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Salt Cave Rock Art Site, Lahonton Valley, Near Fallon Nevada


Salt Cave is a large tufa cave on the margin of the Lahontan Valley west of the town of Fallon. The cave is also on the margin of a U.S. Navy bombing range, a restricted area. Travel through the restricted area is permitted, but only on the maintained and well-marked road that cuts through the range. Be sure to stay on the road, as you may become a target otherwise.

At the Salt Cave site there are two large caves about 25 meters apart both containing rock art. There are aslo a number of smaller caves found in the immediate area. Following the road that runs along the valley floor to the north, there are a number of other caves visible. One of these is large enough for sleeping and has a smoke-blackened roof. No rock art is readily visible in this cave, but as some of the blackening appears to be historic, if not recent, it may have obscured the paintings.

Sunburst from salt cave petroglyph site, lahontan valley, near fallon, nevada.  photo by gerald trainor.I have found only one reference to the Salt Cave in Rock Art of Nevada, and this noting only that it is a registered site and including drawings of a number of its pictographs. It is unclear if the rock art has been fully documented, or if the cave has been excavated.





At the Salt Cave site, the southern-most cave has fewer pictographs and many of these are dust covered. The northern-most cave has, if you count each dot or line or blotch of pigment as unique, possibly thousands of paintings. The walls of this cave are cleaner and the rock art is more visible. The roof of this cave is blackened from fires and was obviously well used.

hand print from salt cave petroglyph site, lahontan valley, near fallon, nevada.  photo by gerald trainor.Dots make up the predominant element in the cave, typically measuring about 1 centimeter in diameter. These are found on the lobes of tufa, covering each lobe’s natural shape in many cases, but also in horizontal lines around the cave at about eye level. In some locations it appears that a hand may have been dipped in pigment and wiped across a lobe of tufa, covering it almost entirely. There are straight and wavy lines, resembling the “power lines” found at Puebloan sites, arcs, sets of lines made by pigment-covered fingers, figures of lizards, possibly a scorpian, and a single handprint. There is a very interesting “sunburst” where the artist took advantage of a knob on a lobe of tufa. The knob of tufa may have been modified by smoothing. All of the pictographs appear to be painted with the same red pigment.


Two other caves are noted as being in the immediate area, although based on the scale of the roughly drawn map, it is unclear exactly where these other caves might be. One of these is Petroglyph Cave, which appears to be associated with Salt Cave if we consider the proximity with which it is located on the map. The other nearby site is the Allen Springs site. I have not visited this site, but Allen Springs is noted on topograpic maps of the area. It is located to the north of Salt Cave, again along the margin of the valley floor bombing range.

lizard figure from salt cave petroglyph site, lahontan valley, near fallon, nevada.  photo by gerald trainor.


 

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