• Sunrise at the Cholla Cactus Garden

    Joshua Tree

    National Park California

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  • Cottonwood Trails Closed

    Trail access remains closed to Cottonwood Spring Oasis, Lost Palms Oasis, and Mastodon Peak. More »

  • Pinto Basin Road Under Construction; Expect travel delays up to 30-minutes

    The ongoing construction project to improve Pinto Basin Road will impact travel between the northern portion of the park and the Cottonwood/I-10 area. Please plan accordingly. The project is expected to be completed in August 2014. More »

  • Deteriorating conditions of Black Rock Canyon Road

    The road leading to Black Rock campground has deep potholes, is deeply rutted, and can be difficult to negotiate, especially in large vehicles. Please drive with caution.

Samuelson's Rocks

Inscription on rock

Rock face inscribed by John Samuelson

John Samuelson, a Swedish citizen, said his early life had been spent at sea. He appeared at area pioneer Bill Keys’ ranch in 1926 looking for work. Keys hired him to help with his Hidden Gold Mine, which was located below the overlook at Keys View.

By 1927 Samuelson had decided to homestead and located a piece of property in the middle of the Lost Horse Valley to the south of Quail Springs. On the top of a small hill, he built a wood and canvas shack where he lived with his wife Margaret. When not working his gold claim, he carved political sayings on the rocks near his house.

Rock inscribed by John Samuelson

Rock inscribed by John Samuelson

When Samuelson attempted to file on his homestead in 1928, the land office discovered that he was not a U.S. citizen and ruled that he could not legally hold title to the land. He sold his claim to the Headington family and moved to the Los Angeles area. The following year, while at a dance in Compton, he got into an argument with two men and killed them.

Erle Stanley Gardner, who first met Samuelson at Quail Springs on February 9, 1928, discovered that, although arrested for the murders, Samuelson was never tried. Instead he was adjudged insane and sent to California’s State Hospital at Mendocino. When surveillance over him was relaxed, he made his escape in 1930.

Samuelson evaded the authorities and made his way northward to Washington state. In 1954 Samuelson wrote to Bill Keys that he would like to return to the desert but was afraid he would be caught by the authorities. Keys later received a letter from officials at a logging camp where Samuelson was working reporting that he was in serious condition, the result of a logging accident. Soon after, another letter came informing Keys of his old friend’s death from those injuries.

Samuelson’s house burned down in the 1930s but the eight, flat-faced rocks with his carvings can still be seen today about a mile and a half from the turnout that is west of Quail Springs picnic area. While some of the words are misspelled due to his poor command of the English language, his political views are as clear today as they were when he carved them over sixty-five years ago.

Did You Know?

Mojave Mound Cactus Bloom

With nearly 750 species of vascular plants, Joshua Tree is renowned for its plant diversity. No wonder that when the area was first proposed for preservation in the early 1930s, the name suggested was Desert Plants National Park. More...