Indian Wells Canyon Pictographs

The Indian Wells Canyon pictographs were discovered in 1968 by Grant, Baird and Pringle during field reconnaissance in the Southern Sierra Nevada. The attributes of these pictographs tie them to “Coso style” rock art. The designs are painted with orange and white pigments, many are still vibrant, and visible without the use of any enhancement.

One of the more intriguing designs is a horse and a rider wearing a hat. This design dates these pictographs to a time after white settlers had arrived in the region. Previous to the discovery of this site, it was believed that no “Coso style” rock art was created during this time period.

Local archaeologist, Dr. Alan Gold, has speculated that the Indian Wells Canyon site may represent the Ghost Dance, which was popularized by the Plains Indians around 1890. The Ghost Dance was originated by the Paiute in Nevada in 1899.










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.


  • This is a very neat site to visit. Here’s a recent visit my wife and I made Feb 2012.

    What I see in these pictographs requires a large stretch of the imagination. The jagged line represents the jagged ridgeline directly above where this boulders resides in Indian Wells Canyon, and as such the overall scene represents the history of IWC. The scene is a creation/history story, and is read from right to left. The two tiny stick figures on the right represent the first two people to arrive in Indian Wells Canyon. The two giants and the shield represent the “great spirits” that overlook and protect IWC and its occupants. And proceeding to the far left represents the modern lives of the late occupants (as when this painting was made).

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