Chidago Canyon Petroglyphs

The Volcanic Tablelands outside of the small Eastern Sierra town of Bishop, CA is a treasure trove of Native American history. 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.

The Chidago Canyon site is just one of many of these types of sites scattered across the 580 acre area that make up the Tablelands, and thought to possibly be the oldest. It is one of the more frequently visited sites due to ease of access along the well graded Fish Slough Road.  Because of the ease of access this site has seen a ridiculous amount of vandalism over the years, from petroglyphs being used as target practice, to a giant penis carved into the wall beside the petroglyphs. These shameful acts along with the cutting out of a petroglyph at another nearby site has led to the rock art sites in the Bishop region becoming more hush-hush, and less frequently shared with outsiders.

 

Rainy day at the Volcanic Tablelands.

Rainy day at the Volcanic Tablelands.

 

 

 

 

 

Containing around one hundred petroglyphs in a very concentrated area, the Chidago site is one of the biggest and most dense sites in the immediate area.  BLM has offered the following description of the petroglyphs at Chidago, “Most are also entoptic patterns, while a few represent lizards and rattlesnakes. Among the geometric patterns, there are concentric circles as well as spirals. These whirlwind patterns have a previously defined cultural meaning. At the beginning of a shaman’s spiritual journey, he is supposed to be swept up into the sky by a whirlwind, which aids him in his quest. The association of these designs with focused spiritual power implies their creator used this energy in a healing capacity.”

If traveling to Chidago, the road is dirt, but 4×4 or high clearance is not necessary. A standard passenger car can reach the site with ease, weather permitting.

 

"Newspaper Rock"

“Newspaper Rock”

 

Spiral petroglyph used as target practice by some uneducated redneck.

Spiral petroglyph used as target practice by some uneducated redneck.

 

 

 

 

A giant penis carved into the same outcropping as the petroglyphs.

A giant penis carved into the same outcropping as the petroglyphs.

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.