The story behind one cool LA map


This map of the Los Angeles basin and beyond was drawn by Jack H. Moffett and published in 1970. At Los Angeles Magazine, map curator Glen Creason of the Los Angeles Public Library waxes about the beauty of the creation. If you ever take in the maps that are out for display on the bottom level of the Central Library, in the history department, those are Creason's babies.

In this map, it's the mountains and the relationship of the ranges and rivers that make it special. It's also a great reminder of how the land actually lines up here, the physical orientations that you can lose track of staying in the city all the time. The Pacific Ocean is the dominant environmental feature of Los Angeles and the mountain ranges are a close second, but sometimes people forget about both. Creason has a bigger version of the Moffett map with his piece. Excerpt:

Maestro Moffett brings the mountain ranges and hills to life, showing off the dramatic landscape of Los Angeles and its environs. Christopher Isherwood once wrote of the Southland’s spectacular geography, “An afternoon drive from Los Angeles will take you up into the high mountains, where eagles circle above the forests and the cold blue lakes, or out over the Mojave Desert, with its weird vegetation and immense vistas.” This whopper of a map gives a sense of that scale, stretching from Malibu to Laguna, from the Salton Sea to Sylmar, from the Mojave to the Palos Verdes peninsula. It even brings Vegas into focus. Most impressively rendered are the transverse ranges that cross Southern California area from San Diego to Santa Barbara.

Standing tall here are the lengthy Santa Monica Mountains, the beautiful San Gabriels, and the Verdugos, all of which date back at least to the Cenozoic Era when they were thrust up out of the earth. Separating the Los Angeles basin from the Mojave Desert, the San Gabriels are the most impressive range. They boast Mt. San Antonio (aka Mt. Baldy)—one of the the most well-known peaks in Southern California. The Verdugo Mountains parallel the southern part of the San Gabriels, and though picturesque, they pose rockslide threats to communities like Tujunga, Sunland, Sun Valley, parts of Los Angeles, and Burbank. The most popular hiking destination are the Santa Monica Mountains. Covering a forty-mile stretch from the Hollywood hills out to Pt. Mugu in Ventura, they slice between the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles basin. Geologists say the westernmost outcropping of these mountains is the Channel Islands out in the blue Pacific. On the other side of the Valley are the Santa Susana Mountains.

Creason is the author of Los Angeles in Maps, the collection of beautiful and revealing maps book that came out in 2010.

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