The 14,450 acres that make up Fish Slough contain three habitats; wetland, seasonally-wet alkali meadows, and drier uplands. The wetlands provide a habitat for migrating birds, and the endangered Owens Valley pupfish. At the wet alkali meadows one can catch a glimpse of the Fish-Slough Milkvetch, a plant that grows nowhere else in the world. The uplands contain jumbled stone formations, created by a volcanic eruption in Long Valley, some quarter of a million years ago.
Long ago the Piute Indians collected ricegrass along the east side of Fish Slough. Seed collecting sites, and hunting camps can be found throughout the region, along with petroglyphs and even some pictographs.
The most well-known of these petroglyph sites is simply known as the “Fish Slough Petroglyphs.” The site is well-marked with a parking area off of Fish Slough Road, a barricade blocks vehicular access to the petroglyphs. Here you find a couple of dozen petroglyphs carved into the quarter of a million year old volcanic rock. Most of the petroglyphs that are found here are geometric designs. The BLM believes that these designs were, “perceived during the first stage of a shaman’s altered state of consciousness.” But considering the large number of mortars and grinding slicks around the petroglyph panels, along with nearly hunting and seed collecting camps, I’m more inclined to believe that this site was used for food processing. Not shamanistic trances as the BLM suggests.
Near the well-known Fish Slough petroglyph site, there is a not so well-known boulder containing very faded orange pictographs inside of a concave. It isn’t possible to make out what the design may have been, they are far too faded, but yet some pigment remains.