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Rafting the Kern River Three Pump Jacks, Midway-Sunset Oilfield Painted Rock. Carrizo Plain National Monument. Poppy Piedras Blancas Lightstation, San Simeon
BLM>California>Bakersfield>What We Do>Land Use Planning>Caliente Resource Area: RMP>Horse Canyon ACEC
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Chapter 11 - ACECs
South Sierra Management Area

Horse Canyon

The Horse and Sand Canyon areas are located approximately six miles north of Tehachapi Pass. The Horse Canyon ACEC encompasses approximately 1,530 acres of Federal surface and subsurface and 1,330 acres of Federal minerals.

The ACEC area and adjoining land is considered highly sensitive for its cultural resource and traditional lifeway values. Within the ACEC on public and private land there are at least sixty recorded or known prehistoric sites and several historic sites. Typically, food processing features, rock art, agate quarries, lithic flake/tool scatters, rock ring habitation features, and aboriginal and historic trails sites are represented in the ACEC. These archaeological sites are comprised of a combination of one or more of these physical attributes.

The Horse Canyon area lies somewhat at an interface between several Native American groups and may likely yield important information about trade, resource procurement, and prehistoric lifeways. This probable transition zone between the Mojave Desert and the San Joaquin Valley cultural regions may reveal important scientific and archaeological information. The area was primarily occupied by the Kawaiisu that were centrally focused in the Walker Basin, Kelso Canyon, Sand Canyon, and Loraine areas. The Tubatulabal occupied Kern Valley immediately north of the Kawaiisu. The Panamint and Chemehuevi occupied desert areas to the northeast and east respectively, the Kitanemuk group lived in the El Tejon area, and the Yokuts were centrally located to the west in the San Joaquin Valley.

Several recorded prehistoric sites of particular significance occur within and adjacent to the Horse Canyon area. The "Horse Canyon pictograph site" (CA-KER-93) and "Creation Cave" (CA-KER-508) are significant for their rock art, archaeological values, and traditional cultural and religious values. The extensive village site (CA-KER-230) near Sand Canyon and the ethnographic village site (CA-KER-339) known as "Ma a puts" attest to the importance of this area to the Native Americans. Traditional cultural and religious values are also associated with a aboriginal trail and geographic locations within the ACEC. Indeed, the area is a significant integral component of a cultural region where few systematic studies have been conducted on public and private land.

Paleontological resource values are known within and adjacent to the area. Phillips Ranch vertebrate fauna locality of the Kinnick Formation is situated on public land in Section 34, T.31S., R.24E. MDB&M (Dibblee 1967, p. 94).  Fossil mammalian faunas range in age from early middle Miocene to late Miocene. Primitive fauna of Merychippus (small horses), camels, and antelope-like forms have been revealed in the Kinnick Formation. In addition, from about the same stratigraphic level of Phillips Ranch fauna locality, flora has been found that consist of sixty-nine trees and shrubs assigned to the early Miocene (Savage, 1954, p. 45). "The lower, or Phillips Ranch horizon, appears to represent the oldest stage in the development of mammalian life above the Oligocene known thus far in the region west of the Wasatch". This important data contributes to a better understanding of the history of Mammalia and the geology of the southern Sierra Nevada and adjacent regions (Buwalda, 1916, p. 76, 86).

Portions of the Bopesta Formation contain Cache Peak vertebrate fossils (late Miocene) from the locality found on the east fork of Cache Creek, adjacent to the ACEC east boundary. Although, the Bopesta formation extends across this site, no fossil bearing horizons of the formation are known or recorded to date within the ACEC.

The unique presence of the Phillips Ranch vertebrate locality in these confines provides high research potential to yield significant information on vertebrate fossils and the history of geologic/fault activity in the region.

The public has expressed concern about potential adverse impacts. The potential threats to resource values are primarily from residential development. Although vandalism to cultural resources is known to occur in the area, overall most sites still possess high integrity.

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The Miocene sedimentary rocks exposed within the ACEC are interbedded with clay and tuff layers. The clay, an alteration product of tuff, also contains zeolites. A high-grade adsorptive bentonite clay was produced from the Filtrol mine located in Sec. 34 T. 31 S., R. 34 E. from 1927 to 1936. The tuff beds also contain abundant veins of jasper. In the N½ Sec. 35 and S½ Sec. 26, the Horse Canyon agate field has yielded agate, in addition to chalcedony, opal, chert, jasper, and petrified wood. From the early 1950s until the early 1960s the M and M Mining Company mined a variety of volcanic and sedimentary rocks for roofing granules. Quarries were developed in Sections 32, 33 and 34 T. 31 S., R. 34 E., M.D.M.

Currently, the parcels in the Horse Canyon area are unallotted for grazing. There are no active mining claims within the ACEC. In addition, no land use authorizations or oil and gas leases exist within the ACEC.

Based upon the significance and integrity of the cultural, traditional lifeway values, and natural resources, this area clearly meets the relevance and importance criteria necessary for ACEC designation.

Objective      Manage the Horse Canyon ACEC for the protection and preservation of significant cultural, traditional lifeway values, and natural resources.

Management Prescriptions

The ACEC is open for leasing of oil, gas, and geothermal resources subject to NSU

The ACEC is unavailable for livestock grazing due to other resource concerns.

Support Actions

Develop a Cooperative Management Agreement with the State of California for data collection on sensitive resources.

Develop a Cooperative Management Agreement with Tomo-Kahni State Park and the Native American community to assist BLM in management of the ACEC.

Cooperatively manage the Horse Canyon ACEC with Middle Knob ACEC (Ridgecrest Resource Area).

Legal Description


T. 31 S., R. 34 E., MDB&M
Sec. 24 Lots 7, 8
Sec. 26 W1/2
Sec. 34 Lots 1, 2, 3, 4

T. 32 S., R. 34 E. MDB&M
Sec. 2 NW1/4 Lots 1,2, SW1/4
Sec. 12 N½
Sec. 24 NE1/4, NE1/4 SE1/4, N1/2 NW1/4, SW1/4 NW1/4


T. 31 S., R. 34 E., MDB&M
Sec. 24 Lots 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16
Sec. 26 E1/2

T. 32 S., R. 34 E. MDB&M
Sec. 2 NE1/4 Lots 1,2, SE1/4
Sec. 24 SE1/4 NW1/4, E1/2 SW1/4, W1/2 SE1/4, SE1/4 SE1/4

Area Map

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