Vasquez Rocks – Soledad Canyon
Vasquez Rocks – Soledad Canyon
Painting Date30th of November -0001
Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is a 932-acre park located in the Sierra Pelona Mountains, in northern Los Angeles County, California. It is located in the town of Agua Dulce between the suburbs of Santa Clarita and Palmdale. The area is also visible from the Antelope Valley Freeway (State Route 14).
The rock formations were formed by rapid erosion during uplift about 25 million years ago and later exposed by activity along the San Andreas Fault.
The Tataviam American Indians were living here when the Spanish arrived. Their language is related to the Shoshone. They lived in grass huts within villages. With the coming of the Spanish missions, some members of this people were forced to work there. They eventually began speaking Spanish and inter-marrying with other tribes. The last of the Tataviam died in 1916.
In 1873 and 1874, Tiburcio Vásquez, one of California’s most notorious bandits, used these rocks to elude capture by law enforcement. His name has since been associated with this geologic feature.
The land and rock formations were acquired by the Los Angeles County government in the 1970s.
Vasquez Rocks was added to the National Register of Historic Places (site #72000228) in 1972 because of its significance as a prehistoric site for the Shoshone and Tataviam peoples.
The Vasquez Rocks consist mainly of coarse-grained conglomerate and breccia sediments which were deposited adjacent to active faults during rapid uplift and consequent erosion of the San Gabriel Mountains. Approximately 25 million years ago (late Oligocene time), the collision of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates uplifted the area along the Elkhorn Fault. Energetic erosion of the highland along with uplift and volcanism caused debris flow sediments to be distributed in alluvial fans into a rapidly subsiding rift known as the Soledad Basin. These sediments were buried and lithified through the Miocene and became exposed more recently via activity along the San Andreas fault system. The strata are now highly tilted, are disconnected from their source area and are deformed and offset by the later fault activity. The distinctive “hogback” ridges of steeply inclined strata serve to graphically demonstrate the significant fault activity in the area.
These sedimentary rocks, named the Mint Canyon Formation, were laid down about 8-15 million years ago. In the upper layers, many animal fossils have been found, including camels, horses and rodents.
Role in entertainment
Further information: List of productions using the Vasquez Rocks as a filming location
In 1935, Universal Pictures assigned Stanley Bergerman as executive producer on the film Werewolf of London. Bergerman suggested Vasquez Rocks as the filming location used to portray Tibet. Since then, Vasquez Rocks has been used repeatedly in motion pictures, television series, and in moving and still-image advertisements.
The site once held the exterior façade of the fort in the television series “Rin-Tin-Tin.” Even after the series ended, the façade could still be seen there until around 1964-65. It was finally torn down because the rickety wooden stairs leading up to a rampart became a danger to those risking climbing them.
The triangular rock summit can be clearly seen in a 1963 episode of Outer Limits called “The Zanti Misfits”; in the Michael Jackson music video “Black or White” when he dances with Plains Native Americans; in numerous episodes of The Big Valley; in “Arena”, an original series Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk rolls a boulder onto a reptiloid alien called a Gorn; and throughout a Bonanza episode called “Between Heaven and Earth”. The triangular rock summit can be also clearly seen in The Wild Wild West in the episode “The Night of the Cadre”.
The prominent rock formation has been nicknamed “Kirk’s Rock” due to being featured in several Star Trek episodes, each time representing a different planet. The use of the rock as a place to struggle with an enemy was echoed in the film Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey twice, once replaying the Gorn-themed Star Trek episode on the TV, and again when title characters are murdered by their doubles at the same location.
Feature films shot there include Dante’s Peak, Hot Shots II, Rustler’s Rhapsody, The Flintstones, and Star Trek IV. Television shows include MacGyver, The A-Team, Hart to Hart, F-Troop, and Murder She Wrote. Commercials include ones for Taco Bell, Bank of America, Pacific Bell, Pepsi and Nike. Besides Michael Jackson, Eddie Money and Sammy Kershaw also shot music videos here.
The Vasquez Rocks were also used prominently throughout all three seasons of the science-fiction television series Roswell as something of an important location for the main characters and their story. The area is also featured as the location of the Command Center/Power Chamber for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers throughout Power Rangers Turbo. In a season-five episode of Friends – “The One with Joey’s Big Break” – Joey lands the lead role in a movie being filmed at the Vasquez Rocks (though the peaks are not seen on camera). It is also featured in the movie Paul, and in the 2009 “South by Southwest” episode of NCIS. The final episode of New Girl season 1 is primarily set here with the Rocks prominent in the background.
In the Big Bang Theory episode “The Bakersfield Expedition”, which aired in 2013, the four male protagonists appear to stop here, thanks to green screen, on their road trip to ComicCon in Bakersfield, CA. Since they have Star Trek: The Next Generation-themed costumes for the costume contest at ComicCon, they decide to have a brief photoshoot at the Star Trek filming site. Their stop goes horribly wrong when someone steals their car as they are taking pictures. In the episode “The Adhesive Duck Deficiency”, the characters attempt to observe a meteor shower from “34.48° N, 118.31°W”, the map coordinates of the Vasquez Rocks formation, to make it appear as if they were there.