Volcan Mountain, San Diego County, California: Introduction

By: Susan M. Hector
ASM Affiliates, Inc.

Author's Note:This report was commissioned by CDF to inform its web audience of the archaeological resources of an area impacted by recent fires. The specific location of the sites are not disclosed in this article in conformance with state law. The site locations are on record at the South Coastal Information Center. This article has been abridged for web posting from a longer report that was prepared for CDF. If you would like a copy of the print version, please contact the author at: shector@asmaffiliates.com


Decades of insect infestation have resulted in dead, dying, and diseased trees, mostly pine trees, throughout public and private forests in southern California. Many of these diseased trees burned in 2002 and 2003, providing ample fuel as wildfires swept through San Diego County's backcountry. This has resulted in an increased effort to clear dead, dying and diseased trees from San Diego's forested lands. As public agencies, landowners, foresters, and timber operators prepare to remove the burned and diseased trees, consideration must be given to potential impacts to archaeological sites as part of the environmental review and approval process. Awareness of the presence of sensitive archaeological resources will protect these sites from being damaged as these crucial fuel reduction programs move forward.

Volcan Mountain, located north and east of the town of Julian in eastern San Diego County, is a unique topographic feature (Figure 1). The mountain, which is actually a horseshoe-shaped series of ridges, rises steeply from the San Felipe Valley on the east, to an elevation of over 5500 feet. The summit called Volcan is 5353 feet, at the southern end of the range. At this elevation, Volcan Mountain is blanketed by snow during the winter (Figure 2). Portions of the eastern slopes of Volcan Mountain burned in the Pines Fire during the summer and early fall of 2002, while the rest of the southern and eastern areas burned in the catastrophic Cedar Fire of fall 2003 (Figure 3). Today, many diseased trees still stand on Volcan's highest elevations (Figure 4).