Giant Rock

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Coordinates: 34°19′58″N 116°23′19″W / 34.332813°N 116.388723°W / 34.332813; -116.388723

The Giant Rock
Giant Rock as compared to an average-sized pickup truck

Giant Rock is a large freestanding boulder in the Mojave Desert near Landers, California, and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms (location 34°19′58.1988″N 116°23′19.5066″W / 34.332833000°N 116.388751833°W / 34.332833000; -116.388751833[1]). The boulder covers 5,800 square feet (540 m2) of ground and is seven stories high. Giant Rock is the largest freestanding boulder in North America and is purported to be the largest free standing boulder in the world.[2]

Native Americans of the Joshua Tree area consider it to be sacred. In the 1930s, Frank Critzer moved to Giant Rock. Inspired by desert tortoises that dig holes in which to cool themselves, Critzer dug out a home on the north side of the rock using dynamite. He engineered a rainwater collection system and a tunnel for ventilation. The underground home was reportedly never hotter than 80 °F (27 °C) and never cooler than 55 °F (13 °C). Critzer built an airstrip on the nearby ancient lakebed, which averaged a plane per day by 1941.[3] Critzer perished in a self-detonated dynamite explosion in his underground rooms on July 24, 1942, while being investigated by local police.[4]

In the 1950s, Giant Rock was a gathering point for UFO believers. It is located on land which was at that time leased by George Van Tassel, a friend of Critzer's, a purported flying-saucer contactee and organizer of UFO conventions.[5] In 1947, Van Tassel, a former aircraft inspector, leased the property from the Bureau of Land Management and left Los Angeles and moved to Giant Rock with his wife and three children.[3] Van Tassel also built the nearby Integratron and a cafe, store, gas station and the Giant Rock Airport, which he operated from 1947 to 1975.

The Giant Rock Airport was certified by the Federal Aviation Administration for emergency use by commercial airliners. In the early 1960s it experienced traffic of about one flight per day. Between November 1961 and October 1962, it served as the launch site for helium-filled balloons used by R. F. Miles, Jr. to measure the density of neutrons in the Earth's atmosphere at altitudes between 8,000–115,000 feet (2,400–35,100 m).[6]

In early 2000,[7] Giant Rock fractured in two, revealing an interior of white granite.[3] The exterior surface of the rock is partially covered in graffiti.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

Fictionalized versions of Giant Rock and Van Tassel figure heavily in the plot of the novel Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru.[8]

Australian artist Tina Havelock Stevens won the Blake Prize with a video work depicting her drumming at the site.[9]

Live at Giant Rock, a live album by Yawning Man, was recorded with the band performing next to the boulder.[10]

Giant Rock plays a major role in the science fiction book Stolen Skies by Tim Powers.[11]


  1. ^ {{cite web|accessdate=9 December 2022 |url=,+Landers,+CA+92285/@34.3328127,-116.3887541,16z/data=!4m6!3m5!1s0x80c52ae948ca0c67:0xccbe0399887db9b3!8m2!3d34.3328127!4d-116.3887541!16s%2Fg%2F11b6ghx7nb?hl=en-US&gl=us |title=Google Maps, Giant Rock, Landers CA
  2. ^ "Giant Rock". Joshua Tree Visitors Guide.
  3. ^ a b c Archibald, Sasha (2014). "Mass Effect". Cabinet Magazine. No. Spring. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  4. ^ Ed Ainsworth, Plans For 'Out of This World' Laboratory In Desert Disclosed (Los Angeles Times: June 17, 1954), pg.A1.
  5. ^ a b Gumbel, Andrew (May 5, 2006). "Life on other planets: The house the Venusians built". The Independent. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  6. ^ Miles, Jr., Ralph Fraley (1963). The density of cosmic-ray neutrons in the atmosphere (PhD). California Institute of Technology.
  7. ^ "Giant Rock". Joshua Tree Visitors Guide.
  8. ^ Miller, James (March 3, 2012). "The Others: Hari Kunzru's Gods Without Men Has UFOs, Peace and Love, Drugs and Despair, Indian Legends and Derivative Trading Systems". Observer Media. Retrieved 2021-04-10.
  9. ^ Downes, Briony (May 21, 2018). "Tina Havelock Stevens wins 65th Blake Prize". Art Guide Australia. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
  10. ^ Yawning Man "Tumbleweeds In The Snow" from Live at Giant Rock on YouTube
  11. ^ "Stolen Skies - Tim Powers". Baen Books. January 4, 2022. Retrieved August 13, 2022.