National Geographic : 1987 Jan
Leaving tracks of their culture, Indian peoples who lived along the lower ColoradoRiver created intagliosnear Blythe centuries ago. They are believed to represent creation myths. A photograph taken in the 1930s by the U. S. Army Air Corps shows the intaglios in pristine condition (right). But as the public invaded the desert, the figures became scoured by vehiculartracks (below right). In the mid-1970s the Bureau of Land Management erected fences; sections have beenflattened and rebuiltseveral times. Recent legislation makes the defacing of archaeological resources a federal crime. A first-offense conviction may bring a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. Tracks of wartime vintage were left at a trainingcamp for Gen. George S. Patton's tank corps in the 1940s (below left), located in the Mojave. Because of its clear skies and open spaces, the desert is prime traininggroundfor the military. The CaliforniaDesert incorporatesnine military bases and testing grounds. Aridity makes the deserta great preserver,conserving traces of someone who may have passedten minutes or a thousandyears before. Paths cut by pioneer wagons more than a hundredyears ago can still be seen in the northern Mojave.