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Title Black Canyon Sites

Archaeological evidence shows that the Black Canyon area has been used for many years by many people, in spite of its solitude today. We started at the north end and traveled west and then south.


Inscription Canyon

Inscription Canyon is not deep, wide or long. Its level sandy floor lies between two rocky walls of lava, about 20 to 30 feet high. The west wall is pictured here with the BLM sign and Jim in the foreground. There are many ancient petroglyphs, fascinating in their variety. We visualized the lake that was once in the broad valley in front of the canyon, enticing the ancient people to camp along its shores and to peck their thoughts into the rocks.


A panel with many symbols, including a crossA panel with many symbols, including a crossA panel with many symbols, including a cross

Another panel showing damage from efforts to make a mold

No one really knows the meaning of the images. Theories suggest that the ancients drew symbols as maps, as a record of their history or maybe to ensure good hunting. Perhaps their shamans recorded visions. Wild speculation suggests that the ancients may have seen spaceships.


A spiral symbol covered with desert varnish

The oldest symbols are covered with desert varnish.


A panel of bighorn sheep

How many bighorn sheep can you count in this flock?


Jim and Martin view damage caused by someone trying to make a mold of a bighorn sheep.

Jim and Martin inspected the orange residue left by someone trying to make a mold of the petroglyph. It appears that the orange latex will last a long time.


A closer look at the bighorn sheep and residue

The desert bighorn sheep is a particularly vivid one.


Another panel

Most of the the petroglyphs are in the canyon, but some are found on the rocks nearby. Darlene admired this panel east of the canyon.


Solid forms on a large boulder

The unusual solid forms are on a large boulder west of the canyon.


The Birdman Petroglyph

About a mile away we stopped to see the Birdman Petroglyph, which has been adopted by the American Institute of Archeology as its logo. Cassandra climbed up about fifteen feet for a closer view.


A closer look at Birdman


The tufa home

We took a side trip to view the fire opal mine at Scouts Cove. Martin and Cassandra are standing on top of the home that the miners carved in a tufa dome. Martin is pointing in the direction of the mine.


Cassandra, a rockhound, found small fire opals embedded in the tufa. In reading that the Tiffany Jewelry Company in New York financed the mining, we doubted that they ever made a profit.


Small fire opals in rock

The fire opals are a translucent orange color. This rock is 2 by 2 1/2 inches.


Indian cave

Natural shelters in the rock were used by Indians. Artifacts have been found in the four caves in this area, and the ceilings are blackened with smoke from long ago fires..


Black Canyon well

Silver was discovered in the Panamint Mountains in 1873. One of the main wagon roads to the desert mining communities passed through Black Canyon with an overnight stop here at Black Canyon Well. Although the well is also known as Dove Springs and Pigeon Springs, it is not a spring. It was hand-dug, probably in the 1870s. Although we have seen pictures with the water just a few feet from the surface, we had to look deep into the well to see water. While we were there, we were surprised by an extremely loud sonic boom. We spotted the aircraft as it disppeared over a ridge.


The large watering trough nearby could accommodate the thirsty teams pulling heavy freight wagons.


J. & A. Tillman signature

A. Tillman signed his name on rock four times in Black Canyon. Here he signed "A. & J. Tillman, Sep 30 1874, San Francisco, Cal". No one knows who Tillman was or why he was here. Perhaps A. & J. were brothers or husband and wife. One old-timer thought Tillman was a teamster. Maybe he was prospecting.


Foundation for stagecoach stop

A mile down the road we viewed the rock foundation of the first stagecoach stop in Black Canyon, prior to the move to Black Canyon Well. Here there was no apparent source of water.


Bugman petroglyph

This Spiderman or Bugman Petroglyph is located by itself on the side of a hill, covered with a heavy patina of desert varnish.


A. Tillman signature

A. Tillman was at the southern end of Black Canyon in July 1874. A third signature at the northern end is not dated. Mann did not seem to know where the fourth signature is located.


Rock art dated 1933A Jeep club signed in 1966

The impulse to leave messages on the rocks lingers.. While most modern additions lack beauty and often are destructive, some are well-done, inconspicuous and interesting.


Stick figures petroglyphA Black Canyon panel with graffiti

We ignored defacing marks as we appreciated the etchings from long ago. By the end of the day, we had seen a good sampling of rock art, and it was time to return to Owl Canyon for a windy night of camping.


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