The Coso Rock Art District occupies a landscape of stark beauty. Formed by titanic forces of colliding continental plates and upwelling molten rock, and carved by rushing waters of glacial melt and eons of endless rain, today's desert conditions seem almost preternaturally silent.
This is California's high desert where the northernmost stretches of the Mojave meet the Great Basin. It is surrounded by the Coso Mountains to the north, the Panamint Mountains to the east and the Sierra Nevada to the west. The District itself sits at the southern edge of the Coso range, among the foothills and tableland that step down a series of basalt terraces southwest towards the dry bed of China Lake.
Canyons cut through the basalt formations give evidence of the wet conditions that once prevailed here. As glaciers from the last ice age retreated into the high Sierras, meltwater and constant rain blasted through the volcanic rock to form streams, canyons, and river valleys. Cut off from the ocean, inland lakes formed between the mountain ranges and created a lush environment perfect for large mammals.
Broad savannas with willow and cottonwood-lined streams stretched away from the marshy lakeshores. Oak and pine woodlands rose from the China Lake basin up into the Sierras. This habitat supported horses, camels, bison, sloth, and the carnivores that hunted them—saber-toothed tigers and jackal-like dogs. more >>