“Look out, behind those rocks!” Judging by the average Western, you could be forgiven for thinking that the American West was entirely constructed of rocks. Of course, this is the “Celluloid West” we’re talking about; the West created by Hollywood. In it, rocks play an awfully big part since without them, a good many Westerns wouldn’t have much of a story. There would be no place for Indians, outlaws or banditos to ambush anyone; no place to hide all those countless herds of stolen horses and cattle. Certainly there would be nothing for all those millions of stray bullets to ricochet off of. With all that in mind, we come to one of the most popular and recognizable Western locations of the genre. Welcome to the northernmost part of Hollywood’s famed 20-mile Studio Zone, Vasquez rocks.
Despite all the clichés and ricochets, not to mention the fact that places like Monument Valley, Lone Pine and Sedona are certainly more beautiful and much more majestic, Vasquez Rocks is still the very gem of Hollywood’s own “rock collection.” Having seen the most Hollywood action in Westerns or otherwise, this is the most visible spot in California’s notorious San Andreas earthquake fault. rising from the arid canyon floor, Vasquez Rocks is the cumulative result of centuries of earth movement. These ancient rock layers have been slowly compressed over time, folded over and tilted up to a roughly 45-degree angle. Geologically, the formations are outcrops of yellow-green sandstone layered with reddish-brown fanglomerate, some of which rise up 150 feet. As early as 200 B.C. right through to the late 18th Century, the rocks have been home to a Shoshone tribe known as the Alliklik. The Indians settled below the rock overhangs because of the nearby Aqua Dulce springs.
In the 1850s, these mazes of rocks were also home to a legendary real-life Mexican bandit named Tiburcio Vasquez. Along with his band of desperadoes, he is regarded as a “Robin Hood” type by the Mexican people. Not content with robbing stages and rustling horses and cattle……………………………………………….