Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fossil Falls

North of Ridgecrest, just off the 395 to the east, Fossil Falls provides a fascinating window to the past. The cinder cone above is located on the road in. (It's being mined for cinders--the red rock called scoria that is used in landscaping, etc. The photo above carefully does not show the mining operation.)

12,000 years ago, volcanic activity dammed the Owens River and caused it to flow through this area. The water polished black basalt rocks and sculpted them into fantastic shapes. The falls themselves drop 40 feet. The drama of it all is hard to capture in a picture--one would have to climb to the bottom of the falls and shoot upwards, a daunting proposition.

Here's a long view to give you an idea of what the landscape looks like. Ancient people inhabited this place from Pleistocene times. It had everything--abundant water, plenty of food sources and even an obsidian quarry nearby for making arrowheads.

Ever on the lookout for petroglyphs, we busily scoured the area but had no luck until a friendly fellow pointed out this one of a bighorn sheep. It was right on the side of the falls in a depression just large enough for one person. Not surprisingly, the style of the petroglyph exactly matches what we've seen in nearby Little Petroglyph Canyon. Below: another view of the polished basalt rocks.