Petroglyph Paradise – The Volcanic Tablelands of Bishop, California
Update April 24, 2015: Looking for the location of the sacred petroglyph (rock art) sites in the Volcanic Tablelands/Chalfant areas? I have recently heard the very sad and disturbing news that a portion of one of the major ancient petroglyph sites was vandalized with a rock saw, then stolen. In a phone conversation today with a former Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employee and current staff member of the Bishop Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau, it was requested that I remove the Google Earth screenshots previously included in this blog post to deter further desecration. It is very unfortunate that there are so many people who have no respect for our cultural heritage, Native American art and sacred places. Therefore, I have removed the screenshots as requested.
If you want information on locations, please contact the Bishop Visitor’s Center directly. They are located at 690 North Main Street in Bishop (phone 760-873-8405). The BLM brochure (see original post below) is now available at the visitor’s center; however, there is a vetting process to go through to ensure the future integrity of these sacred sites. In addition, I was asked to provide links to a YouTube video In the Field at Fish Slough (you can watch the video at the bottom of this post) as well as the California Archaeological Site Stewardship Program. I will continue to add more photos as I have time to process them.
Original 2011 post: The Eastern Sierras of California is a paradise for photographers and nature lovers alike. From the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine where classic Westerns were filmed, to the old ghost mining town of Bodie just south of Bridgeport, the Highway 395 corridor has it all. A favorite vacation spot of mine is the Owens Valley town of Bishop, centrally located near spectacular attractions such as the Bristlecone Pine Forest, Death Valley, Mammoth Lakes, Manzanar, the White Mountains, Mono Lake and much more. Bishop lies beneath the Inyo National Forest, along the Owens River just east of The Buttermilks, a well-known bouldering destination populated with volcanic tuff and granite rocks. Bishop is also the location of Mountain Light Gallery, which houses the work of the late, internationally renowned photographer and rock climber Galen Rowell – perhaps one of the best landscape photographers of all time.
Just north of Bishop lies the Volcanic Tablelands, another rock climbing paradise. According to the Bureau of Land Management Bishop field office, the Volcanic Tablelands is a vast volcanic landscape that was formed over 700,000 years ago by materials spewing from the Long Valley caldera, located to the northwest. In this arid, high desert landscape, the Paiute-Shoshone Indians once resided, leaving behind an extensive collection of perfectly chiseled petroglyphs in the rocks. As someone who has always been attracted to Native American Indian art and culture, the Volcanic Tablelands are high on my list of favorite petroglyph sites to visit and photograph.
Just where are these petroglyphs located? Actually all around the Volcanic Tablelands and neighboring Chalfant Valley off Highway 6. However, there are several areas where the petroglyphs are concentrated: Chidago Canyon, Fish Slough, Chalfant Valley and Red Rock Canyon. Unfortunately, due to disrespectful vandalism and defacing problems, these beautiful petroglyph sites are no longer marked. I was fortunate to speak with a staff member at the Bishop Chamber of Commerce who pointed me in the right direction. He understood, being a photographer himself. You can also check at the Bishop Bureau of Land Management (BLM) field office or White Mountains ranger station for assistance, where you may or may not get directions (please see the April 2015 update at the top of this post).
These 2007 photographs were taken in and around Chidago Canyon and Fish Slough Road. Some were converted to black and white. The one above, Another Secret Story, has a canvas texture overlay added for artistic effect. The image below depicts a very cool Easter Egg hidden in Red Rock Canyon – a rock carving of a miner wielding a pick axe. Hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed visiting and photographing the petroglyphs. More images will be added as I have time to process them.
Below is some additional information on the area taken from a portion of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) brochure, which is now available at the Bishop Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center (please see the April 2015 update at the top of this post). Please, these are very fragile and historic petroglyphs and they should be treated with the utmost respect. The road begins north of Bishop off Highway 6 and Five Bridges Road, by proceeding north on Fish Slough Road where several sites are concentrated. There are numerous natural wonders in the Volcanic Tablelands to be discovered, including gorgeous Red Rock Canyon.
Please see the following YouTube video In the Field at Fish Slough. In the Field is a video visit with a BLM-California manager at work in the field. In this video, we visit a Fish Slough petroglyphs site with Kirk Halford at the Fish Slough Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Mr. Halford takes you on a tour of one of the earliest recorded petroglyph sites in the western United States. A fitting way to mark the 2009 anniversary of the ARPA (Archaeological Resource Protection Act).