For thousands of years, our site was home to the Cahuilla Indians, who left behind substantial archeologically significant evidence of their presence. We have taken steps to protect these sites and the Cahuilla legacy, living in harmony with the natural world surrounding us.
In the 1880s the land was annexed by the US Government, and later sold as homesteads. In the early 1900s, John Keen (Keen Camp Summit) bought the property developed it into a camp. Eventually his family built a resort known as Tahquitz Lodge.
In the 1920s the Tahquitz Lodge and mountains and meadows surrounding it were used a shooting location for filmmaking pioneers, who shot many westerns on and around the property. Mary Pickford, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, John Wayne, Elvis Presley and Katharine Hepburn filmed here, among others. The ruins of the lodge can be seen in the center of the property which has been renamed “Court of Friends”, and a prop chimney built for a film shot in the 1920s can be seen in Johnson Meadow.
On an Autumn day in 1980, Emily Jo Beard visited the area for the first time and recognized that her vision of giving life to as many orphaned animals as possible could begin here. She purchased the land and donated it to the cause. Living Free Animal Sanctuary began with ten dogs, five cats and Emily. She added the kennels, catteries and other support buildings to carry on the vision “to provide refuge and to bless our fellow creatures. If homes cannot be found for them, they will live out their lives in dignity and peace at Living Free.”