The Author With His Dog Inside King Clone (Inset: King Clone From Above)
The Author With His Dog Inside King Clone (Inset: King Clone From Above)

Imagine the Mojave Desert nearly 12,000 years ago.  It was a wetter place but the Ice Age was just coming to an end and many animals were becoming extinct.  Mammoths, mastadons, saber tooth cats, giant ground sloths and other animals would soon be wiped off of the face of the earth.  At this time one small creosote bush sprouted up through the desert floor and began spreading its mighty roots into the earth; this creosote bush would later be known as King Clone.  Possibly at about this same time only a few miles away the ground began to shake, but this was not an earthquake, it was a landslide, possibly the largest landslide that the world and definitely North America had ever seen.  This landslide was to be known as the Blackhawk Landslide.  I find it quite amazing that these two events occurred at roughly  the same time in history and only 4 miles apart in close proximity to State Highway 247 (Old Woman Springs Road), in Johnson Valley, near Lucerne Valley.

Today we know that King Clone is a creosote ring, these rings are the root systems of these ancient bushes.  As the central bush dies the root system spreads out and grows new sprouts; as the bush gets older and older the ring gets larger and larger in diameter.  If you look at any aerial photograph of this area you will see many creosote rings, the larger the ring the older the root system is.  King Clone Creosote Ring has the largest diameter thus making it the oldest creosote bush alive.  There is more to this story, these rings outdate the redwoods and bristlecone pines. Creosote rings are considered to be possibly the oldest living organisms on the earth, King Clone is nearly 70 feet in diameter and 12,000 years old.

Four miles away is what looks like an ordinary hill.  This hill is 5 miles long, 2 miles wide and between 30 and 100 feet thick.  How did this ordinary looking hill get to this spot?  All we know is that 700 million tons of rock and soil slid down the mountain on a cushion of air for nearly 5 miles, reaching speeds of 170 miles per hour.  Estimates of when this giant landslide rumbled down the mountain range from 10,000 to 55,000 years ago.

Blackhawk Landslide From Above (Inset: Blackhawk From The Ground)
Blackhawk Landslide From Above (Inset: Blackhawk From The Ground)

It is amazing how these two important places and events are so close to each other and possibly happened so close in the same span of time.  King Clone may not have even been a sprout yet when the landslide happened or it might have witnessed the whole event, either way, many of the animals species are gone but these two sentinels that are watching over the Mojave Desert are worth seeing on your next trip up or down Highway 247.  Stop and take a look at King Clone and Blackhawk Landslide, these are reminders that the Ice Age wasn’t all that long ago.

The Location Of Both Sites
The Location Of Both Sites

Take It Easy – Mojave

5 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the interesting article, Jeff. I think most of us ‘old-timers’ here in the southern Mojave desert find out about King Clone Creosote, but I hadn’t been aware of the Blackhawk Landslide. I live in Pinon Hills near Phelan and Wrightwood, and teach in Hesperia. I’ll be driving my truck over to see the King and The Slide with my wife soon.
    Drew

  2. Thanks Drew, I am glad that you enjoyed this blog, enjoy your trip to Blackhawk. If you have Google Earth on your computer it helps seeing the aerial view. Maybe I will see you in Pizza Factory in Phelan sometime and we can talk old-timer stuff.

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