pictographs & lava tubes

This morning, while looking for a particular photo, I came across the above image from last autumn’s trip out west. I’ve been meaning to go back through those photos and post a few more from the trip as there are so many nice images I’d like to share.

The above photo was taken at Lava Beds National Monument, which is located near Tule Lake in northern California. A number of pictographs may be seen in the Symbol Bridge lave tube cave. You can click on the above image to see a much larger view — I’ve left it quite large so that you can scroll around to look at the various pictographs. Here’s a page with some information about the rock art that may be found at Lava Beds. As you’ll see, not that much is actually known about the meaning of the symbols. However, they’re quite beautiful. We didn’t get a chance to visit the petroglyphs at Petroglyph Point, but perhaps I’ll have a chance to return some day will make a point of seeing them.

As the above linked page states, there is a large concentration of lava tube caves at Lava Beds National Monument — it says there are more than five hundred. However, I just checked the small map from the park and it looks like there are 21 caves listed as open to the public. My friend and I visited quite a few of those caves while there. The caves vary somewhat in character. Some have partially collapsed ceilings, and may have some vegetation growing inside. Some are very smooth, while others are partially filled with jumbled heaps of rough-textured volcanic rock. Some are quite small, while there is one that has a ceiling almost 8 meters (25 feet) high. I’ve included the photo below to show just how smooth some of the lava tubes can be. I can’t remember which cave this is, but my friend and I agreed that we both felt like we were walking through the inside of a whale.

From a geological viewpoint, Lava Beds is a fascinating place to visit. This wikipedia page contains a very nice description of the geology. There is a lot of history there too – most of it none too happy, as it was the site of the Modoc War — a very sad chapter in the history of the American west.

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8 Responses to “pictographs & lava tubes”

  1. pablo Says:

    I’m amazed that such rock art can survive (and I suppose more has been lost than has been preserved). Are those carved into the rock or painted onto it?

    Missouri has quite a bit of petroglyph preserved, and there is some not too far from Roundrock though I haven’t been to see it yet. As a person who has carved his initials into a few rocks, I feel a kinship with these artisans.

  2. burning silo Says:

    pablo – those ones seemed to be painted on — they appeared to be quite flat. The ones at Petroglyph Point (which I did not see) are incised into the face of a the vertical rocks. There’s a really neat place to see petroglyphs up this way .. Petroglyph Provincial Park near Peterborough. I photographed the petroglyphs quite some years ago, but I’ve heard that you can no longer do so. At that site, the petroglyph symbols were pecked out of the rock… I think its crystalline limestone using some kind of tool — maybe just hard rock. They’re very beautiful.
    I’ve never tried carving my initials into rocks — I probably wouldn’t have the patience for it! However, when I was doing a lot of wood carvings a few years ago, I considered taking an intensive course in stone carving.. I think it was a 4 week course. Might have been kind of fun and interesting.

  3. John Says:

    Bev, your photos are always so strikingly sharp. The close-ups are amazing. What kind(s) of camera do you use? I could probably find the info on your blog, but it’s Saturday and I’m being lazy.

  4. burning silo Says:

    John – I use a Nikon CP8800 for most of my photography, and occasionally an older Nikon CP4500 for some of the macro work. The CP8800 can actually handle both, except that I have to crop away more of the image of something very tiny. Depending on the photos, I do a bit of post-processing using Adobe Elements, but also have a couple of other programs I can use. Sometimes I do a bit of sharpening and adjust brightness or contrast — it depends on the photo. Some photos are nice right out of the camera. I just about always crop and resize photos to make them more suitable for the intended end use.
    I should probably say a couple of things about the CP8800 — I don’t like to recommend camera gear as I think it’s so individual. However, just so you’ll know what I look for in a good camera… here’s a bit more info: I like the CP8800, but it’s a fairly large camera for its class (close in size to a DSLR). I haven’t gone the DSLR route yet as I’m really not that keen about having to change lenses, etc… and the CP8800 accomplishes what I want to do very well without getting into that. I’m not really “into” cameras in the same way that many photographers tend to be (basically, I just love photography and think of cameras mainly as a tool to capture what I see…. I’m not at all interested in having “the latest” gear). I like a camera that I know how to use well enough that I can get the kind of images I want without having to frig around with the settings too much. I spend very little time setting up for any shot as I’m very accustomed to working with my cameras. In summer, I shoot a few hundred photos a day, so I’m very familiar with what my camera can do and what I can cajole it to do without too much trouble. What this camera is not good for is capturing fast moving objects. The only way I’ve been able to force it to photograph things like the Brown Pelicans flying along the ocean, etc.. has been to set it into the “Sports” mode and shoot that way. It actually did a pretty good job of it, but I had to let it do things its own way. If you’re looking for a camera with a quick response time, this wouldn’t be a good choice. I think there are several Canon models that are a lot quicker. Probably the best thing about this camera is that it has a big lens with nice glass. It captures images very clearly. Also, it has VR (Vibration reduction), so I can work with it handheld (I can’t stand working with a tripod). My CP4500 was terrific for handheld shots too. Anyhow, that’s probably more than you wanted to know. Perhaps I’ll write a post about my camera gear sometime as I get emails asking about my camera gear pretty often.

  5. Jim Poushinsky Says:

    Great pictures Bev! In my experience the pictograph/petroglyphs occurring in close proximity to the volcanic holes and pressure cracks in the rock face are records/instructions for shamanic meditation journeys into the earth to meet with the spirit beings who dwell there, and ask for their help in matters of concern to us in our human existence.

    Such sacred places still retain this function, so it is good that the National Parks Service is protecting them. The use of these sites for the highest purpose is the common heritage of mankind here on Turtle Island, so everyone feel free to meditate there for a good purpose.

    As the Dakota/Lakota say, Mitakuye Oyassin – we are all related.

  6. burning silo Says:

    Jim – Thanks! It makes a lot of sense that the pictographs would be located as you say. That’s a situation somewhat similar to some of the petroglyphs I’ve seen (located near crevices, etc…
    And yes, I’m glad that the Lava Beds region is all protected by NPS now. It’s good that a lot of these kinds of sites are under long term protection as they need it.

  7. D. Russel Micnhimer Says:

    To learn more about rock art feel free to visit my site http://www.rockartplanet.com

  8. am Says:

    A few years ago I drove from Washington to California by way of Highway 97, after having crossed into Eastern Washington by way of the North Cascades Highway. I had never entered California from that angle and remember clearly the sparkling clear air and wild landscape near Tule Lake. Wish I had known to stop to see the pictographs. Thanks for the photo image showing pictographs.