Fish Rocks Of Trona: Folk Art On A Geologic Scale

Trona, California is the last place on Earth one might find fish but here they are, no bones about it! The famous Fish Rocks are Folk Art on a geologic scale.

Not Your Average Fish Story

(image via: Three Star Owl)

At the nexus of Folk Art and flagrant graffiti where so-called natural rock formations are as enhanced as a Hollywood starlet’s figure, you’ll find the Fish Rocks. Less esoterically, you’ll find this long-time local landmark just off State Route 178 exactly 13.7 miles north of the town of Ridgecrest, California.

(images via: High Desert Memories and Matthew Dillon)

“Originally they were called Whale Heads,” explains Margaret Brush, Curator of the Old Guest House Museum in Trona, CA and a member of the Searles Valley Historical Society (SVHS). “They date back to 1928. They did not always have teeth, like they do today.” To put things in perspective, the rocks themselves are millions of years old though extensive water erosion during the last few glacial periods likely rounded off the evocative shapes we see today. The image above, top, is one of the earliest taken of the formation and dates from 1934. Its counterpart just below was taken over 75 years later on December 25th, 2011 by Flickr user Matthew Dillon.

(images via: AA Roads and Cactus Thorns/Vote29)

Trona was established in 1913 as a self-contained company town with a rail connection to the Southern Pacific (now the Union Pacific) line at Searles. Profits from borax, potash, and soda ash mining and refining supported a high quality of life level in Trona for decades, though more recently the town has fallen on tough times and the population has dropped to under 3,000.

(image via: BLMcalifornia)

If it weren’t for film location shoots including Star Trek V, Planet of the Apes, and Land of the Lost (above) filmed at and around the nearby Trona Pinnacles, the town’s economy would have sunk lower than nearby Death Valley.