RC Ranch Rock Art (Sand to Snow National Monument)

In February, I had the opportunity to visit several Native American sites that are spread out over a two-mile radius in the Pioneertown area. The sites sit along the edge of an ancient water way that flowed between two volcanic mesas several hundred to thousands of years ago. The Serrano Indians inhabited this region during the winter months, along with nearby Johnson and Lucerne Valleys. During the summer months they retreated to higher elevations in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Across the two-mile radius I located nearly a dozen sites. With such a high density of both “rock art” and other evidence of habitation in such a small area it is likely that there are dozens of other sites that I have yet to locate. Many of these sites contain a large number of mortars, man-made circular depression in stone, used be the Natives for food processing. Several of the mortars are over a foot deep, and six inches or more in diameter, suggesting that the area was used extensively over a prolonged period.

 

RC Ranch Rock Art - Pictograph panel (unenhanced)

RC Ranch Rock Art – Pictograph panel (unenhanced)

 

RC Ranch Rock Art - An interesting cupule site, possibly a star map?

RC Ranch Rock Art – An interesting cupule site, possibly a star map?

 

RC Ranch Rock Art - The above cupule site is neatly tucked away in this hollowed out granite boulder.

RC Ranch Rock Art – The above cupule site is neatly tucked away in this hollowed out granite boulder.

 

RC Ranch Rock Art - A pottery sherd found in one of many rock shelters in the area.

RC Ranch Rock Art – A pottery sherd found in one of many rock shelters in the area.

 

My favorite sites is located in the concave of a large boulder, a series of cupules lay out what appears to be a map in a large star like pattern.¬† Cupules are very interesting, and are not all that common in the California Desert regions. They are credited as being the original and oldest form of “rock art,” which could date this site significantly.

Petroglyphs are very common among the outcroppings of boulders, and are often found grouped together with the mortar sites. A singular pictograph site was also located under an overhang. The design painted in red ochre, consisting of over a dozen hand prints of various size, and a large red anthropomorphic figure.

The RC Ranch site is one of the nicest and largest sites on public land in the Morongo Basin. With such a diverse variety of sites in such a small area a lot of ground can be covered in a short period. If you visit it please respect it.

In February of 2016 the RC Ranch site became part of the newly created Sand to Snow National Monument.

 

RC Ranch Rock Art - A set of shallow mortars, and a panel of petroglyphs adorn the wall behind them.

RC Ranch Rock Art – A set of shallow mortars, and a panel of petroglyphs adorn the wall behind them.

 

RC Ranch Rock Art - A large panel of petroglyphs

RC Ranch Rock Art – A large panel of petroglyphs

 

RC Ranch Rock Art - A petroglyph panel that is tucked into a rock shelter.

RC Ranch Rock Art – A petroglyph panel that is tucked into a rock shelter.

 

RC Ranch Rock Art - Three well-worn mortar holes

RC Ranch Rock Art – Three well-worn mortar holes

 

 

Secret Places in the Mojave Desert Vol. 7

 

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.

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