~ Carrizo Plain National Monument ~

The Carrizo Plain National Monument in southwestern California is an area by-passed by time. The plain is home to diverse communities of wildlife and plant species, and is an area culturally and spiritually important to Native Americans.

It is traversed by the San Andreas fault, which has carved valleys, created and moved mountains, and yet close up, is seen in a subtle alignment of ridges, ravines and normally dry ponds.

Lying adjacent to the southwest edge of the San Joaquin Valley in eastern San Luis Obispo County, the Carrizo Plain is the largest remaining tract of the San Joaquin Valley biogeographic province with only limited evidence of human alteration. The 250,000 acre area is a diverse complex of habitats similar to those in the San Joaquin Valley that have become fragmented or destroyed. It includes the largest remaining contiguous habitats for many endangered, threatened and rare species of animals and plants. In addition, the Carrizo Plain National Monument provides important habitat for California condors.

Rich in Native American cultural values, the Carrizo was once an important area where the Chumash and Yokuts peoples traded, gathered food and held ceremonies. The Salinan tribal group immediately to the north of the Carrizo Plain also used the area. The landscape still holds remnants of a past, not all that long ago, when dryland farming and ranching were the predominant ways of life on the Plain.

Source: Bureau of Land Management website

The Approach

As I approached Carrizo, I saw nothing resembling a plain, only hills and mountains, dry salt lake beds and a few dried up arroyos along the way.

There was some wildlife like this vulture eating on the road.

He decided I was close enough and took off in order to return, I'm sure, when I had passed on by

Then I came up over this rise and there it was, 250,000 acres of flat plain as far as I could see. On the right are the Temblor Mounatins.

Just inside the Monument I came upon this coyote, who was searching for food. He looked as if he hadn't eaten in a long while.

These two plants seemed to be prominent species on the plain

In the distance I spotted this ranch and thought it belonged to the ranchers, whom I had seen just outside the monument. They were rounding up cattle to place on cattle trucks to take to market.
On the right is the road snaking up through the plain.

I came upon this gultch, which was about 20 or 30 feet deep

I think the rocks are not native to the area and are there to prevent the road from being washed away. Soon I was approaching the ranch

Traver Ranch

The L.E. Traver Ranch was established in the 1940s, when the family purchased about 800 acres and began building the large block house in the photo below. The Travers were primarily involved in dry land farming of wheat and, occasionally, barley. The farm implements on display are from that 1940s period.
Today, the house provides important habitat for the pallid bat and western small-footed bat and other wildlife species. Because of this, the house has been boarded up to prevent human entrance and the use of metal grates allows wildlife access.
I found no information on when the ranch was abandoned, but the Travers farmed the land in the 1940s and 1950s.

It was all boarded up and the equipment looked unused for ages

What they had to farm on

Some of the equipment they used

On the left is a group of outbuildings, barn, chicken coop and storage sheds. These holes were all aound the parking area. I saw no animals usinng them though.

Carrizo with a nearly cloudless sky

This complex was up the plain a distance

Mountain Shadows

The following photos were taken of the Temblor Mountains during different times of the day and the following morning.

The photos below are from the following morning

The Hawk

I went up into the cab to photograph the sunset and found this small hawk sitting on the fencepost. I took his photo 22 times while the sun was setting over the mountain.

He seemed not afraid, even when I rolled down the window, but kept a watchful eye on me and on any food that might cross his vision

Then he went into this little dance and stretching routine

In time he flew over to another post, then headed into a tree. I think he went to bed hungry.

The Sunset

More clouds moving in

Another desert plant

Sundown begins



The clouds could still see the sun

Morning Has Broken

Morning skies over the Carrizo

I spotted this gound squirrel. He posed once, twice, then turned his back as if to say, "Enough already!"
Below right is the side of the Traver house showing broken windows to allow for birds and animals to seek shelter.

The San Andreas Fault
The San Andreas Fault runs along the eastern side of the Carrizo Plain. I stopped at the information kiosk on the way out of the Carrizo, because I had not stopped on the way in. I had just missed it, due to the cattle trucks coming up behind me.
The San Andreas Fault is the most prevalent geologic feature of the Carrizo plains. It runs the entire length of the plain along the western edge of the Temblor Range. At one point the Soda Lake Road, which I traveled is within meters of the fault. The fault can take many shapes and forms along its 810 mile length. Two are shown below.
Movement along the San Andreas Fault is lateral slippage. One plate is not sliding under the other, but sliding along the length of the other.

The trench

San Andres running on the right of Soda Lake Road

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