Located 5 minutes from Black Chasm Cavern, Grinding Stone State Park shows the history of the native Americans in this area and is a great quick stop with lots of history.
- 8 dollars to park
- Open sunrise to sunset
The native name for the site is “Chaw’se” which is the Miwok word for “grinding rock”. Upon this rock they ground acorns and other seeds into meal, slowly forming the cup-shaped depressions in the stone, which can still be seen today. Along with the mortar holes, the main grinding rock within the park also features a number of petroglyphs: circles, spoked wheels, animal and human tracks, wavy lines, etc. Some of these carvings are thought to be as much as two or three thousand years old and are now becoming difficult to discern in the rocks. This association of rock art and bedrock mortar pits is unique in California. Except for one other small site, Chaw’se has the only known occurrence of mortars intentionally decorated with petroglyphs.
After parking, the first stop on a visit should be the museum with all of the history and ancient relics, however it was closed when we were there so I am not able to report on it.
I set out on the interpretive trail instead. The trail itself is well laid out and beautiful with lots of plaques telling you about what you are seeing and engaging you with the culture.
I especially liked the metal chef statue that greets you as you start the walk.
On the right hand side they also have a replica of the teepees that the India’s of the area used.
As you wander around on the trail you will see beautiful oak trees and even an area to have a picnic all before reaching the main stop, the grinding stone.
I had no idea what this would look like before I got to the stone, as I had done no research, and I was shocked by the sheer size. Apparently the stone was used by many different Indians like an old school water cooler where everyone met to grind their food and interact with each other.
I would say the stone is easily 30-40 feet across and 20 feet wide. It is massive. In the middle there is a viewing platform that allows you to walk out on the stone and look over it.
I found it interesting to see all of the holes that have been ground out of the stone from decades of use. This is a very unique thing to see and I can’t believe I had never even heard of it before.
After checking it out you can continue to explore the park or head back to your car. All in all there is really no reason not to stop here if you area already checking out the cave, as it is a great way to see the history of the area. Let me know if have been in the comments.