CANYON DWELLERS & TRAVELERS
The Gateway and surrounding land once belonged to the Hoyumne and Miumne Yokuts Indians, who lived in this area and migrated between Del Puerto Canyon and the San Joaquin River. Evidence of their presence has been found up and down the canyon, as well as along the San Joaquin River, in the form of grinding rocks, cooking ovens, burial grounds, dwelling structures, and— maybe the most unique Native American evidence in West Stanislaus County—a prehistoric pathway carved into the Gateway rocks. Handholds and steps, weathered away over the years, still exist on the Gateway rock feature once used to help the natives, Spanish explorers, Mexican horse wranglers, and American miners through this canyon (see photos below by Elias Funez).
Indians looking to escape the coastal missions were also able to ditch Spanish search parties in the mazes of the mountains here, giving credence to their description of the mountains being “of the devil,” hence the name, “Diablo Range.” Tributaries of the canyon with names such as “Hideout Canyon,” “Murderer’s Gulch,” and others allude to their mysterious pasts.
Following the Spanish and Native American era in the canyon, Mexican horse drovers from Sonora Mexico—including the infamous Joaquin Murrieta—traveled through the Gateway from the 1820s when the land was Mexico, up until United States occupation in the early 1850s. These skilled horsemen utilized Del Puerto’s many “box” canyons to stash wild mustangs until gathering them for the annual drove of up to 300 head south through the mountain trail to the next watering hole, and eventually to their hometown in Sonora, Mexico where the healthy mustangs would be sold.