Tiburcio Vasquez and His Rocks

What's New — By Noah Albert on March 16, 2011 at 2:44 am

The Vasquez Rocks Natural Area is located about 40 miles north of Los Angeles, just off of the Antelope Valley Freeway (CA 14) near Agua Dulce. This site is located on the Elkhorn branch of the San Andreas fault; 15 million years of tectonic activity have created the up-thrust sandstone, shale, and basalt rock formations. Over the years erosion has washed the soil off of the rocks, accentuating the jagged and dramatic shapes. This L.A. County owned natural area is comprised of 932 acres of land, criss-crossed by enough trails for several hours of walking and exploration. Because of the otherworldly scenery and the proximity to Los Angeles, this area has been used as a filming location many, many times. For example, this neat site collects images of Star Trek episodes filmed here.

These rocks were one of the favorite hide-outs of the last great Californian bandido, Tiburcio Vasquez, whose name the area bears. Tiburcio’s short life has become the stuff of legend. His life of crime began at age 17 when he fled a fandango where Constable William Hardmount was killed. Although Tiburcio had nothing to do with the murder, this trip to the hills with his outlaw cousin Anastacio Garcia set him on the bandido track. Over the years Tiburcio’s fame as a bandit grew as caper followed caper. He consistently justified his criminal actions as an appropriate response to the Anglo treatment of Hispanics in California.

Tiburcio Vasquez also had a reputation as a womanizer. Legend has it that one of his henchman Abdon Leiva turned Tiburcio in because the outlaw had seduced Abdon’s wife (other versions of the story have it that Tiburcio seduced his own niece and was turned in by his family). In any event, the law caught up with Tiburcio in 1874 at “Greek George” Caralambo’s ranch in what is now West Hollywood. (In the 1870s Tiburcio Vasquez spent a lot of time in Southern California, making him a real Los Angeles folk hero). Tiburcio Vasquez was hung on March 19th, 1875.

During his imprisonment, Tiburcio posed for the only pictures that we have of him. The story is that he sold autographed copies of these pictures from his jail cell to pay for his defense.

Below are some sites with more details about the life of Tiburcio Vasquez:

www.scvhistory.com — Scans of newspaper stories from the day.

www.californiahistory.com — Long article full of details and locations.

www.legendsofamerica.com — A pretty concise summary.

[Photos courtesy of respres (2 3 4 5 6) and Howcheng/wikimedia]

Tags: Adventure, Desert, Geology, Hiking, Historic Los Angeles, Offbeat L.A.


  • Melanie@TravelsWithTwo says:

    Noah, this is a fascinating article! I’ve hiked here before, but never knew its history, both in terms of criminal enterprise…and Enterprise. 🙂 Your photos are simply beautiful.

  • noahalbert says:

    Thanks for your kind comment Melanie! Just to perfectly clear the photos are by this guy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/respres/ They are not by me, I am just using them with the Creative Commons license. They are good photos but that is a credit to Mr. Jeff Turner. Thank you Jeff!


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