- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Visit Carrizo Plain National Monument
Carrizo Plain National Monument is home to a number of curiously beautiful sights, both natural and man-made. Among those, visitors can expect to see an ancient rock art site, a creek bed disrupted by the San Andreas Fault and a lake filled with a glistening layer of white salt.
Adjacent to the southwest edge of the San Joaquin Valley, the Carrizo Plain National Monument is a 250,000-acre oasis as well as a diverse complex of habitats for many endangered, threatened and rare species of plants and animals.
Soda Lake covers an area of about 3,000 acres and is one of the most dominant geographic features of the Carrizo Plain. As a result of evaporating mineral-laden surface water, a crust has formed in the lake, creating a glistening white bed of salt that has become a famous attraction for Carrizo.
The Carrizo Plain is traversed by the San Andreas Fault, providing spectacular topography along the eastern edge. Ridges rise sharply from the plain to form the Panorama and Elkhorn Hills. Temporary pools and salt-encrusted ponds appear along the fault, trapping rainwater to create stunning scenery.
Painted Rock, a large, U-shaped rock outcrop just south of the Goodwin Education Center, features what was once an elaborate, multicolored pictograph site created by the Chumash, a Native American people who historically inhabited the coastal regions of California. Both the interior and exterior sides have paintings, which include geometric images as well as human figures, snakes and aquatic images.
There are numerous seasonal recreational opportunities for visitors, many of them focused on the plain's abundant birds and wildflowers. Aside from the organized tours available, hiking, biking, birding, wildlife viewing and scenic drives are all popular activities for guests.
The San Andreas, Soda Lake, Elkhorn and Seven Mile roads within the monument, all combine to offer a stunning 70-mile scenic loop drive, and the nearby Goodwin Educational Center provides interpretive exhibits and other educational programs.