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Vasquez Rocks
Vasquez Rocks County Park.jpg
Vasquez Rocks
Location Escondido Canyon Rd., Agua Dulce, California 91390
Nearest city Agua Dulce, California
NRHP reference No. 72000228
Added to NRHP June 22, 1972

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is a 932-acre (377-hectare) park located in the Sierra Pelona Mountains in northern Los Angeles County, California. It is known for its rock formations, the result of sedimentary layering and later seismic uplift. It is located near the town of Agua Dulce, between the cities of Santa Clarita and Palmdale. The area is visible from the Antelope Valley Freeway (State Route 14). It has been used as a location for films and television programs on many occasions.

History

These rock formations were formed by rapid erosion during uplift about 25 million years ago, and then later exposed by uplift activity along the San Andreas Fault.

The Tataviam people were living here when the Spanish arrived. Their language was most likely a Takic Uto-Aztecan language. They lived in grass huts within villages. With the coming of the Spanish missions, some of these people were forced to work there. They eventually began speaking Spanish and inter-marrying with other tribes. The last of the Tataviam people died in 1916.

In 1874, Tiburcio Vásquez, one of California's most notorious Mexican bandidos, 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 gradually by Los Angeles County, beginning with a donation of 40 acres in 1971, with more parcels being added through 2001. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses through the park.

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.

Formation

Literature reviews have dated the earliest sedimentation of the Vasquez Formation occurring between the later portion of the Oligocene Epoch to the lower Miocene Epoch, each respectively 33.9-23 million years ago and 23.03-5.3 million years ago.

The Vasquez Formation is located just east of the city of Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County, California, USA. It resides within the Soledad Basin, an orthogonal rift between the Sierra Pelona Mountains to the northwest and the San Gabriel Mountains to the east, which are both within the province of the Transverse Mountain Range of Southern California. The San Andreas Fault runs parallel behind the Sierra Pelona Mountains and separates the formation from the North American Plate.

The Vasquez Formation consists of alluvial sediments that eroded from the Sierra Pelona and San Gabriel Mountains and were deposited in alluvial fans on both sides of the Soledad Basin. Erosion of the sediment included processes like rain, floods, wind, and earthquakes. Over the course of millions of years, the sediment was laid down under alternating lacustrine and fluviatile conditions. Once laid flat across the basin floor, immense pressure converted the layers into sandstone, which became covered with younger sediment deposits. The sediment beds reside in a sharply-folded syncline.

Due to its proximity to the San Andreas Fault, tectonic activity has been an important factor in the reshaping, uplift, and exposure of the buried sandstone. The Elkhorn Fault, an offshoot of the San Andreas Fault, runs through the Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park. Other faults, such as the Pelona, Vasquez Canyon, Soledad, and San Gabriel Faults, are all within proximity of the formation. The most exposed portion of the Vasquez Formation is the oldest tertiary formation within the east portion of the Ventura Basin.

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 and disconnected from their source area. The strata were 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. It is possible to see the extreme variance in grain size between layers of sediment where the strata are exposed. 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.

Soil surveyors mapped much of the park as Rock Land with no soil cover; where soil exists the dominant series is Gaviota gravelly loam which ranges from 6 to 20 inches thick.

Role in entertainment

Universal Studios assigned Stanley Bergerman as executive producer on the film Werewolf of London (1935). Bergerman suggested Vasquez Rocks as the filming location used to portray Tibet.

The prominent rock formation was featured in several episodes of the original Star Trek series. It recurred in the franchise later in the film Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and an episode of Star Trek: Picard, in a scene identified as taking place at that real location, and on other occasions.

Feature films shot at Vasquez Rocks include Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, Amazon Women on the Moon, Dante's Peak, Hot Shots! Part Deux, Rustlers' Rhapsody, The Flintstones, Blazing Saddles, Free Enterprise, Paul, and Hail, Caesar!. Television shows include Zorro, The Fugitive, F Troop, The A-Team, MacGyver and G.L.O.W.. Commercials for Taco Bell, Bank of America, Pacific Bell, Pepsi, and Nike have been filmed at the rocks. Musicians Radiohead, Michael Jackson, Greta Van Fleet, 311, Eddie Money, Sammy Kershaw, Restless Heart, Lee Tae-min, and BTS have made music videos there.

Activities

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is open from sunrise to sunset for outdoor activities. The park has equestrian areas, picnic areas, hiking trails, and rock climbing. The Pacific Crest Trail passes through Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park and can be used for short as well as lengthy hikes. Special events can also be hosted there, such as Star Parties and weddings.

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