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Petroglyph Tour at China Lake Offers Glimpse into California’s Mysterious Past

Published on: February 29, 2012

Long before there was California as we know it, ancient civilizations dating to the last ice age pecked, engraved or abraded shapes into the desert varnish that forms on volcanic basalt rocks over time. We really don’t know the meaning of symbols left behind, though some are literal designs showing animals while others are abstract. They remain a mystery– their significance and contextual information beyond reach at this point.

The largest concentration of petroglyphs in the Western Hemisphere at Coso Art District National Landmark–located on the highly secured Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS), China Lake–is accessible on a limited basis to Americans only.

If you’re a U.S. citizen with a sense of curiosity & adventure, fit enough to withstand 3 miles of hiking among sand & rocks at the Mojave Desert’s 5,000′ elevation, you can sign up for a tour to see the petroglyphs. Offered only in the spring and fall,  Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest (about an hour’s drive from the military base and rock art,) has an agreement with NAWS, China Lake to offer these unique and special tours that provide a day’s entertainment.  Cost is around $40 person. Check out maturango.org or call Fran Van Valkenburgh, Petroglyph Tour Coordinator at (760) 375-6900.

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