Santa Cruz Kilns, Rock Piles and Koi Pond
UCSC Lime Kilns
936 Coolidge Drive, Santa Cruz, California 95064
Pogonip Lime Kilns and Rock Piles
Lime Kiln Trail, Santa Cruz, California 95060
Spring Box Trail, Santa Cruz, California 95060
In Santa Cruz, you can check out several lime kilns located on the college campus, and then after that, hike into the enchanting forests of Pogonip, literally right next door to the campus, and find not only more lime kilns, but also a fascinating koi pond, and a strange garden of rock towers.
University of California, Santa Cruz Historical Kilns
Located throughout the University of California, Santa Cruz campus are all sorts of historical buildings, many from the 19th century. Some of these historical structures are original lime kilns that were used in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Limerock from nearby quarries was placed in the kilns, which used the local redwoods as fuel to heat the rock up for days at a time, converting the rock into lime. The kilns were all loaded from the top with the rock, and after the lime was produced, extracted from the lower doors. There are four lime kilns present, three of them were pot kilns, and one was a continuous kiln which burnt for days, weeks, or even months at a time. The pot kilns usually operated for five days straight, before being given a few days in between loads to cool. Limerock was kept at 1800 degrees fahrenheit in order to convert it to lime. Much of the lime made at these kilns went on to become mortar or plaster and was used in construction. The continuous kiln is the oldest structure in the historic district, having been built in 1861. The pot kilns produced around 1000 barrels of lime each time.
For much of the lifespan of the kilns, they were owned by Henry Cowell, who lived nearby from 1865 to 1879 in what is now called the Cardiff House, also located on campus. The lime kilns operated all the way until the 1920s. The area and structures are now referred to as the Cowell Lime Works Historic District.
The kilns are located on Coolidge Drive near the cooperage, the building were they made barrels, that were used to transport the lime. Other historical structures are nearby and some are in other locations on campus. As an aside, Henry Cowell's daughter, Sarah, now haunts part of campus called the Haunted Meadow. She was thrown and killed from a horse. Her ghost appears as a spectral white cloak, haunting the meadow.
After checking out the kilns of UCSC, continue heading down Coolidge Drive. It will eventually turn left and become McLaughlin. Park in the parking lot on the left, Parking Lot 10. There is a fee to park here, and when I went there was a machine in the parking lot that would issue a ticket for you. From the parking lot, walk down McLaughlin, turning right when it turns into Coolidge Drive. On the other side of Coolidge, the east side, you'll see the start of Spring Box Trail heading off into Pogonip.
Pogonip is a large area of forest and recreation space consisting of 640 acres, 11.5 miles of trails, and also Grandpa's house from the movie, Lost Boys. The trees and trails are beautiful and just the environment alone is worth the visit, but there's more besides really tall, gorgeous trees (and Grandpa's house). The western part of Pogonip next to UCSC campus is home to several lime kilns, a secluded koi pond, and even a strange garden of rock piles.
Walking down Spring Box Trail, soon it will split, with Spring Box Trail heading to the right, and Rincon Trail heading off to the left. The kilns and the rock piles are off to the left down Rincon Trail. If you sort of split off between the two trails and head down the hill, following a small creek, you will soon come to a manmade koi pond right in the middle of the forest. It's literally a rectangular, almost square pool of water right there in the forest. The side on the downslope is a built up wall, and there's even a wooden plank for a bench overlooking the pond. I was there one time when a local even stopped by to put some fish in the pond. Water flows down the creek, into the pond, and then spills slowly over the downhill facing side. Sitting under the amazing trees, it is a very serene spot to stop and take in the forest.
The kilns in Pogonip are being slowly taken back by nature. Moss and plants grow all over them and in 1996 several trees had to be removed in order to preserve the kilns. Parts of the trees are still there, mostly the stumps as the roots of the trees had already become entwined throughout the historical kilns. The kilns are literally built into the hillside, and probably began operation in the 1850s.
After you take a look at the kilns, head up and to the left, pretty much to the top of the kilns and there is a small area enclosed on both sides by embankments. In this alcove, there are piles of rocks making up hoards of rock towers. Some are small, only a few rocks tall, others are almost the height of a person, consisting of many stones. Inside these rock towers, however, are little notes, left by the builders of the towers, usually students at the nearby college campus. Some are inspirational, some are encouragement or jokes, and some are just the random thoughts of the tower builder. You can easily walk a path that goes through and around the rock tower garden, and if you are checking out the kilns, it is very much worth the visit.
Last Edited: 2020-09-09