Fish Slough Caves

Round Trip Distance: 0.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 4239 - 4285 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: Fish Slough Rd. MM 8
Fee: none
Attractions: rockshelters, pictographs

The Fish Slough Caves are located along the Fish Slough Road, 13 miles north of Bishop, California. The site includes 2 rock shelters, on the west side of a ridge, that are within cavities of a couple of large basalt boulders that have incredible views of a portion of the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Besides the 2 caves, that show signs of habitation, there is also a boulder down near the road with a few pictographs.

The turnoff to the caves, which are a little over a quartermile off of the Fish Slough Road, is 2.9 miles south of the Chidago Canyon Petroglyph Site and 1.3 miles north of the Fish Slough Petroglyph Site. If you were driving north from Bishop, which is 13 miles away, and had zeroed your odometer as you turned onto the Fish Slough Road, the turnoff would be right at the 8 mile point.

This side road, with its mostly hard packed sand and gravel surface, should be accessible to most highway vehicles. Near the 0.3 mile point after turning off of the Fish Slough Road there are some large boulders near the road. This is where you will want to park. At least one of the caves will be visible a little up the side of the hill.

On the east side of one of the boulders that is close to the road there is a recess that has the faint remains of some pictographs.

While the images are mostly faded beyond recognition there is at least one partial handprint that can be made out. All of the pictographs that we have found so far in the area have all been sheltered within little caves or recesses like this one.

Up the hill a little, just to the left of the pictographs, is the Cave 1, or North Cave.

The easiest sign of habitation at this cave is its blackened, suit covered, roof.

The view across the Volcanic Tablelands, of the not too distant mountains, with their white patches of snow, is very pretty. Who doesn't appreciate a 'room with a view'. For orientation purposes, you can see our pickup down below and the boulder on the right, with the little sign in front, where the pictographs are located.

A little scrambling is required to get up and over to the south cave boulder.

Here, in true rock shelter fashion, you can see where stones were stacked to create a wall that probably served well to block any breezes coming from the north and allowed the shelter to hold more of its warmth. Whether correctly or not, we assume that during the summer months the normal inhabitants of this site wold have traveled up to the cooler elevations of the mountains to both hunt game and gather herbs and such, making this a seasonal habitation.

This south cave is a little roomier and shares the same commanding views of the surrounding area to the south and west.

One reason for the Fish Slough Caves to be interesting would be due to the lingering question that arises when exploring rock art sites and considering the people that made the images and that is 'where did they live'. Cliff dwellings, caves and rock shelters are usually the most noticeable answer to the habitation question. Wickiups, pithouses and tipi rings are others but they are ones that are more easily erased by the passage of time. Anyone traveling along the Fish Slough Road, to see its many other sites, will probably appreciate some aspects of the Fish Slough Caves as well. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.