Robbers Roost (Kern County, California)
|Location||Kern County, California|
|Area||5 acres (2.0 ha)|
|NRHP Reference #||75000431|
|Added to NRHP||October 31, 1975|
Robbers Roost (unincorporated Kern County, California, also known as Robber's Roost and Bandit Rock) is a rock formation in the foothills of the Scodie Mountains portion of the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in the North Mojave Desert. The formation overlooks the southern portion of the Indian Wells Valley. The nearest municipality is Ridgecrest, California. The Los Angeles Aqueduct is within several hundred yards of the formation. The area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Robbers Roost lies west of Freeman Junction, which is approximately at the intersection of California highways 178 and 14.
In the 19th century, outlaws were known to use Robbers Roost to spot stagecoaches moving south towards Los Angeles through the Antelope Valley from the Owens Valley or west through Walker Pass towards the San Joaquin Valley. Modern day Walker Pass is State Route 178. Stagecoaches in this area often carried gold and other valuable gems from the local mines.
The jagged rocks were a hideout for Kern County's most notorious bandit gang, led by Tiburcio Vásquez.
National Register of Historic Places Listing
The massive rock, at an elevation of 4,000 feet, not only provided an excellent view for miles in every direction across the desert landscape, but also provided a ready-made hideout. The many crags, crevisses, and caves gave protection from the severe desert weather, in addition to providing a hiding place.
The steep, rugged lookout remains today much in the same condition as it did when Vásquez used it as his hideout.
Vásquez conducted several holdups in 1874 at Coyote Holes ([near the] intersection of Highway 178 and 14) before his hanging the following year in San Jose.
A Mexican gentleman of adventure, Vásquez reaped a harvest of monetary gains as he rode the mountain, coast, and desert roads. His first appearance upon the desert scene was in the early months of 1874. No early desperado in California banditry rivaled his record except Joaquin Murrieta. Vásquez started his career about the middle of the century, culminating it in 1875. Before coming to the inner regions of California, he had served a number of years in prison. A freeman in 1863, feeling the state owed him a living, he returned to his lawlessness. He joined infamous bandit groups and about 1871 became leader of his own band. Made bold by success, he planned operations in the desert country from which tales were coming of rich mines and wealthy travelers.
The site of Vásquez's local camp was in the craggy peaks south of Coyote Holes station. From that day on, this jagged rock easily seen from Highway 14 has been known as Robbers Roost.
Vásquez and his gang continued to operate along the highways until army detachments from camp Independence made an effort to capture them. This discouraged Vásquez and he left the desert region and returned to the Los Angeles area.
The bandit was finally captured there and returned to San Jose where he was tried for murder, convicted, and hanged on March 19, 1875. He had made an enemy of one of his gang by finding favor with the man's wife. The husband was responsible for advising the law enforcement officers of his whereabouts.
The California desert has known many other bandits but Vásquez and his gang were the most notorious.
- Coordinates: 35° 35' 30.91"N, 117° 56' 51.35"W
- Elevation: 3805 feet above sea level
Robber's Roost is closed from February 1st through July 1st to allow solitude for bird of prey nesting.
- Bailey, Richard C. (1962), Explorations in Kern., Bakersfield: Kern County Historical Society, p. 80–81
- Peirson, Erma, Kern's Desert, Bakersfield: Kern County Historical Society, pp. 22–24
Vasquez Rocks, in Los Angeles County, another remote outcrop used by Vásquez as a base.