This post is third in a series.
Read the first here: The Carrizo Experience: Ten Hours on the Plain I: Ruminants on the Range.
The Pictographs of Painted Rock
Author’s note: The photos of Painted Rock shared in this post were taken in August 2010. They are used here in lieu of the photo set taken at the time of this most recent visit, which were far too inferior in comparison due to the poor lighting and conditions that day.
Painted Rock sits like the tip of an iceberg poking above a sea of undulating grassland. The first time I made the journey to the site before it became a national monument, all I knew was that there was a massive monolith somewhere along the southern side of the Carrizo Plain that was adorned with Native American pictographs.
After arriving at the eastern entrance to the plain I drove slowly down the dirt road looking for the sandstone formation. It’s about thirty miles from the beginning of the monument to Soda Lake and Painted Rock is across from the lake. I had no idea how far to drive. After some 40 minutes of creeping up the plain and looking for a landmark that never showed, I had long begun to question where the hell I was going and how I was ever going to find the rock.
Then, finally, the grayish mounded form of Painted Rock emerged from the grassland far off toward the base of the Caliente Range. That is how the monolith so lavished with attention from humanity since ancient times appears to modern day visitors as they approach. Though set in an open expanse of treeless terrain in a landscape of few rocks, it is tucked within the rumples of the land and somewhat hidden from view.
A view of the interior wall that holds or held some of the most notable pictographs. Historically, the rock art panel appears to have span some 30 to 40 feet in length. Following below is a small selection of some of the many pictographs to be found on Painted Rock.