Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park

I jumped out of the car and hurriedly made my way up near the visitor center at the Leo Carrillo Ranch.

Why? Because I was in pursuit of photographing a wild peacock and rain clouds were approaching rapidly. I was told the amazing birds roam the grounds and the fields freely.

I was only semi interested in the ranch. After about twenty minutes there, we didn’t see any peacocks. So I asked other visitors if they saw any and they sadly answered no. An employee at the center said that she hasn’t seen one in awhile and that they come out in force during spring. But, I was here now, darn it.

Oh well, let’s see what this ranch was all about then and maybe, just maybe we will get lucky and see a peacock. A Quick look up into the sky and it looked like the rain clouds may stay away…for now.

So, first, who is Leo Carrillo?

Leo Carrillo was a Hollywood actor and starred in almost 100 films in the years of 1927 to 1950. He purchased land in Carlsbad and built a ranch in the style of early California. This adobe hacienda had sprawling grounds and various other buildings.

Today, the buildings and the 27 acre ranch are open to the public for self touring, educational classes, camps, and private events. There are also guided tours on certain days.

The actual residence is closed down while it is currently being refurbished but the rest of the buildings are open to view.

We saw a carriage house, stables, barns, garage, and even a cantina.

The city of Carlsbad has done well in preserving and restoring the buildings and the 27-acre park.

When you drive up all you hear is the chirping of birds, tons of them! A wide open meadow is filled with trees and the aroma of eucalyptus trees fills your lungs like a fine scented candle. Except this is real and natural.

There are trails everywhere, and you are encouraged to stay on them. Most of the buildings, we viewed from outside where they had a plaques with information.

Dogs are not allowed on the premises.

I was most impressed with the scenery. Hidden behind homes and a neighborhood, Carlsbad in 1990 set out to restore the ranch and offer it to the public to visit for free. Besides the adobe structures that serve as historical value, the city honored Leo Carrillo himself for years of good deeds. Among other things, Carrillo served on the California State Beaches and Parks Commission for 18 years.

Strange thing, as we were driving back up north, we saw a big freeway sign that said Leo Carrillo Ranch. Was that there all of this time? I never noticed it before. Funny how that works.

So in ending, I must go back to the peacocks. About twenty minutes after the lady told me that they were no where to be seen, I hear my name called and a finger pointing to a slowly moving beautiful bird.

We found one!!! I come around the buildings to catch it from the other side. It slowly walked between two buildings and I was only catching its back end. I had to get closer and catch it from the front. So off the beaten path I go slipping and a sliding in the mud from a recent rainfall. I almost did a face plant in a small creek.

Every muscle was pulled as I stalked the massive bird that was moving at a snails pace. Surprisingly, I lost sight of it during the time that I was doing a mud dance and trying to right myself.

How far could it have gone? Then I saw it again up by a cement fence that surrounded part of the grounds. I was able to snap a few shots before it jumped five feet in the air and scaled the fence.

It was gone just like that! At least I was able to see one.

Now I could relax and explore more of the grounds and inhale the wonderful tree aromas.

Anyway, whether you are there to see peacocks or just curious to see what the ranch is about, it is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Go back in time when these buildings were constructed and get a little history into your blood.

Do stay on the trails though, as I had mud in every crack of my shoe. It was worth it though.

Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park Then & Now.

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell

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