“Pictograph Cove” in the Eastern Mojave

 

Back in May on 2014 I was invited to document a rather large “rock art” site in the Eastern Mojave Desert, but there was one stipulation – the location and any identifying traits were to remain a mystery to my readers. I agreed to these terms, seeing that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see it and share it at least in this form with you.

It has taken me over half of the year to present this site to you, mostly because I have never been happy with the photographs. As an aspiring photographer, it is important to me that I only show work that I am happy with. I have concluded in this case that this thought process does you, and this magnificent site a disservice.

As a disclaimer, this site is on private property; a research facility, which carries out important studies on the biology of the Mojave Desert.  Any disturbance could be detrimental to the important work that is being performed here.  If by some chance you are able to identify the location and you attempt to visit it, you will be caught. The facility has no qualms in regard to pressing charges. You have been warned.

 

A large panel of petroglyphs in "Pictograph Cove".

A large panel of petroglyphs in “Pictograph Cove”.

 

Close up of the large abstract petroglyph boulder.

Close up of the large abstract petroglyph boulder.

 

Close up of the upper right portion of the petroglyph panel.

Close up of the upper right portion of the petroglyph panel.

 

The Eastern Mojave Desert is a very quiet place. There are no major cities, only small desert communities and isolated ranches. A large portion of this region became a federal preserve in 1994, known as the Mojave National Preserve. Prior to the creation of the Preserve the area was teeming with mining activity, and prior to that, in the mid-1800s early settlers made their way across the Mojave Road under the watchful eye of the US Army. The Army set up several forts, or camps to ensure travelers made it safely across the desert, without interference from the local Native tribes.

In essence the Mojave Road was stolen from the Indians, it was their trade route, leading from the Colorado River to the Mojave River.  This was the land of the Mohave, and the Chemehuevi. The two tribes co-existed very well, sharing the few resources that the desert provided. This held true, until the Chemehuevi and Mohave went to war with each other in the 1860s. The Chemehuevi would eventually retreat, and relocate to what is modern-day Twenty-nine Palms.

Both of these tribes left their mark upon the land in the form of petroglyphs and pictographs, pecked or painted designs on rock. In this particular region, there is one specific mountain range which has been deemed to hold the highest concentration of pictographs in all the Mojave Desert, and that range happens to be the home of “Pictograph Cove.”

 

Orange and red pictographs painted on the ceiling of the rock shelter.

Orange and red pictographs painted on the ceiling of the rock shelter.

 

One of several intricately painted designs.

One of several intricately painted designs.

 

Pictographs covering the ceiling of the rock shelter in "Pictograph Cove".

Pictographs covering the ceiling of the rock shelter in “Pictograph Cove”.

 

Many elements have began to flake away due to natural erosion.

Many elements have began to flake away due to natural erosion.

 

“Pictograph Cove,” not the sites real name, is unique in several ways. The large rock shelter contains hundreds of painted designs, and several dozen pecked. Some of the painted designs are small and intricate, having likely been painted utilizing a fine brush (of human hair), while the others resemble the typical thick lines associated with a majority of Mojave Desert pictographs.

The particular style of the designs present, are in line with the standard Chemehuevi style of pictographs, which can be found throughout this region, and as far south as Joshua Tree National Park.

I hope that you enjoy the rare opportunity to see some of the magnificent designs of “Pictograph Cove,” as much as I enjoyed having the opportunity to be able to bring them to you.

 

Despite the natural erosion process, portions of the design remain (for now).

Despite the natural erosion process, portions of the design remain (for now).

 

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.

3 Comments

  • As expected, wonderful pictures!

    And while it would be amazing to view the site in person, the fact it is well protected is great.

  • While traversing the East Mojave along the Mojave Road I was able to stay on private land in Carruthers Canyon. There I saw many small petroglyphs and even two pictographs in the boulders of the “cove” I camped in. This is on signed and private property, and some restoration of the old ranch home is being done.

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