Land ~ Sea Discovery Group Staff
There are not but
a few museums and galleries in the High Desert area for those
of you who are art lovers. An occasional art show, craft display
or the San Bernardino Fair may whet your appetite. But there is
one gallery you may not be aware of that is open seven days a
week, 365 days a year, and the admission is less than a half tank
A wall of Ancient Indian Petroglyph
art. (Photo by J. Brouwer)
I am referring
to the site known as Inscription Canyon, out to the west of Barstow.
It contains perhaps the largest concentration of Ancient Native
American petroglyphs in the Mojave Desert.
are rock art created by Native American peoples that are scratched,
pecked, and carved into the face of basalt rock from the lava
flows in the area. Over time a desert varnish or patina builds
on the surface of sun drenched rocks and boulders through a process
where bacteria on the rocks will absorb trace amounts of iron
and manganese and build a deposit on the rock often less than
100th of a millimeter.
American's of the area, the Southern Paiute, found this varnish
to be theperfect canvas for their art. Pecking away with bone,
antler or stone to create art that has lasted centuries. In the
Inscription Canyon area you can find complex geometric patterns,
rainstorms, big horned sheep, religious renderings, shield bearers,
and a even a piece one local has termed the "Birdman."
"Birdman." Ancient Indian
runs north and south with the ancient art on both sides. I suspect
at one time hundreds of years ago water ran through this spot
making it quite an enjoyable studio of sorts. There are many speculations
as to the reasons the art was made. Many say it was religious
shamans, whom perhaps were relaying visions, others say they document
historical events, and yet others will say it is the graffiti
of the day, simple doodles of Indians sitting by the stream perhaps
with their families enjoying the day.
We may never
know their purpose however we can certainly enjoy their beauty
in its own natural landscape. I strongly suggest you bring a camera,
water, sketchpad, and a sense of adventure on this trip. There
are many other things to see in the immediate area and it will
be a day trip to remember. A high clearance vehicle or 4-wheel
drive is recommended. Please do not remove anything from the site
except what you take in.
Inscription Canyon, from Barstow take Irwin Road north to Copper
City Road and turn left. At BLM route EF373 turn left again. The
site is about 10 miles after the turn. It is accessible by foot
in the Daily Press News.