Centennial Canyon Petroglyphs

Centennial Canyon is located in the small Coso Wilderness area that is administered by the BLM. A large portion of the Coso Mountains are off-limits to civilians due to China Lake Naval Weapons Center.

Reaching the petroglyphs in Centennial Canyon requires a several mile hike in a wash made of sand and has a number of boulder obstacles. The scenery consists of Juniper pines, Joshua trees, desert scrub, high volcanic cliffs, and an abundance of wildlife.

Birds of Prey nest high above on the canyon walls, while lizards dart from boulder to boulder under your feet. A pack of wild horses also inhabit the canyon, their presence is well observed by their prints, dung, and bones in the sandy wash. I suspect that mountain lions are in the area due to the high altitudes and the significant amounts of carnage found on the canyon floor.

The majority of petroglyphs in Centennial Canyon are concentrated in two areas. The first that you will come upon are at the spring, here a majority of the designs are of bighorn sheep. Yet there are also hand prints, paw prints, atlatls, and other designs.

At the spring you will also find evidence of modern man, in the form of a small dilapidated ranch site. A crumbling stone building, wooden fence, and metal pipes are all that are left of the ranch.

Continue an additional half mile up canyon to a natural tank at the border of the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. Here you will find an additional site made up of mostly abstract designs.


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About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.