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Stone Corrals and Fences

Rosasco Stone Corral-1976

Courtesy of Thad Waterbury

 

 Stone corrals stand as sentries into Tuolumne County, symbols of the early ranchers and pioneers who settled here.  Whether they were built of basalt rock from Table Mountain, or “tombstone” slates, these stone structures remind us of the homesteader’s life that was part of the westward movement to California.

 History and Background

            Stone fences tell the important history in the early development of ranch boundaries.  In the early 1860s the range was open, but by 1866 a California law was enacted that made the rancher responsible for any damages done when livestock trespassed onto another’s property whether there was a fence or not.  In 1870, California passed more fence line laws to keep livestock contained.  Since wood was scarce and the use of barbed wire had not yet made it to this part of California, the ranchers used their resourcefulness to clear the rangeland of the many field stones and to build their fences.  There were four abundant types of stones found in the fields, basalt (lava rock), greenstone (bedrock in the foothills), serpentine (slick-surfaced bright green), and tombstone-like rock (outcroppings that look like tombstone or pinnacles.)

 Current Features

            Today two massive stone corrals are still standing and each has a unique style.  The corrals are mainly circular to make it easier to gather and sort livestock.  Some are still used for roundups and special occasions.  Some stone fences have different types of stones within one fence section, while others have round or flat stones, or tight and open sections.  All were dry-laid, without mortar.

 How to Get There—GPS Coordinates: Highway 108—N37° 54.27' W120° 28.46'

Red Hills—N37° 49.94' W120° 28.69'

            One stone corral is located along Highway 108 just west of Jamestown on the Rosasco Ranch.  The Crimea stone corral is located at the intersection of Red Hills Road and J59 across from a stone plaque about the Tong War.  Both are located on private property but can be viewed from the highway.  Stone fences can be seen all along Highway 108 and throughout the Mother Lode.

 

 

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