|Location||Escondido Canyon Rd., Agua Dulce, California|
|Nearest city||Agua Dulce, California|
|NRHP Reference #||72000228|
|Added to NRHP||June 22, 1972|
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 Tataviam American Indians were living here when the Spanish arrived. Their language was probably a Takic Uto-Aztecan language. 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.
The land and rock formations were acquired piece-meal 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 the park.
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
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 The Adventures of 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.
Vazquez Rocks is prominently seen in a 1963 episode of Outer Limits called "The Zanti Misfits". The rocks are also in several television westerns, including the 1959 "Whipsaw" episode of Tombstone Territory; the Bonanza episode "Between Heaven and Earth"; the The Wild Wild West episode "The Night of the Cadre"; and the opening credits of the TV Western Laramie as Slim Sherman and Jess Harper come riding down, each from one side. The rock formations are also seen in the Michael Jackson music video "Black or White" when he dances with Plains Native Americans, and in an original series Star Trek episode "Arena", where Captain Kirk rolls a boulder onto a reptiloid alien called a Gorn.
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 the title characters are murdered by their doubles at the same location. A scene at a diner in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was filmed in front of the rocks, and in homage to the Star Trek episode, the diner is called The Arena Diner.
Feature films shot at Vasquez Rocks include Dante's Peak, Hot Shots II, Rustler's Rhapsody, The Flintstones, Blazing Saddles, Star Trek V, Free Enterprise, and Hail, Caesar!. Television shows include The Fugitive, F-Troop, The A-Team, and MacGyver. Commercials for Taco Bell, Bank of America, Pacific Bell, Pepsi and Nike have also been filmed at the rocks. Besides Michael Jackson, Eddie Money, Sammy Kershaw, and Taemin 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.
- Bronson Canyon, another Southern California landmark used as a set for numerous films
- Soledad Canyon
- Frizzell, VA, Jr & Weigand, PW (1993). Whole-rock K-Ar ages and geochemical data from middle Cenozoic volcanic rocks, southern California: A test of correlations across the San Andreas fault in: The San Andreas fault system: displacement, palinspastic reconstruction, and geologic evolution (Matti, Jonathan C.; Powell, R. F.; Weldon, R. J.,eds). Boulder, Colo: Geological Society of America. ISBN 0-8137-1178-9.
- "A History of Vasquez Rocks and Vicinity". Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
- "The Tataviam at Vasquez Rocks," handout of County of Los Angeles Department of Parks & Recreation, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area.
- "Touring Vasquez Rocks, A History of its 20th-century Occupation.".
- "CALIFORNIA - Los Angeles County". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-01-07.
- "Geology of Agua Dulce".
- Hendrix; Ingersoll (1987). "Tectonics and alluvial sedimentation of the upper Oligocene/lower Miocene Vasquez Formation, Soledad basin, southern California". Geological Society of America Bulletin. 98 (6): 647–663. doi:10.1130/0016-7606(1987)98<647:taasot>2.0.co;2.
- "Vasquez Rocks: Geologic Overview". CSU Long Beach Geology.
- "Geology Trail," handout of County of Los Angeles Department of Parks & Recreation, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area.
- "Kirk's Rock". Television Tropes and Idioms. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
- Cook, Tari, "Filming in Agua Dulce," The 1997 Agua Dulce Chamber of Commerce Business & Community Guide.
- Robert P. Sharp, "Southern California", revised edition, K/H Geology Field Guide Series, Kendall/Hunt Publishing, Dubuque, Iowa, 1975. Cover.
- Vasquez Rocks (television use in Bonanza and Star Trek) - (also see its following page)
- Los Angeles Orienteering Club - Orienteering Events
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