Fish Rocks Of Trona: Folk Art On A Geologic Scale

A Whale Of A Tale

(images via: Die-Luftverkühlten)

Though Trona boasted a surprising variety of recreational opportunities including tennis courts and the all-sand, 18-hole Trona Golf Course (darker soil was used to differentiate the “greens” from the desert fairways) built in 1926, hiking and amateur prospecting would have brought adventurous Tronians to the area of the Fish Rocks on numerous occasions over the years.

(images via: Trona on the Web and A Mudworm’s Thoughts)

Joe Fox of Trona must have passed by the Fish Rocks many times, and thanks to the psychological phenomenon of Pareidolia he must have noticed how much the rocks – especially the topmost one – resembled a school of giant marine creatures leaping out of the valley floor. A closer inspection revealed indications that someone had “roughed up the rock to make an eye.” Joe Fox got an idea… and then he got some white paint and a couple of family members to help put his plan into action.

(image via: OLDGUY74/Panoramio)

It’s not certain exactly when Joe Fox and/or members of his family first embellished the rock formation. Some sources point to the late 1930s, others state it was the early 1940s. Regardless, it was before the end of 1946 because that’s when Curtis W. Walker of Trona sent a photo he had taken of the decorated rocks to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. The January 8th, 1947, issue of the popular magazine included Walker’s photo captioned “The Whale Head Rocks, Natural Formation, Trona, Calif.”