The first peoples of the Mojave Desert used a rich language of symbolism that could be interpreted by others. Petroglyphs dot rocky landscape throughout the desert and are a remnant of the past. They can be hundreds to thousands of years old.
Some petroglyphs contain images of bighorn sheep, deer, reptiles, birds, insects, plants and trees. Others represent human-like stick and solid body images along with various baskets, masks, shields and hand designs. It is thrilling when you spot petroglyphs, or rarer pictographs made from pigmented minerals to rock surfaces, on basalt boulders.
One such area you will find many petroglyphs is the Black Mountain Rock Art District, northwest of Barstow, California. Inscription Canyon has the highest concentration of petroglyphs in the Black Mountain Rock Art District, many dating to 12,000 years old.
Petroglyphs are found here due to the presence of lava rock and minerals suitable for “rock art” activities. Deposits of quartz and other very hard minerals made this a popular area for making stone tools and engraving instruments.
While motorized travel is prohibited in some canyons leading to wilderness areas, hikers can leave the main dirt road to discover mysteries of those who once roamed this ancient land.
The Black Mountain Rock Art District has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is protected by federal law against vandalism and the removal of artifacts to the fullest extent of the law.
Never touch petroglyphs with your hands. Do not make etchings or add any markings. Leave petroglyphs alone for others to enjoy! Please remember, take only photographs and leave only footprints! Respect Native heritage.
If you plan to backpack and camp overnight in the designated Wilderness Area, contact http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/barstow.html for wilderness permits and BLM maps. They can inform you about any possible restrictions, trails closures and advise on the best spots for viewing more native rock art in the Mojave Desert.