Friday, May 24, 2013

Vasquez Rocks & The Bandit

A strangely beautiful and forbidding place, Vasquez Rocks Park, off the 14 freeway that we take to Los Angeles, is in the National Register of Historic Places because of its importance as a prehistoric site for the Shoshone and Tataviam peoples. 

I am fascinated by the rock formations you see from the freeway and I want to stop and explore this 900 plus acre park sometime soon. The rocks were formed from sediments deposited adjacent to active faults during rapid uplifts and erosion of regional mountains. The rock formations were also affected by the collision of the North American and Pacific Plates about 25 million years ago and more recently by activity along the San Andreas fault. 

I'm no geological expert, of course, so suffice it say that our earth is neither stable nor constant and in some areas enormous shifts have taken place throughout time. Here in Southern and Central California, the San Andreas fault sort of rumbles through one's consciousness every now and then. 

The park is named after a bandit of all things. Tiburcio Vasquez, born in Monterey in 1835, was one of many bandidos that flourished in California in the years during and after the gold rush. He spent most of his bandit days in northern California where he committed burglaries, highway robberies, and cattle theft. He spent five years in San Quentin prison; he was unsuccessful in going straight after he was released; and, after he was caught committing yet another burglary, he served three more years in prison.

Tiburcio was handsome, charming, a good dancer and guitar player, and quite the ladies man. He had many affairs with married women, one of whom later became his downfall. He was very popular and had friends all over the state of California. For a while, he hid in the southern and central parts of the state where he was less well known. He committed several burglaries throughout the San Joaquin Valley and also spent some time hiding in the Sierra Pelona Mountains among these rocks that later were named after him. 

Vasquez was eventually caught and convicted of murder, a charge he denied. His popularity among women continued and many women gathered in his cell where he posed for photos and signed autographs, which he later sold out the cell window to help pay for his legal defense. After his appeal for clemency was denied, Tiburcio Vasquez was hanged in San Jose on March 19, 1875. He was 39 years old.

Vasquez Rocks Park is frequently used by the film industry. Films as diverse as Dracula, 1931, and A Single Man, 2009, as well as several Star Trek movies have used the dramatic scenery of the park for location shoots. Many, many TV shows have also been filmed here.

There are similar rocks here in the canyon. It took me a while, as I was used to greener scenery, to come to appreciate their special beauty. 

I took these pictures out the window of our moving jeep, so they could have been better. I looked in Google Images for pictures that would do these rocks justice, but didn't find any. 

Instead, I found these last two photos in Wikipedia and they will give you an idea, I think, of what can be found inside this very interesting and rather formidable place called Vasquez Rocks Park.

Source: Wikipedia


  1. I like geology, and visited the Hoodoos in Alberta (it's near the Drumheller Royal Tyrell Museum).

    Alberta hoodoos are many wind-carved eroded formations and layered rock strata as you show here. Your California rocks are sharper and therefore appear younger than the ones in Alberta

    Great pix, this area has a stark beauty. Thanks Inger!

  2. In Louisiana the landscape is dominated by trees, weeds, shrubbery -- green and flat. It's beautiful, but I must have lived in dry, rocky canyons in a previous life. Great pictures and a sad story!

  3. Thanks for the history of the bandit. My daughter lives in Murrieta, CA. It was named after Joaquin Murrieta, a Mexican bandit.

    I have seen those rocks in many TV shows! Now I know where they are!

  4. The rocks are fascinating--but named after a bandit?!!

  5. i would love to see it from the road or from within, and outlaw or not, it said he was handsome and that alone covers these rocks. extraordinary and beautiful...great shots and i would never have know they were from a moving car

  6. really rugged terrain! interesting story of the ladies' man bandit, too. :)

  7. We have some rocky outcrops near here and I used to adore climbing over them as a kid. Locals call it Old John.

  8. I think of how much unusable land there is - but it is beautiful! sandie

  9. Vad intressant och vilka fina bilder du fick.
    Här växer de små och det är fullt med aktivitet i valplådan. Halvtid nu med dem innan de får åka till sina nya hussar o mattar, kram!

  10. It looks like a fascinating place to visit. The story about the bandit is interesting, he does look like a dandy!

  11. It's interesting that the area was named after a bandit who hid there. It looks beautiful in a very stark way.


  12. Interesting history about the name of the park. Sounds like a good book in the story of his life.

  13. He sounds like quite the ladies man, doesn't he? 900 acres is a lot of space to explore,'d better get started soon!!!!?

  14. I see the beauty too.
    What harsh land to hide out in!

  15. Very interesting, Inger! Thanks for the history lesson and photos. I hope you have a great holiday weekend!

  16. I love these rock formations, too. I'm so glad you shared about it and I learned a lot more I didn't previously know! Thank you!

  17. Reminds me a little of the Badlands in SD. My husband and I laugh when watching Gunsmoke -- which I bet was filmed somewhere in California -- that shows Dodge City, Kansas with mountains in the backround! Great post Inger.

  18. They are fasinating and beautiful in their own way, I love a car journey with amazing views!
    I thought it was odd that your links always show on my RSS but thought the internet can do funny things at times, the link still works though! I hope you have had a great weekend :)

  19. I just left a comment but it doesn't look like it has gone through so I'll write another and sorry if you get 2!
    They are beautiful and fascinating, I love car journeys with amazing views!
    I thought it was strange that your link on my RSS shows but figured it was the internet doing odd things, the link still works though! I hope you have had a great weekend :)

  20. What wonderful information - All things i did not know before . . .

    Suddenly i am grateful none of my family was infamous enough for hanging . . (giggle)


  21. Very interesting post in so many aspects, the rock formations, the debonair and dubious villain, the car trip!

  22. Delightfully "rocky" post, Inger.

    And my sense is that your bandito may have stolen your heart, too!

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting
    Life in the Urban Forest (poetry)

  23. The desert certainly has a stark beauty!

  24. Hi Inger - the photos and history are delightful to see and read .. I guess he was eking out a life, yet here he is over a century and a quarter later still remembered - not many will have that appended to their name.

    I'm fascinated by geology .. with all its fault lines and interesting perspectives on how much those tectonic plates have taken us through the earth's life time ..

    So interesting .. cheers Hilary


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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