Archery in the Lower Arroyo

The history of the Pasadena Roving Archers is inextricably linked to the history of both field archery and the Lower Arroyo. Here is a timeline of significant events that have brought the PRA to where it is today.

A Hahamogna man.
A Hahamogna man.


The Hahamogna, a sub-group of the Tongva people (part of the Shoshone Nation), were hunter-gatherers and used bows and arrows. The Lower Arroyo was known as an excellent spot for hunting and fishing.

Jose Maria Verdugo is given a land grant that covers 36,000 acres, beginning at the convergence of the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River, including the western side of the Arroyo, and extending north all the way to the hills. This becomes known as Rancho San Rafael.

Alfred Chapman
Alfred Chapman

Rancho San Rafael is sold at a Sheriff’s auction to Alfred B. Chapman for a reported $58,750, after the rancho had been lost to debt by the Verdugo family. Chapman is reported to have returned the Verdugo home to the family, along with 200 acres.

Rancho San Rafael is subdivided into thirty-one sections given to twenty-eight different people, including members of the Verdugo family.

A group of wealthy transplants from the Midwest, known as “The Indiana Colony,” puts a deposit down on their first tract of land. Eventually they will lead the push to incorporate the city of Pasadena in order to shut down a saloon. In later years, they will rewrite city history to record themselves as the founders and pioneers of Pasadena rather than the farmers who settled the region decades prior.

William and Maurice Thompson create the National Archery Association.

Charles F. Lummis
Charles F. Lummis

Los Angeles Times Reporter-Editor Charles F. Lummis begins efforts to preserve Arroyo Seco as a wilderness park.

City of Pasadena is incorporated.

President Theodore Roosevelt visits Pasadena; declares that the Arroyo “might make a great park.”

Pasadena, Los Angeles, and South Pasadena together purchase 14 miles of the Arroyo to set aside as parkland. Additional tracts are donated by owners.


Pasadena Target Archers are founded. The PTA range was located on the east side of the Arroyo north of California Street.

FITA (Fédération Internationale de Tir à l’Arc), the International Archery Federation, is founded. Today known as “World Archery,” it is the governing body for international competition.

The sport of Field Archery is invented at the archery range in Redlands, a refinement of earlier “novelty” tournaments held in Michigan and Ohio. A number of Pasadena archers attended this tournament and decided to create a “roving range” in Pasadena.


Pasadena Roving Archers is founded.
Charter members include:
Henry Bitzenburger
, 1931 California State Champion, 
inventor of the Fletchmaster fletching jig and 
first inductee in the California Archery Hall of Fame;
Matilda “Babe” Bitzenburger,
 National Field Archery champion of 1941 and 1946-49;
Stew Foster, 
designer of the PRA and California Bowmen Hunters logos, and 
President of the State Archers of California in 1945.

1938 flood
1938 flood

Massive flooding in Arroyo. Death toll reaches 114.

Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling adventure Robin Hood is filmed in the Lower Arroyo. Legendary archer Howard Hill (a PRA member) serves as archery instructor to Flynn, performs all the trick shooting in the film, and plays the Captain of the Guard who competes against Robin in the tournament.

National Field Archery Association is created.

Flood control channel in the Arroyo is completed.

California Bowmen hunters is created by the Northern California Field Archers and the Southern California Field Archers in order to create a single statewide organization to represent and promote the sport of archery.

The PRA Clubhouse in 1971.
The PRA Clubhouse in 1971.

PRA clubhouse is constructed. Membership 
averages 300 throughout the 1940s.

Sagittarius Broadhead Club is founded in Sylmar as a private archery-based country club.

Pasadena hosts the Fourth Annual National Archery Association tournament, which draws over 1500 spectators and participants.

Henry Bitzenberger's Fletchmaster fletching jig
Henry Bitzenberger’s Fletchmaster fletching jig

Henry Bitzenburger invents Fletchmaster fletching jig, allowing amateur archers to easily construct their own arrows.

The Sagittarius Broadhead Club, failing to attract enough members to support the country club model, relocates to Pasadena, occupying the area just north of the PRA range.

The Southern California Open Invitational Field Archery Tournament, the first archery tournament in the United States to offer a cash prize ($500), is held on the PRA range, attracting over 500 spectators.

Pasadena Roving Archers, Inc. is incorporated.

Griffith Municipal Archers lose use of their range in Griffith Park; relocate to Pasadena, sharing facilities with PRA. They depart in 1960.

There are over 40 archery clubs in Southern California, located in the cities of Baldwin Hills, Barstow, Bellflower, Burbank, Canoga Park, Carson, Duarte, El Monte, Encinitas, Fullerton, Inglewood, Lancaster, La Verne, Long Beach, Ontario, Pacoima, Pasadena, Pomona, Redondo Beach, San Diego, San Bernardino, Southgate, Torrance, Ventura, and Verdugo Hills.

PRA membership declines to 16.

Saturday morning archery class, 1985.
Saturday morning archery class, 1985.

PRA begins offering free archery lessons to all interested persons on Sunday afternoons.

Increasing popularity of off-road dirt bikes forces PRA to ask the city to ban motorcycles in the Lower Arroyo.

Pasadena City Council decides to reject channelization of last remaining stretch of natural riverbed, north of Colorado Street Bridge.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

PRA begins Saturday morning instruction program. Stuntman Paul McWilliams solicits donations from cast and crew of ABC’s “The F.B.I” to purchase equipment. Star Efrem Zimbalist Jr., an archer as well as an actor, also sponsors a monthly tournament, a 20-yard competition open to all ages.

PRA hosts “Sugar Ray Robinson Day” to support the Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation, established in 1970 by the former Welter- and Middle-Weight Boxing World Champion. Attendees include Pasadena Mayor Donald Yokaitis, U.S. Marshal Gaylord Campbell, actor Iron Eyes Cody, the Executive Secretary of the NFAA, and several of the most prominent archers of the time.

Devil’s Gate Dam is declared unsafe following Sylmar earthquake.

PRA officers present a plaque from the National Archery Association to the city of Pasadena for their support of archery.
NFAA Executive Secretary Erv Belt presents a plaque from the National Archery Association to the Ron Townsend, Director of Parks for the city of Pasadena, in recognition of the city’s support of archery.

The National Field Archery Association presents the City of Pasadena with a plaque in honor of the city’s service to the sport of archery.

Pasadena Parks and Recreation Department locks the gate to the Pasadena Target Archers range. Within a few months, the club disbands, leaving PRA as the oldest archery club in Pasadena.

PRA signs an agreement with Pasadena Parks and Recreation Department to offer archery instruction as a recreation program.

Arroyo Seco Ordinance is passed, prohibiting any future sale of Arroyo property.

PRA’s clubhouse is burglarized five times in six months.

A local resident attempts to convince the city to shut down the archery range. The city rejects the effort, amends the municipal code to specifically permit archery in the Lower Arroyo and posts new signs on the range to discourage walking in front of targets.

Browning Ferris begins Lower Arroyo Stream Restoration Project which established low flow streams on each side of the flood control channel for 0.8 miles in Lower Arroyo.


Janet Dykeman
Janet Dykeman

PRA member Janet Dykman competes in the Atlanta Olympics. She later competed in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics.

Devil’s Gate Dam is rehabilitated by Los Angeles County in a $10 million project that expands the spillway and grouts and buttresses the dam to current standards.

PRA Clubhouse after the fire.
PRA Clubhouse after the fire.

Arsonists destroy PRA clubhouse and all equipment for Saturday classes.

Pasadena adopts Lower Arroyo Master Plan.

Pasadena Roving Archers has over 100 members. 
Approximately 90 students attend each Saturday class, teaching over 1300 first time archers per year, representing over 125 Zip codes.  30% of our attendees are adult women.


Zoe Saldana training on the archery range.
Zoe Saldana training on the archery range.

PRA coaches Mike Burnham and Van Webster train actors Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Laz Alonso and Peter Mensah for the sci-fi epic Avatar.

Women’s Health Magazine features the archery range in a feature entitled “Urban Escapes: Cool outdoor adventures inside your city limits”.

SHAPE magazine features archer Stana Katic.
SHAPE magazine features archer Stana Katic.

Actress and PRA archer Stana Katic , star of ABC Television’s Castle, is featured on page 41 of the March 2010 issue of Shape magazine in an archery-themed photo spread shot at the Lower Arroyo.

Coach Van Webster appears in an ad for Las Vegas as part of the “Camp Vegas” tourism campaign.

The same neighbor who had tried to shut down the range 20 years earlier tries again, this time gaining some traction with a few prominent citizens. PRA successfully (so far) protects the existence of the range and their instruction program.

Merida shows her skill and inspires thousands of young archers.
Merida shows her skill and inspires thousands of young archers.

Archery becomes one of the fastest-growing sports in America following the release of Brave, the Hunger Games and Avengers. Attendance at archery classes increases by 25-50% nationwide and equipment retailers are back-ordered on bows for months. At PRA, participation by women ages 18-34 doubles in a matter of months. The children’s program quadruples in size.

PRA's Junior Olympic Archery Development program at the State championship in Tulare.
PRA’s Junior Olympic Archery Development program at the State championship in Tulare.

The PRA sends nine youth archers to the state championship in Tulare; three earn medals.

PRA membership is over 400, and the instruction program serves over 10,000 people per year, at least 1600 of them children.

Celebrating the art of the Bow and Arrow in the historic Lower Arroyo since 1935