Fossil Falls

 Fossil Falls features the remnants of flowing lava

Fossil Falls features the remnants of flowing lava

Frozen waterfalls of molten lava located just north of Little Lake on Highway 395 in the Coso Range are aptly named Fossil Falls. Basalt lava flows from the Coso Volcanic Field and Red Hill, the large conical mound to the north, formed the large black veils of shiny rock between 400,000 and 10,000 years ago.

During the last ice age between 20,000 and 10,000 years ago, known as the Tioga, run off from massive glaciers in the Sierra Nevada created rushing rivers and lakes in the Owens Valley including the Coco Range. Those huge rivers ran down and through the falls area, polishing and smoothing the glassy rock into the geological spectacle seen today.

 Fossil Falls up close

Fossil Falls up close

The falls are located in the Coco Range, a small collection of rocky hills on the Kern and Inyo county borders. The range is home to China Lake, Naval Air Weapons Station and more than 100,000 early-Native American rock art depictions.

There is a half-mile trail heading from the parking area to views of the falls. Cross-country travel is easy, but be careful not to trample the tiny and delicate flowers and other plants and animals that call this place home. The falls are one of the most spectacular areas for viewing early spring wildflowers.

Access to the formation and a smattering of campgrounds are located about a mile east of 395 on Cinder Road, follow the signs. The turn off is not well marked so look for the large cinder cone, Red Hill. If you’ve reached Coso Junction Rest Area to the north or Little Lake to the south, turn around and look again. There is dry camping available – no water - for $6 a night. There are also vault toilets. Dogs are always welcome, but watch for snakes.

Mike Bodine has been reporting on the small town news and gossip of the Eastside for more than 15 years.