The San Jacinto Valley is a valley located in southwestern Riverside County, in Southern California, in the Inland Empire.The valley is located at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains in the east and Santa Rosa Hills to the south with the San Gorgonio Pass to the north. The elevation on average is 1500 feet, with the highest points in the foothills south of Hemet and the western slopes of the San Jacinto Mountains. It is home to two cities, Hemet and San Jacinto, and several unincorporated communities. The combined population of the valley is over 165,000 residents, including approximately 130,000 residents among the cities of Hemet and San Jacinto. The valley is also where the story and play "Ramona" was set; the story was written after author Helen Hunt Jackson visited the valley in the 1880s. The valley is also known for being an area of agriculture, which has given way to more urbanized development as time goes on.
The first native people settled in the San Jacinto Valley thousands of years ago. Later, the Serrano and Cahuilla people arrived, whose villages were located along and near streams and springs. They were hunters and gatherers and they subsisted primarily on small game and acorns. The Soboba Indian Reservation, just east of San Jacinto, is now the home to the descendants of some of these people. The first Spanish explorers entered the San Jacinto Valley in the early 1770s. In 1774, and again in 1775, Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza led two expions up from Mexico, crossing the Colorado River at Yuma and continuing across the Borrego Desert and up Coyote Canyon. For a few years, the Valley was on the main overland route to California. In the early 19th century, the area became a cattle ranch for the Spanish Mission San Luis Rey, which is located in the modern-day city of Oceanside. The area was known as Rancho San Jacinto. When the missions were broken up by the Mexican government, the land was given to José Antonio Estudillo in 1842. This land grant eventually became the towns of San Jacinto and Hemet.
There are two incorporated cities in the San Jacinto Valley, Hemet and San Jacinto. The two cities in the valley have experienced significant growth since the 1980s, and make up one of the fastest-growing areas in the state of California and Riverside County.
Hemet has an area of about 27.7 square miles (72 km2), and a population of 83,166. Hemet was founded in 1887 and was incorporated on January 20, 1910. It also makes up most of the valley population. The city is home to the Ramona Bowl which is where "Ramona", the official outdoor play of California, is performed. Hemet is located at the southern end of the valley. The city is home to the Western Science Center, and Diamond Valley Lake. This city was also named a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation, and is home to the only hospital in the valley.
San Jacinto has an area of 25.3 square miles (66 km2), most of it land. The population is 48,146 as of a 2018 estimate. It was named after Saint Hyacinth and is located at the north end of the valley. The city was founded in 1870, and was incorporated on April 9, 1888, making it one of the oldest cities in the county. The city is also home to Mt. San Jacinto College, a community college which has served the valley and the Inland Empire since 1965. The city will also be home to part of the Mid County Parkway, a new major transportation corridor in Riverside County that will link to I-215 in Perris.
East Hemet is an unincorporated area just east of Hemet. Its population was 17,418 in the 2010 Census. It contains an area of 3.2 square miles (8.3 km2) of land. It is located in between Hemet and Valle Vista.
Once a favorite vacation spot, Gilman Hot Springs is now home to the Church of Scientology Headquarters (Gold Base), Golden Era Studios and Golden Era Productions.
Green Acres was once home to a famous past resident: Dan Blocker from the Bonanza TV show.
Soboba Hot Springs was the vacation ground in the 1900s for many Hollywood movie stars.
Valle Vista is an unincorporated area east of Hemet, that extends south to Bautista Canyon and to the east to the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. Valle Vista has an area of 3.4 square miles (8.8 km2), of which 3.2 square miles (8.3 km2) is land. The population at the 2010 Census was 11,036. Fairview Avenue, which runs from Bautista Canyon to the city of San Jacinto, is part of the old historic Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, an old trail that went from Nogales, Arizona on the U.S. and Mexican Border, to a Presidio in San Francisco. This was one of the first overland routes to California. The area will possibly be annexed by Hemet in the near future according to the proposed land use map on the City of Hemet's general plan website, but since the general plan is still under draft, this may not necessarily happen.
Winchester is a census-designated place (CDP) in Riverside County, California, USA. As of the 2010 census, the CDP had a total population of 2,534, up from 2,155 at the 2000 census. Winchester is mostly rural and contains many ranches and several local businesses, and it was once home to the Winchester Cheese Company.
The Hemet unified school district has a total of 22,512 students. It serves the Hemet area including the unincorporated areas east of Hemet, as well as in the Aguanga area. It has total of 15 elementary schools, 5 middle schools, 5 high schools, and one preschool. It also provides 3 alternative schools. District headquarters are located on 1791 West Acacia Avenue in Hemet.
San Jacinto Unified School District serves approximately 9,000 students in the city of San Jacinto. The district contains five elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, and also provides head start and preschool programs.
The valley is served by a community college. Mt. San Jacinto College has served the valley since 1963. The college district was created in 1962 by a vote of the citizens of Banning, Beaumont, Hemet, and San Jacinto. The college enrolled its first students in the fall of 1963, holding classes in rented facilities. The San Jacinto Campus was opened in 1965 with two buildings and has grown into a full college campus serving the students and the community. In 1975, the residents of Temecula, Lake Elsinore, Perris and adjacent areas voted to join the Mt. San Jacinto Community College District, increasing the college’s area to the present 1,700 square miles (4,400 km2). The San Jacinto Campus has been master-planned and essentially will be rebuilt over the next 15 to 20 years to accommodate 12,000 to 15,000 students. In the fall of 1993, the Alice P. Cutting Business & Technology Center opened to students with new laboratories for Business, Computer Information Science, Engineering Technologies, Electronics and Photography. In the fall of 1995, a state-of-the-art music building opened on the San Jacinto Campus.
The Estudillo Mansion Museum is located in San Jacinto off Seventh Street and across from the San Jacinto train depot (no longer standing) where Agri-Empire offices are located.
The Hemet Museum is located in downtown Hemet, at the intersection of Florida Avenue and State Street, housed inside the historic Hemet Depot. It contains exhibits of the area's history, Native American artifacts found in the area, and information about the valley's agricultural past. It also includes exhibits on the "Ramona" pageant, as well as railroad exhibits.
Located at the Ramona Bowl home of the Ramona Outdoor Play.
Located on the Hemet-Ryan Field off Stetson.
The San Jacinto Museum was founded in 1939 by citizens of the city. It features exhibits on the natural and human history of San Jacinto and surrounding areas. Local Indians relics, artifacts from pioneer families, and material on the community, its businesses and institutions are featured. Special exhibits highlight the record-breaking 1937 Soviet transpolar flight which landed in San Jacinto, and the development of downtown.
The Museum also maintains a large collection of historic photographs and memorabilia, which is available to researchers. Group tours are available by appointment.
The Western Science Center is located in the southern area of Hemet. It features exhibits of Ice Age mammals, including 'Max', the largest mastodon found in the western United States, and as 'Xena', a Columbian Mammoth. It also has special exhibits that are a limited time only event. Recently it featured an exhibit called "The Music behind the Magic" which featured exhibits on the music in Walt Disney films. The museum also features an Immersion Theater that has a 270 degree screen.
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The Patterson House is a museum in Winchester, and is the oldest building in the town. It is located just off Highway 79 (Winchester Road), on the southeast corner of Patterson Ave and East Grand Avenue. The residence was built by Winchester pioneer John Patterson, over the ruins of an adobe home that was the headquarters of a Mexican rancho before 1850. Some museum visitors have claimed to experience poltergeist activities including phantom knocking, doors opening, and objects moving. Some claim it is the spirit of Lloyd Patterson, who died in the house of tuberculosis as a young man in the early 1900s.
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The San Jacinto Valley Historical Connection is an online resource spawned from community interest in retaining the valley's history. In Hemet, the Historic Harvard District holds special events thought the year. In San Jacinto, one can find several Historic homes on Main Street including the Vosburg Hotel and the Virginia Lee Hotel.
SR 79 also makes its way through the valley through San Jacinto. It follows parts of Ramona Expressway, State Street, North Ramona Boulevard, San Jacinto Avenue and East and West Florida Avenue until the intersection of Highway 74 (SR 74) and Winchester Road (SR 79). From there, Highway 79 heads south to Temecula, and further south to Warner Springs and Julian in San Diego County, ending at Interstate 8 a few miles east of Alpine.
In Hemet, SR 79 overlaps State Route 74 (Florida Avenue), following it eastward for a few miles before heading north again through San Jacinto. SR 79 goes over a range of hills (Lambs Canyon) and ends near Beaumont at Interstate 10.
There is one airport located in the San Jacinto valley: Hemet-Ryan Airport. In nearby French Valley, the French Valley Airport is located 15 miles (24 km) southwest of the San Jacinto Valley.
Hemet-Ryan Airport is located 3 miles (5 km) southwest of central Hemet, and serves as a municipal general aviation airport. Its elevation is 1,512 ft (460.9 m). It has two runways, one of which is 4,314 by 100 ft (1315 by 30 m) and has an asphalt surface. The other is 2,045 by 25 ft (623 by 8 m) and also has an asphalt surface. There are 236 airplanes based at the airport, 114 of which are single engine airplanes, 22 are multi-engine airplanes, 1 jet plane, and 9 helicopters. The airport is also home to a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Riverside Unit) joint Air Attack/Helitack base. It is statistically one of the most active in the nation. The airport is owned and operated by Riverside County.
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The Hemet-Ryan field was used during the war times and is home to the fire-fighter airplanes.
Mass Transit in the valley is provided by the RTA. The area is also served by an Amtrak bus stop near the corner of Sanderson Avenue and Florida Avenue in Hemet. The bus system provides a connection to other cities and communities in the Inland Empire, including Riverside, Temecula, Winchester, Banning, and Corona, as well as a new commuter link to Escondido in San Diego County. RTA routes are 31, 32, 42, 74, 212, 217. A Metrolink station is also in the planning stages for downtown Hemet, with construction possibly beginning in 2012.