During the lazy days of summer in the 1950s Raul “Roy” Tarango would set out from his home on Madison Street on a 40-minute hike to El Salto Falls, which today can be found tucked behind Kohls on Marron Road. Tarango traveled with a few pals and carried a small paper bag of salt he used to spice up avocados, tomatoes, apricots and watermelon from orchards along the way. Once they arrived, the boys stripped off their clothes and jumped into the sparkling water.
“I started going to El Salto when I was 8. We called it Marron Falls then,” Tarango said. “We weren't supposed to be there, but once you were down in the hole it was difficult to be seen. It was solid granite and shaped like a horseshoe. The waterfall was in the middle. Our goal was to find the bottom of the pond. We never did, and we were pretty good swimmers. The pond was full of fresh water, and there was always watercress growing nearby that tasted great with salt.”
Indians originally settled along El
Salto about 9,000 years ago. The falls is a registered sacred site with the
Native American Heritage Commission.
Buena Vista Creek, which runs through El Salto, became the jurisdictional dividing line between San Diego de Alcala Mission and Mission San Luis Rey de Francia after the latter was founded in 1798. In 1842, when Juan Maria Romouldo Marron was granted Rancho Agua Hedionda, the watershed was an important resource for cattle and settlers in the new village of Carlsbad. The springs were used to irrigate agricultural fields that remained in the Marron family into the 20th century.
In a Jan. 5, 1936, article in The San Diego Union titled “Privately Owned Waterfall, With Leap of 40 Feet, Is One of Handiest to Be Seen in San Diego County,” reporter William L. Wright wrote: “Waterfalls are scarce in San Diego County, and those we have here usually are found 'away back off the road.' Perhaps the handiest is El Salto – 'the leap' – which is on Buena Vista Creek at the head of Marron Canyon. “El Salto makes a leap of perhaps 40 feet, with a cascade that adds spray to the picture in a season of heavy stream flow. The reason for it is a dike of rock that brings Buena Vista Creek to the surface and forces it over the brink. Abraham Marron, who had a house downstream from El Salto, managed the homestead for family members who lived on the property. “And there is no time in the collective Marron memory when El Salto was not running, at least a trickle. After heavy rains it runs, of course, with a roar,” White wrote.
“Erosive force went with the roar, and through the years it has gouged a deep pothole at the base of El Salto. Fifty years ago this pothole was alive with turtles, and the Kelly boys used to ride over from the Agua Hedionda or the Los Kiotas and capture them for pets.” According to Abraham Marron, the bottom of the pothole wasn't found until the legendary storm of 1916, when raging floods filled it with sand and created a beach.
“Through all these years the Marrons have treasured El Salto. Abraham Marron doesn't mind having different people picnic there – but they have to be decent people, he says, and he means it,” White wrote. Shelley Hayes Caron, who lives in the historic Marron adobe, said El Salto remains the tallest coastal waterfall in Southern California.
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