabeth Lake. One person was killed in the collapse of an adobe house at Gorman. Strong shaking lasted from 1 to 3 minutes.

As a result of the shaking, the current of the Kern River was turned upstream, and water ran four feet deep over its banks. The waters of Tulare Lake were thrown upon its shores, stranding fish miles from the original lake bed. The waters of the Mokelumne River were thrown upon its banks, reportedly leaving the bed dry in places. The Los Angeles River was reportedly flung out of its bed, too. Cracks appeared in the ground near San Bernardino and in the San Gabriel Valley. Some of the artesian wells in Santa Clara Valley ceased to flow, and others increased in output. New springs were formed near Santa Barbara and San Fernando. Ridges (moletracks) several meters wide and over a meter high were formed in several places.

Felt from Marysville south to San Diego and east to Las Vegas, Nevada. Several slight to moderate foreshocks preceded the main shock by 1 to 9 hours. Many aftershocks occurred, and two (January 9 and 16) were large enough to have been widely felt. In Ventura, a mission sustained considerable damage, and part of the church tower collapsed. At Fort Tejon, where shaking was greatest, damage was severe.

Fort Tejon Earthquake –Accounts and News Reports on the Great California Earthquake of 1857

Read 77 primary accounts that describe the effects of the "Fort Tejon" earthquake of January 9, 1857. The accounts include 70 contemporary documents, 52 newspaper reports, 17 letters and journals, and one scientific paper and seven reminiscences, which describe the earthquake, foreshocks, felt effects, faulting, and some of the aftershocks associated with this earthquake.

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Fort Tejon Information and Directions

Fort Tejon California State Historic Park is located 36 miles south of Bakersfield and 77 miles north of Los Angeles - 3 miles north of the Lebec California Interstate I-5 off-ramp. Exit Interstate I-5 on the Fort Tejon off-ramp.  Follow the signs to the Fort Tejon.

Special Events:

  Children (6-12)
  Children (under 6)


Fort Tejon California State Historic Park offers special discounts for group tours and overnight use of the Park’s campground.

Fort Tejon Park Office

Fort Tejon State Historic Park
P.O. Box 895
Lebec, California 93243

More Information on Fort Tejon – Fort Tejon Historical Association

For more information on Fort Tejon’s history, the California Civil War, Fort Tejon Dragoons, and Fort Tejon’s Student Living Program, visit the Fort Tejon Historical Association website.

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