The Corn Springs petroglyph site is a public rock art site located in the Chuckwalla Mountains of the Colorado Desert. The difference between a public rock art site and a “non-public” site is that the general public is aware of the site, and visitation is encouraged rather than discouraged. I’ve had interest in visiting the Corn Springs site for the better part of the last year, however I rarely find myself traveling to this area. Finally on the first sweltering day of 2014, I decided to venture down to the low-desert to pay this site a visit.
Corn Springs is considered to be the eastern border of the Desert Cahuilla, and the western boundary of the Colorado River based Yuman people. It is indicated on the BLM’s website that the Chemehuevi also inhabited the palm oasis about 1,100 A.D.. A majority of the petroglyphs have been dated to around 1,500 years ago, which would have predated the Chemehuevi inhabitation. Many of the designs fall in the Grapevine style (once known as the Colorado River Style), the Grapevine style is recognized by its emphasis on rectilinear, symmetrical and geometric design forms. Those here that do not fit into the typical Grapevine style are considered entoptic. Keith Edley of Entheology.com explains entoptic images as follows, “The term ‘entoptic’ comes from the Greek for ‘within vision’, indicating that the images come from anywhere within the optic system, between the eye itself and the neural cortex where signals from the optic nerve are interpreted. Since it originates within the visual system, entoptic imagery can only be seen by the observer.”
There are several hundred petroglyph designs located on both the north and south-facing canyon walls, with the highest concentration located directly before arriving at the oasis. Some of the panels have been defaced by careless vandals, however a majority of the petroglyphs are still in good shape, and vandalism free. Be sure to fully explore both sides of the canyon, and look in every nook and cranny. Some of the nicest panels are located in sections not visible while front facing the walls.
The palm oasis received the name Corn Springs, because when the first white people arrived in the area, there was an abundance of feral corn growing near the spring. Corn not being a native plant to the desert region, would have been traded with tribes east of the Colorado River. Trails that once served as a trade route between the Colorado River Tribes and the Pacific Coast Tribes cuts directly through the oasis. Remnants of these trails are still visible today, particularly two-miles up canyon from the oasis.
The site is administered by the BLM. Access is via Corn Springs Rd., a 7.5 mile graded dirt road. An exit for Corn Springs Rd. is located 9.31 miles east of Desert Center. A campground is located at the palm oasis, which includes fire pits, picnic tables, and pit toilets.
Vandals be aware that many of these sites are now utilizing field cameras. You will get caught if you deface rock art! Penalties for defacing Rock Art can include a year in jail and fines up to $100,000. Petroglyphs and Pictographs are ancient national treasures and should be treated as such.