Our daypacks thumped rhythmically against our backs as we followed the chain of waypoints loaded into the GPS unit. We were crossing a lava flow on a high plateau in the Mojave, about thirty miles east of Barstow. A hawk was circling; a coyote had just loped off to eye us suspiciously from a jumble of black volcanic basalt. Where were we going? We really had no idea! Oh, we had coordinates plotted, but what would be found at that location was a mystery. Our research indicated that there was something there that probably related to native Americans. Beyond that we were clueless.
To arrive at this state of total cluelessness we had set off well before dawn and driven to Newberry Springs, arriving in time for sunrise. We then threaded our way south up Kane Wash. Recent rains had not been kind to the wash, and we appreciated the Jeep's tenacity. Our first stop was an impressive box canyon that Bill Mann refers to as the Grand Canyon of the Rodmans in his book Guide to 50 Interesting and Mysterious Sites in the Mojave, Volume 1. From there we looked in on Kane Spring and the nearby arrastre. We had planned to stop at Willis Well, but the No Trespassing signs were up. A quick trip along Camp Rock Road took us to the Rodman Petroglyph site again, and this time we photographed the rock foundations that are enclosed by the fenced off area above the petroglyphs. Then it was time to head off to our mystery location. Thanks to our early start in the morning we arrived at our trailhead about an hour before noon. We were quietly confident. After all, our research had resulted in petroglyph or village site finds on our last three trips.
So here we were. The skies were clear and the temperatures in the mid-sixties. We were now closing in on our final waypoint. As Niki continued down a small stream bed, I climbed up the bank to explore. Soon my radio crackled with the information that Niki had found some petroglyphs on boulders along the stream. As I started to work back toward her, she came back on with the shout of a real discovery! What we had found was a spot called Howe's Tank. This site has received very little notoriety. There are a few pictures on the Petroglyphs.us site, and Bill Mann has a page on it in the book mentioned above. His GPS location is not accurate and several of the pictures he has are upside down. So it has been something of a mystery to us until now!
The stream bed that Niki had been following abruptly ended at the top of a twenty foot drop down vertical cliffs of volcanic basalt. At the base of this cliff is a natural tank. Surrounding the tank to the east and west are hundreds of petroglyph panels. In a few spots the red ochre of pictographs can still be seen. The beauty and solitude of this spot cannot be described. There was virtually no vandalism. We spent hours crawling among the boulders and finding new petroglyphs at every turn. Later we explored the surrounding area and found what appeared to be rock foundations for brush huts. The petroglyphs continue down the streambed all the way to a truly magnificent drop-off into a spectacular canyon, one that we called the Grander Canyon of the Rodmans so it wouldn't get confused with Bill Mann's spot! On the way back we found a spot above the tank that had numerous flakes of jasper and jasp-agate that were the by-product of arrowhead or tool making. After photographing them we put them back. Maybe you'll find them.
At least now we know why nobody has given directions to this spot. It's a rare place. There is a magic about it, and a dignified majesty. Since it sits in the middle of a wilderness area and involves a hike to get to it, it is relatively safe. We won't be the ones to break the spell and give directions to it. But if we could find it so can you! Happy hunting! Is it worth the effort? Check out the pictures below and decide for yourself!
See Howe's Tank Revisitied & More for our trip back to the tank.