The Search for Sky Rock

The blazing sun beat down on us as we scanned the horizon looking for more rock piles, heaved up eons ago from the ancient volcanic surface on which we stood.

“Hey Dan, wanna try over there?” I asked, pointing to a long stretch of ten to thirty foot wide boulders. Dan nodded and we trudged across the high desert plateau to search another area.

I was with my photographer friend Dan Canfield, and we had decided on our first night in town that we would try to find a secret Native American petroglyph, in recent years dubbed “Sky Rock”. Not found on any map, this ancient rock drawing is kept secret from the general public. Those in “the know” don’t divulge its location so that fewer people will visit, and its condition will be kept as pristine as natural forces allow. After some hunting, we narrowed down the location to its general vicinity, but even then, the ancient carving eluded us.

It was midday, and our second attempt at searching. Our first attempt was during sunset the evening before, and we quickly ran out of time trying to find it before dark. This time we were armed with a little more research, and many more hours of daylight. Finally, after much scrambling, a few skinned knees, and crawling into some dark and nasty places, we found it! We were giddy with excitement.

Created long ago by Native Americans, the Sky Rock Petroglyph's location is kept fairly private.  It is only shared through word of mouth so that it can be kept safe.
Created long ago by Native Americans, the Sky Rock Petroglyph’s location is kept fairly private. It is only shared through word of mouth so that it can be kept safe.

Carved into a flat rock, this series of drawings is different than most other petroglyphs because of its horizontal orientation. Most Native American drawings were done on vertical walls. The drawings are carved into the rock about an inch deep, to reveal the lighter colored stone underneath the darker outer coating. We took some photos, sat for a while, and scouted our route so that we could come back in the dark. Midday was great for searching, but as photographers, we wanted only the best light, which would be either sunrise or sunset. Our schedule allowed for a sunrise shoot in a couple of days, so all we could do was cross our fingers and hope for good weather.

The mountains of the easter Sierra Nevada glow red over the Sky Rock Petroglyph, just outside of Bishop, CA
The mountains of the easter Sierra Nevada glow red over the Sky Rock Petroglyph, just outside of Bishop, CA

The history of this carving is not well known. Some have theorized that it was probably created by the ancestors of what are today known as the Owens Valley Paiute, possibly as long as 8,000 years ago.

It was a very special experience spending some time on this rock as the sun lit first the western mountains, and then the valley below us. I devoured the silence of the morning, and felt a special energy around this place. It was an amazing feeling to know that this human creation had sat here for similar sunrises, long lazy days, and powerful storms for millennia.

Possibly the best part of finding Sky Rock was the fact that it was hidden. In the days of instant gratification and unlimited knowledge, it was nice to really have to work for answers.

  • dzrtxplorer

    Sometimes you have to grab an opportunity when it comes your way. Not too long ago Wikimapia made the sight location to Skyrock available. It seems that enough people protested that posting and wikimapia took it off. I was able to get the details of where to find this amazing sight off wikimapia and now time will tell what I decide to do with this precious bit of info. Perhaps in the near future a book will detail how to get to the site :).

  • For the sake of the artifact, I certainly hope not. One of the reasons this site is still pristine and accessible (read: unroped or fenced off) is that finding the site requires a bit of work. Those that do tell other people directly try to restrict this knowledge only to people they know will be as careful and respectful with the site as they are. Those who chose to exploit this information for gain would be partially to blame if someone took that shared information and vandalized the site, which is exactly what happened to several other sites in the area.

  • dzrtxplorer

    No worries Hank I won’t disclose the info. anytime soon. I’d like for it to stay secret for as long as it can. It’s just nice to know that others wish to see these sites stay as pristine as possible. I’m always searching the web for any leads to so called “secret” sites. Sometimes others slip up and post these locations without considering the damage it could cause. I’m guessing shortly after the post the link was deleted. It is my hope that not many people found the wikimapia page I found. I was very fortunate to find the info. I did about Skyrock. I was trying for awhile to get info about Skyrock and then I stumbled upon the now deleted wikimapia page on it. I was really amazed that this site location was made publice for a short time. Hope to see the site soon before I move out of state. Even when I move out of state, if I don’t make it within the year, I’ll be making plans to get out to this unique site. I also know that 13 moons isn’t too far from Skyrock :). Thanks for the great pics Hank.