Valley of the Names – Winterhaven, California - Atlas Obscura

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Valley of the Names

Since World War II people have been decorating this stretch of the Yuma desert with signatures arranged out of rocks.  


During World War II, soldiers training in the desert north of Yuma, Arizona, began decorating a site they called “Graffiti Mesa,” using rocks to write out their names in the clay. The tradition continued on after the war, and the graffitied area grew and grew. Today over 1,200 acres of land are decorated with signatures, messages, dates, initials, and designs. 

The mesa, now known as the “Valley of the Names,” is made up of hard-packed Bentonite clay, and the earliest names are arranged using black lava rocks that stand in sharp contrast. The land is barren for miles around, which means the rocks must be brought in from the outlying desert. (Some people have cheated by bringing bricks and spray-painted rocks from home.)

If you have a message or name that begs to be written in the desert, be forewarned, it requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle to access the area. Once there, it’s possible to drive down, around, and through the hills and valleys covered by this unique rock art. Make sure to bring your own rocks; there are plenty of black rocks on the road leading in.

Know Before You Go

To find the valley, take Picacho Road from Winterhaven and bear left at the fork (Barney Oldfield Road).

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March 21, 2018

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