Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park is a nice California state park that preserves a large rock used by Native Americans for food grinding and which as over 1,000 mortar holes. 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, here is all the information.
- 8 dollars to park (as of 2015)
- Open 10 AM – 4 PM
- Location: 14881 Pine Grove Volcano Rd, Pine Grove, CA 95665
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 primary grinding rock within the park also features several 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 is well laid out and beautiful, with lots of plaques telling you about what you are seeing and connecting 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 Native Americans 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. The stone was used by many different Native American tribes, 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 were ground out of the stone from decades of use. This is a very unique park 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. There is really no reason not to stop here if your area already visiting Black Chasm Cavern, as it is a great way to see the history of the area. Let me know if have been in the comments.