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Alabama Hills

The Alabama Hills are a range of hills in the Owens Valley of California, near Lone Pine, California. The rounded contours of the Alabamas contrast with the sharp ridges of the Sierra Nevada; however, the Alabamas are no older than the Sierra. Different patterns of erosion account for the difference.

Mt Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, towers 10,000 feet above this low range, which itself is 1,500 feet above the floor of Owens Valley. However, Gravity surveys indicate that the Owens Valley is filled with about 10,000 feet of sediment and that the Alabama's are the tip of a very steep escarpment. This feature may have been created by many earthquakes similar to the 1872 Lone Pine earthquake which, in a single event, caused a vertical displacement of 15-20 feet.

There are two main types of rock exposed at Alabama Hills. One is an orange, drab weathered metamorphosed volcanic rock that is 150-200 million years old. The other type of rock exposed here is 90 million year old granite which weathers to potato-shaped large boulders; many of which stand on end due to spheroidal weathering acting on many nearly vertical joints in the rock.


The Alabama Hills were named for CSS Alabama. When news of the Confederate warship's exploits reached prospectors in California sympathetic to the South, they named many mining claims after her, and the name came to be applied to the entire mountain range. Then, when Alabama was sunk off the coast of Normandy by USS Kearsarge in 1864, prospectors sympathetic to the North named a mining district, mountain pass, a peak, and a town after Kearsarge.

The Alabama Hills are a popular location for television and movie productions set in the archetypical "rugged" environment. Since the early 1920s 150 movies and about a dozen television shows have been filmed here including Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, and the Lone Ranger. Classics such as "Gunga Din," "Springfield Rifle," and "How the West Was Won" as well as more recent productions such as "Tremors" and "Joshua Tree" were filmed at sites known as "Movie Flats" and Movie Flat Road.