Cold Creek Preserve is located in the north central flank of the Santa Monica Mountains and owned by The Mountains Restoration Trust. Cold Creek is one of the few perennial water systems in the area, and is subsequently a major upland tributary of Malibu Creek. The watershed’s boundaries extend above Mulholland Highway, while the area drained by Cold Creek is about 4.5 miles from a high point at Saddle Peak.
In the early 1900’s, German immigrant Herman Hethke settled in Cold Creek. He created a house from a sandstone boulder with a corrugated tin roof. In 1909, the property became a homestead as he established a celery plot to harvest, and he would sell his crop in town. He then sold it in 1914 to the Wallace’s; in 1919, the property switched hands again when Ida Haines Murphy bought it. Ida was married to Edward Murphy, a representative of the Royal Baking Powder Company, which had a leg of the company in Downtown L.A. Ida built a cabin on the “ranch” – as they called it – which today is the upper Cold Creek property, and would spend much of summer there, instead of their main home near Hancock Park. Her daughter, Kathleen Murphy, visited every summer, and even more frequently after her mother died. In 1936 the ranch house burnt down, but another was built that same year. In 1970, a wildfire destroyed that cabin, too. That year she donated the 550 acre property to The Nature Conservancy, in exchange for lifting her property taxes.
The lower part of the preserve was owned by Nelly Von Arnswalt in the early 1920’s, and traded hands only seven years later to the Hoyt’s, a family of long-time Topanga Canyon pioneers. The property was sold back to Von Arnswaldt during the depression. Later, Alfred Perrson acquired the property; he donated the 80 acres to the Conservancy in 1976. In 1984, the properties were received in conjunction by The Mountains Restoration Trust from the Conservancy. MRT has added on to these properties over the years for a total of two square miles of protected land.
Cold Creek is home to a number of unique plants and animals. Locally-rare plant species include Plummer’s baccharis, deergrass, stream orchid, yellow-throated phacelia, big-leaf maple, red shank and Humboldt lily. A number of species that are indicated as “threatened” on the endangered species list also call Cold Creek home. These animals are the Cooper’s hawk, mountain quail, yellow warbler, prairie falcon, golden eagle, horned lizard, coastal western whiptail, silvery legless lizard, patch-nosed snake, ring-necked snake, San Diego mountain king snake, two-striped garter snake, desert wood rat, ringtail and three bat species.