'Scientists show little interest in these walls. One even stated : I don’t know of anyone who’s come up with a credible explanation. I think what you’re getting is an indication that there isn’t any academic work in it.' - William R. Corliss
'Most "scientists" are bottle washers and button sorters.' - Lazarus Long
In Northern California there are hundreds of miles of rock lines commonly called rock walls or fences. Built in strange patterns and stranger locations, lacking modern function and with no historical documentation. Height ranging from inches to six feet and more and constructed with rocks from ounces to tons. The vast majority of these rock lines have never been used or modified for any modern purpose. Most are covered with undisturbed lichen growth and a veneer of weathering identical with adjacent rock formations. Many are buried or partially buried.
The top panorama is from the Lake Shastina area in the Shasta Valley and the bottom from Pass Road in the Sutter Buttes.
A search for historical information yielded only one article in Northern California on the rock fences/lines, a school paper written by Don Van Kamp for a folklore class at the local community college and published in 1984 in the Siskiyou Pioneer. The paper consists of interviews with locals who speculate about the rock fences. Statements such as “it can be assumed,” “could have been,” “suggested that perhaps,” and “persons interviewed thought perhaps,” are common. The conclusion of the article was that the rock lines were built to “clear the land and to control the ranchers’ livestock.” The only tool shown was a stone boat, a crude horse-drawn wooden sled with a triangular bed and a lift of over a foot to a bed with about nine to ten square feet of bed space.
The Van Kamp paper contains only one first-person quote, credited to August Louie and/or Joe Rose. “We worked at the Coonrod Ranch in 1860 or 1861 building many rock and rail fences. The going wage for building rock fences was 25 cents a rod (16.5 feet); we build up to four rods a day.”
The Van Kamp paper can be summed up as thus:
1. The bulk of the article is unverified speculation by residents removed by generations from the 1855 to 1870 area of construction proposed by the paper. Many statements are phrased as guesses.
2. Historical evidence consists of a two-sentence, first-person statement by two workmen who state they worked on a Shasta Valley ranch, building wood and stone fences in 1860 or 1861.
3. Physical evidence consists of a picture of a crude, horse-drawn rock sled called a stone boat.
Van Kamp’s paper was the exclusive source for the rock lines and was quoted extensively in “Archaeological Explorations in Shasta Valley, California”, by Bossom Hamusek, Eric W. Ritter and Julie Burcell published in 1997. An archeological inventory compiled for the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed disposal of 17 parcels totaling approximately 4,300 acres in eastern Shasta Valley, Siskiyou County.
Other than to add some vernacular and lipstick there is no apparent additional research done by the authors. Their conclusions: “Based on extensive research and interviews conducted with local ranchers by Van Camp (1984), it appears that the rock walls/fences within the study area conform to his following hypothesis:
1. The rock fences were constructed by the original property settlers between 1855 and 1870 with most of the work being performed by Portuguese laborers.
2. The fences/walls were constructed out of necessity with the available supplies at hand—rocks.
3. The fences/walls generally did not follow a straight course, as they were often not directly associated with property boundaries lines. Rather, they were sinuous in nature in order to incorporate natural rock features in their construction and to reduce the work load involved in carrying rocks to the fence site.
4. The design of the fences was not based on any particular cultural heritage.
5. The main purpose of the fences was to clear the land in the valley bottom and to control the rancher’s livestock on the range.”
All the above guesses fail in the face of the physical evidence.
This is the official explanation for the rock lines in the Shasta Valley. No “official explanation” for the rock lines in the Sutter Buttes could be found.
“Archaeological Explorations in Shasta Valley, California” also discloses that there has never been any significant archaeological exploration in the Shasta Valley.
Local residents from both the Sutter Buttes area and the Shasta Valley most commonly claim the rock lines are fences built by the Chinese. Other labor groups cited as the builders are ranch hands, out of work miners and settler’s children. These simplistic explanations also fail when compared to the physical evidence.
To move and handle the larger rocks in the rock lines would require equipment such as gin pulleys or wenches which leave distinctive holes and marks on rocks, these markings are not found on rocks in the California rock lines. There are also boulders in some rock lines that are far beyond the weight limits for any known equipment of that era. When barbed wire became widely available by the early 1880's it became for all practical purposes the only fencing for ranching purposes. Based on maps, historical evidence, and physical appearance probably less than 10% of the existing rock lines, rock fences or walls in Northern California are used as fences with the vast majority of those being pre-existing rock lines modified by settlers.
Rock lines fail to serve these purported functions:
Property line markers: After California became a state, the Sutter Buttes were surveyed by the federal government between 1851 and 1867. Map overlays of the rock lines disclose patterns totally inconsistent with any modern or settler construction and as can be seen in the photos the design of the vast majority of rock lines serve no modern function. On the map below the red lines are the US survey lines and the dashed yellow lines represent rock lines/walls. An early version of a map of the rock lines in the Shasta Valley also shows similar results.
Fences or Walls: Unmodified rock lines contain gaps, rarely enclose areas and do not effectively contain livestock. In both the Sutter Buttes and the Shasta Valley livestock can be seen wandering through and around the rock lines with no difficultly nor is there any sign of ranchers being uncomfortable with the situation. The livestock are contained with barbed wire fences which enclose large segments of rangeland. Few modified and no unmodified rock lines are part of this containment system.
Some rock lines have been modified for modern purposes, most often by inserting barbed wire fences into rock lines as a base and less commonly by adding rocks to make a functional fence. The barbwire fences inserted into rock lines are in rocky areas where digging post holes by hand would be a very difficult task. Much easier to insert a wooden fence posts into an existing rock line.
The rock line extends unbroken throughout the base of the hybrid rock line / barbwire fences. If the rock lines and the barbed wire fences were part of the same project then it would seem to be logical to assume that rocks would only be found around the base of the fence posts not in the areas between the fence posts.
Many of these barbed wire / rock line fence hybrids seemingly wander aimlessly just as many unmodified rock lines do. Newer barbed wire fences which can be distinguished by the metal posts are not associated with rock lines, do not wander in strange patterns and are commonly located on property lines.
Field Clearing: Fields are cleared of rocks to allow plowing and cultivating of land. Large tracts of range land where most rock lines exist is not cleared of rock as it would be very labor intensive, costly and would not increase productivity from said lands. In both the Shasta Valley and the Sutter Buttes, removing a rock from the ground will most often just expose more volcanic rock. Many of the lines run along ridge tops and many through dense areas of surface rock with no signs of the adjacent ground being cleared of any rock.
To take any hypothesis seriously attributing settlers with the rock line construction it would need supporting evidence explaining these problems:
a) how were the rocks weighing tons moved and placed,
b) the purpose of the strange patterns of the rock lines and why they are so different from the layout of modern barbed wire fences in the same areas,
c) the mini rock lines and their purpose,
d) the lack of modern functions of the rock lines,
e) the how and why of the rock lines which on hillsides with grades up to 60%,
f) the buried and partially buried rock lines,
g) the heavy undisturbed lichen growth identical to adjacent rocks.
h) why do areas adjacent to the rock lines not show any markings, scars or roads consistent with construction.
It seems rather unlikely the rock lines, an engineering feat involving untold thousands of tons of rock and hundreds of miles of lines, would from the onset be constructed in a defective non-functioning manner. Even more oddly the builders ignoring these defects and proceeding to build hundreds of miles more of defective rock lines. If the rock lines were built by a variety of builders, how could it be that they all made the same "mistakes"? Why do the same "mistakes" appear in both the Shasta Valley and the Sutter Buttes?
No attempt has been made to determine approximate minimum age through lichen growth, but many of the rock lines have heavy undisturbed lichen growth. Local gravestones from the 1850s to the 1880s do not have near the same level of lichen growth. Both are indications that the rock lines go back much further than 1850. Most rock lines are partially buried.
Looking toward known Native Americans as potential line builders also has negative results. Their hunter–gather lifestyle had no need for the rock lines, and they would face the same engineering problems as the settlers. Native Americans make no claim of building the rock lines.
A Middle Mountain Foundation guide mentioned that he had heard the total length of rock lines in the Sutter Buttes at about 200 miles, probably a good guess. Due to overgrowth, buried rock lines, small lines and other difficulties it would be hard to accurately measure all the rock lines in the Sutter Buttes. It would require walking many rock lines over private land and would be very difficult to do. There are several hundred miles of rock lines in the Shasta Valley.
The rock lines are many thousands of years old and despite academia's worst efforts have not been explained away. Their origin are a true mystery and they were constructed well before the time academia claims men first came to the North American continent.