Chalfant Petroglyphs


The Chalfant Petroglyphs are located along a volcanic tuff outcropping in Chalfant Valley; part of the Volcanic Tablelands. Out of all of the sites in the Tablelands the Chalfant site is the easiest to access, located roughly 16 miles north of the town of Bishop, and just a couple of miles off of Highway 6. A good dirt road leads to the site from the highway, where a barrier has been installed to keep vehicles out of the fragile cultural site.

Around 8,000 years ago this region was settled by the ancestors of the Bishop Paiute – Shoshone tribe. Over the course of thousands of years these earliest settlers left messages carved and painted on the three-quarter of a million year old volcanic rock across the region.




Out of all of the public sites in the Tablelands, Chalfant is the largest and most unique. Carved into the tuff cliffs are several large circles which contain geometric symbols carved inside of them. Large sickle looking objects, which likely represent some sort of animal adorn the walls of the gallery. Petroglyphs of the vagina are in large concentration, and probably the most repeated design along the mile long stretch of ancient carvings.







The fact that the vagina is so well represented here may indicate that the Chalfant site was once used as a puberty, and/or fertility ritual site. But it has also been suggested in recent archeological research that the vagina representations found in the Great Basin territory have nothing to do with puberty/fertility rituals, but rather that shamans were essentially sexually deviant perverts that young girls were warned to keep a distance from. Being a skeptic of much of the more recent archaeological findings I find myself leaning more toward the idea of this having been a place for the well documented puberty/fertility rituals, rather than a shamanistic porno gallery.








Whatever the overall meaning is of the symbolism found at Chalfant, I believe that it is safe to assume based on the significant number and uniqueness of the petroglyphs that this was/is a very important site.

Overall there are thousands of petroglyphs that adorn a mile long stretch of the cliff. Don’t be fooled by the barrier installed at the “main panel,” continue to follow the cliff north and you will find several additional panels, some nearly the size of the large “main panel.”






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.