An old ranch road winds its way along Mills Creek for about one mile up to a 1930s bungalow that serves as a park residence. At this point the trail veers off the road and bends down to cross the creek, allowing the visitor to look back in time while viewing the Mills Barn and surrounding outbuildings.

Continuing on the road beyond the barn, the valley narrows between steep, chaparral-covered hills. The walking is good for an additional half mile above the barn past wooden tanks, which supply water for the park residence, before the trail fades away into the dense growth of stinging nettles, poison oak, and coyote brush.

Hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding are allowed on trails and roads.

Visitors to the park should be aware that there is a shooting range near the park residence, reserved for use by state ranger, police, and sheriff personnel.

Old ranch road winds along Mills Creek (Photo: © Avis Boutell)
Rusting farm implements are scattered throughout the site (Photo: CSPA archive)
The end view of the barn showing road to second story. (Photo: © Avis Boutell)

The Barn

The unique Mills barn on the Burleigh Murray Ranch is an example of an English Lake Distrct bank barn and one of only two identified examples of an English bank barn in California. A bank barn is a two-story barn set against a hill or a slope so that one side appears as a single story building, allowing access to the second story via a road. This allowed for a very efficient way of feeding the animals inside.

Hay was loaded on the wagon on top of ropes, and the ropes were wrapped around the load. The hay wagon was pulled alongside the second floor of the barn by horses. An additional rope was tied to the load strung through the opposite barn window, attached to a team of horses outside on the first floor. The horses pulled the hay off the wagon into the barn. The hay was then pushed through chutes in the second floor that funneled into the cow stalls. Thus the barn, which has been called a “feeding machine,” relied on gravity and horses more than human power.

The barn was originally 200 feet long and housed 100 dairy cows; however, 35 feet of the barn were removed, perhaps to supply lumber for constructing other outbuildings or sheds.

The ranch includes a sensitive riparian corridor along Mills Creek, which contains a wide range of plants and animals and provides a large bird-breeding area. Mills Creek is also sensitive habitat because it is home to the California red-legged frog and to a small population of steelhead trout, both of which have been designated as threatened by the federal government. To eliminate an obstacle to their migration, a small, unused dam upstream of the barn was removed in 2000.

CSPA's support for Burleigh Murray Ranch
  • Support Docent Program - training and ongoing education