Fish Slough Petroglyph Panel, Bishop, California

7 December 2009

Fish Slough Petroglyph panel and the Bishop Petroglyph driving loop are located just north of the town of Bishop, California in the northern end of the Owens valley. The road is well-maintained and passable in just about any vehicle in dry weather. The entire loop from the town, up Fish Slough Road, and back to Bishop on Highway 6 is about 42 miles in length. Traveling on Highway 6, towards Tonapah, Nevada, the first panel is about 11 miles north of Bishop. This is the Fish Slough panel.  Next is the Chidago panel, about 4 more miles ahead. The final panel is the Red Rock panel, about 6 miles beyond Chidago panel. Unfortunately I was just driving by, with limited time, and was only able to visit the Fish Slough panel. I visited at the worst time for photography- during mid-day, and as a result my images have been adjusted in Photoshop to enhance the rock art.

The Fish Slough area is set between the Sierra Nevada on the west and the White Mountains on the east. Fish Slough is a wetland at the mouth of the Owens River. Because of the river and wetland, the area is rich with wildlife and other sources of food and likely was seen as such by native inhabitants.

The terrain was formed by volcanic activity, both intrusive and extrusive. The valley floor is decomposing volcanic tuff from pyroclastic flows which occurred about 750,000 years ago.  The Fish Slough Petroglyphs are found on the surface of this hardened ashflow, known as the Bishop tuff.

The petroglyphs are thought to be between about 1000 and 8,800 years old, and possibly made by the ancestors of the native Paiute-Shoshone people who still inhabit the valley. The style of the petroglyphs is classified as Great Basin Curvilinear.

One point I must note about all the petroglyph elements- the shields, maps, and the zoomorph- is their similarity to those I have found in southern Utah. The shield symbol is exactly as I have found them over 1000 miles away.  The maps have exactly the same stylistic elements- circles attached by curved lines, with the lines curving back and forth, radiating out from a center element- as those in the San Juan drainage of Utah.  The zoomorph with its stick legs is reminiscent of the abstract style of the hunter-gatherers in the Glen Canyon area .

Form more information on the site and the people who may have made them, visit the Bishop BLM office at 351 Pacu Lane, Suite 100. Their phone number is (760) 872-5000. Their office Hours are 8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., Monday- Friday, closed from 12:00 to 12:30 daily. You can also visit the Public Lands Information Center located at 798 N. Main St., phone number (760) 873-2503, for general information and a map of the driving tour.

For more on the petroglyphs of southern Utah, and other information on desert hiking, backpacking and survival visit the Desert Explorer website.

Additional photos and information on the Fish Slough area can be found at the following sites: Windyscotty blog, the Sierraweb, and at the BLM website.

Fish Slough Petroglyph panel, near Bishop, California.

Shield image.

Fish Slough Petroglyph panel, near Bishop, California.

Series of "shields" on vertical surface.

Fish Slough Petroglyph panel, near Bishop, California.

"Map" panel, Fish Slough Petroglyph site.

Fish Slough Petroglyph panel, near Bishop, California.

Another "map".

Fish Slough Petroglyph panel, near Bishop, California.

Zoomorph, on volcanic tuff, Fish Slough site. Size is approximately 25 cm wide by 40 cm in height.