Thursday Mar 22 2012
This trip is no grind: Indian Grinding Rock State Historic
By: Ken Larson, Folsom Lake Entertainer
Folsom Lake Entertainer
Spring is a great time to visit the Chaw’se Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park, located only eight miles east of Jackson on Highway 88 in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It’s really close and an adventure for people of all ages because it includes a museum, hiking trails, and interesting collections. The park is named after a great outcropping of marbleized limestone with some 1,185 mortar holes, which is the largest collection of bedrock mortars in North America, according to park officials. Nestled in a little valley filled with quiet meadows, about 2400 feet above sea level, the park also contains large valley oak trees. These once provided the Miwok peoples ample supplies of acorns. Chaw’se is the Miwok word for grinding rock. On this rock, Native Americans ground acorns and other seeds into meal, slowly forming the cup shaped depressions in the stone that can still be seen today. Along with the mortar holes, the main grinding rock within the park also features a number of decorative carvings, known as petroglyphs, as well as circles, spoked wheels, animal and human tracks, and wavy lines. Some of these carvings are thought to be as old as 3,000 years. This association of rock art and bedrock mortar pits is unique in California and has the only known occurrence of mortars intentionally decorated with petroglyphs. But the historic rock is only one part of an exciting visit to the historic park. A museum, within the park grounds, features a variety of exhibits with a vast collection of Sierra Nevada Indian artifacts. A Miwok village complete with a ceremonial roundhouse(used as a ceremonial gathering place) has been reconstructed in the middle of a small valley. Several sturdy bark-houses are part of the experience. The museum has been designed to reflect the architecture of the traditional roundhouse. Miwok crafts are on display in the Museum. Two short trails take people into the wooded areas for those who want to explore the park. The North Trail is about a mile long and begins near the museum and follows a low ridge that loops back to the reconstructed village. At the village, guests join the South Trail and return to the museum or visitor center. These are self-guided interpretive paths with details keyed to the park’s pamphlet. As people wander through the forest they enjoy the meadowlands, oak woods, sugar pine and ponderosa pines. To get to Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park travel Highway 49 to Jackson, then head east about nine miles to the little village of Pine Grove. Turn left and travel 1.5 miles to the Park. There is ample parking and they charge a fee.