Landmarks from Irvine’s past still exist, you just need to know where to look for them.
For example, nestled within the Village of Turtle Rock is the actual rock formation that gives the community its name. This ancient outcropping predates the quiet, planned neighborhood that surrounds it by 2,000 years. It used to stand alone on the hill overlooking the University of California at Irvine as a landmark that was visible for miles. Today, it is part of a small community park located, appropriately, on Rockview Drive.
The formation gets its name from its unique shape; it looks like the head of a turtle peeking out from its shell. The Gabrielino people, also known as Tongva, had more than a dozen villages on what is now the Irvine Ranch, long before Spanish explorers claimed the land. The Turtle Rock was revered and thought to be an important ceremonial place.
When the land became a working agricultural ranch, the rock appeared on local maps as “Frog Rock.” Apparently locals thought it looked more like an amphibian than a reptile. In 1967, when residential development came to this part of the Irvine Ranch, the Irvine Company considered removing the 60 feet wide rock formation, which is estimated to weigh 20 tons. After protests from the Pacific Coast Archeological Society, the rock was spared.
The Turtle Rock became a popular climbing spot with the new residents of Irvine. This disturbed the local Gabrielino-Tongva people who thought this was a desecration of an important sacred site. They sanctified the Turtle Rock on August 19, 1984 and held religious ceremonies to bless the area. This didn’t stop curious children and climbers who found the easy slope of the rock to be an irresistible challenge. Tribal leaders asked the City of Irvine to put a protective fence around the Turtle Rock.
The city responded by placing a natural boundary of bougainvillea and other plant material. There is also a sign that asks would-be climbers to respect the
sacred nature of the rock. Today the Turtle Rock sits on its hillside as a silent witness to dramatic change. Whether it resembles a frog or a turtle, this rock formation is part of Irvine history, even if it requires a bit of a hunt to find it.
Finding the Turtle Rock:
Take a Left on Turtle Rock Drive from Campus.
Make the first left on Hillgate and then a right on Rockview.
The Turtle Rock is in a small park on the right.