Kawaiisu camp in the El Paso Mountains

 

In early 2013, while out hiking in the El Paso Mountains outside of Ridgecrest, I found a small Native American camp. I have never gotten around to posting it, because I forgot about it; and recently rediscovered the photographs on my hard drive. Unfortunately that also means that I don’t remember the location of the camp, but I assume that it was in the north-west portion of the range.

Based on the territory of the camp, it was most likely inhabited by the Desert Kawaiisu; previously known as just the Kawaiisu. Recent research has introduced the idea that there was Kawaiisu that inhabited the desert year round, and the Kawaiisu of the Tehachapi Mountains only occasionally ventured into the desert landscape. While the two shared a culture, they didn’t so much share in territory.

What little I do remember with the help of the rediscovered photographs, is that the camp site was very small; it likely supported only a handful of people. This would suggest that the camp was not used full-time, but rather used when hunting or traveling in the area, away from the main village site. There are no petroglyphs present; yet there are several metates, a mortar, stone circles (used in the construction of wickiups), and several boulders with scratches.

For information on other Kawaiisu village and rock art sites see the following posts: Terese, Sheep Springs, Goler Gulch, and Black Mountain.

 

Kawaiisu camp in the El Paso Mountains - Ground down basalt boulder.

Kawaiisu camp in the El Paso Mountains – Ground down basalt boulder.

 

Kawaiisu camp in the El Paso Mountains - Ground down basalt boulder; a matate in the works.

Kawaiisu camp in the El Paso Mountains – Ground down basalt boulder; a metate in the works.

 

Kawaiisu camp in the El Paso Mountains - A single mortar, which is not very deep. Likely indicates sporadic use of the camp site.

Kawaiisu camp in the El Paso Mountains – A single mortar, which is not very deep. Likely indicates sporadic use of the camp site.

 

Kawaiisu camp in the El Paso Mountains - Evidence of scratching, or rubbing.

Kawaiisu camp in the El Paso Mountains – Evidence of scratching, or rubbing.

 

Kawaiisu camp in the El Paso Mountains

Kawaiisu camp in the El Paso Mountains

 

Kawaiisu camp in the El Paso Mountains - Stone circle.

Kawaiisu camp in the El Paso Mountains – Stone circle.

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.

  • Bruce Wolfe

    Jim, what is the best starting point to climb Black Mountain? I realize it is a wilderness area so parking would have to be at the boundary line. I enjoy your comments and posts. Keep up the good work!

  • J

    Bruce, not sure where the wilderness boundary line falls, but I’ve
    followed jeep tracks up to 35° 27.333’N 117° 50.379’W Depending on your
    direction of travel into the area, you might have clearance issues
    reaching the above coordinates.

    And Jim, love the site!

    Cheers,

    — J