If we had all the money in the world and the California Department of Parks and Recreation was selling the Burleigh H. Murray Ranch, we would convert the barn and never leave. Until that time, we’re grateful that it’s only a 30 minute car ride away, near Half Moon Bay. The interpretive sign at the site of the barn (transcribed below), a half mile from the park entrance, places visitors in time and space, history and nature.
“Robert Mills (1823-1897) acquired 1,300 acres in this secluded valley between 1862 and 1884, and added a house, dairy barn, and outbuildings to make it a working ranch. For more than a century, Mills and his heirs leased the ranch to recently immigrated English, Irish, Italian, and Portuguese farmers. Mills, a native of England, came to California in the Gold Rush. He made his start in San Francisco as a glazier; his work included ornamental glass for William Ralston’s Belmont home and the original Palace Hotel in San Francisco. He invested his earnings in land on the Peninsula, and became a major financial patron to early settlers of half Moon Bay and the Coast side. He moved to Belmont in 1877. After Mills’ death, the ranch passed to his wife, Miranda Murray (1831-1913), then her son, Burleigh Chase Murray (18650-1937), and her grandson, Burleigh Hall Murray (1892-1978). The Murray estate donated the ranch to the California Department of Parks and Recreation in 1979 to preserve its cultural and natural resources. The park has since grown to 1325 acres.”
[Transcription continued] “As you travel up the trail, you will see three major habitats: the moist riparian corridor along Mills Creek, shaded by red alder trees; coastal prairie grasslands on the drier south-facing slopes; and, dense coastal scrub on the shady north-facing slopes. Common coastal scrub plants include coyote brush and orange-blossomed sticky monkey flower. Ceanothus shrubs edge the upper trail with fragrant blue blossoms in the spring. Human-created habitats include the fields along the road, now overgrown by mustard and radish, and the dense groves of eucalyptus trees, planted for lumber and as windbreaks. Many species of animals live in or visit the park throughout the year. Birds include red tailed hawks, California quail, and owls. Deer graze in the grassy fields. Nocturnal inhabitants, such as bobcats, raccoons, opossums, and skunks, are less commonly seen, but you may see their footprints in the dust or mud along the trail.”
Calscape, California Native Plant Society