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SILVERADO CANYON : FOCUS : If You Want Rustic, It's Hi Yo Silverado!

July 14, 1988|Clipboard researched by Susan Greene and Henry Rivero / Los Angeles Times. Page designed by Steven Nelson and Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

Two Santa Ana miners, Hank Smith and William Curry, struck silver in them thar hills of Silverado Canyon in the fall of 1877. The silver eruption lasted three good years.

Then prospectors discovered coal in even greater abundance in the canyon. But even so, it was Wagons Hooooo! The coal boom was finished by 1883, and miners and kinfolk were loading up and moving out.

This rustic-rural retreat in Orange County's Santa Ana Mountains is quiet and still untouched by the development moguls. Why? Because Silverado's terrain is dominated by steep canyon walls on either side of the creek beds, with major rock outcroppings surrounded by dense chaparral and trees. Some of the slopes in this area are so steep they give the illusion of being almost vertical. State maps show rockfall hazards in virtually all of the canyon area. Also, the 800 residents of the area take steps to keep the Silverado Canyon quiet and peaceful.

Canyon residents can count on outbursts of surface rockfalls, mudslides and their biggest fear--fire. Last September a brush fire, started in the canyon by an arsonist, consumed 5,000 acres of the Cleveland National Forest in about five days. The county fire marshal has labeled the area an extreme fire hazard.

Now for some good news. The canyon area is probably one of the closest-knit communities in all of Orange County. Homes in this area are made of logs, bricks, stones, stucco, rock or whatever suits the environment. Some houses are particularly individualistic in a distinctly Western fashion. Ornaments--wagon wheels, cattle skulls, etc.--can be found over doors of homes, on barn doors or just in the back or front yard. And horses freely graze in front yards rather than just stand in stables.

Unlike most communities in Orange County, Silverado has no planning rules and regulations or homeowner association bylaws to follow (other than the county building codes). All homes have their own septic tanks due to the lack of public sewerage, and most residents use propane gas.

True to the spirit of pioneers who praise independence but value community spirit, the canyon features an oversized bulletin board, unique in Orange County for its classified ads and local news tidbits.

Statistics Population: (1987 est.) 818 Median household income: $28,670 Racial/ethnic mix: white, 97.9%; Latino, 5.3%; black, 0.0%; other, 2.1% (Total is more than 100% because racial/ethnic breakdowns overlap) Education Adults over 25 Years of school completed: 0-11 years: 10.9% 12 years: 33.3% 13-15 years: 27.2% 16+ years: 28.6% Median years completed: 13.6 Population Median Age: 29.3 years

Statistics: Donnelley Demographics

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