Piute Creek Petroglyphs (Mojave National Preserve)

Long before the Mojave Road was used by white settlers to cross the Mojave Desert, this route was used by the native people to travel between the Mojave Desert and the Colorado River. Evidence of this trail, in the form of petroglyphs (ie: rock art) can be found at the many springs and natural wells that are found along the route. Piute Creek, which was taken from the native people in the late 1850’s by the U.S. military, in order to establish Fort Beale (later renamed Fort Piute), was one of these watering holes.

Water still flows at Piute Creek, it is the only stream that flows year-round in the Mojave National Preserve. Cottonwood trees dot the bank of the stream, while yucca, cholla cactus, and other desert plants thrive in surrounding Piute Canyon.

Archeological evidence has shown that the area around Piute Creek had been in use by humans for as long as several thousand years. The Native people may have very likely planted crops of corn, melons, and other edibles along the banks of this creek.

Piute Creek feel within the territory of the Chemehuevi, the southernmost branch of the Piute.  Their traditional territory spanned the High Desert from the Colorado River on the east to the Tehachapi Mountains on the west and from the Las Vegas area and Death Valley on the north to the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains in the south. Despite being the territory of the Chemehuevi, it is more than likely that the petroglyphs found along Piute Creek was placed here by various tribes, because of the established trade route. This would likely include the Mohave (whom lived in Chemehuevi territory), and even the Anasazi (Four-Corners region), as evidence has placed them in the area from 500 – 1000 A.D., trading for turquoise.

Whomever was here, left behind many messages from the past, sadly for those of us today, these messages can not be properly translated; but they can still be enjoyed in the form of an art and/or ancient language.



Interested in visiting this site?

BOOK OPTION: The Piute Creek Petroglyphs  are featured in Secret Places in the Mojave Desert Vol. IV. Detailed maps, and GPS coordinates are included.  Order your copy 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.