Brief Cultural History
Cultural Resources in the Surprise Field Office trace back to 10,000 B.C. The early inhabitants of this area lived in a vastly different landscape than we see today. Large lakes covered most of the desert floors, the edges were teeming with plant and animal life. Fish and birds were abundant in and around the lakes and adjacent marshland. Large grasslands stretched for miles on the highlands providing habitat for large herbivores. The areas volcanic nature left obsidian deposits that ancient peoples crafted sharp and effective tools and weapons. Around 3,000 B.C. a long period of drought began, vastly changing the landscape into what it is today.
Northern Paiute arrived in the Great Basin around 1,500 years ago. The Paiutes were hunter-gatherers and moved with the food sources as the seasons changed. Pioneers arriving on the Applegate Lassen Emigrant Trail in the 1840s and 50s in wagon trains found the Paiutes still living around Surprise Valley. The Applegate Lassen Emigrant Trail was one of the major trails providing access into California and Oregon. The trail crossed the Black Rock Desert and through the towering walls of High Rock Canyon, across the Hays Range, into Surprise Valley and beyond. Wagon ruts, dates engraved on canyon walls, as well as the remains of homesteads are a testament to these early travelers.
Enjoy But Do Not Destroy Your American Heritage
These traces of the past belong to the future. Allow future generations to enjoy their American heritage, removing artifacts or remains destroys valuable clues to the past. It is unlawful to take any artifact from Public Land without a permit.
Report any theft or vandalism to the Applegate Field Office.