Devil's Canyon, Geysers, Looking Down

Artist: Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829–1916)

Date: 1868–70

Medium: Albumen silver print from glass negative

Dimensions: 39.8 x 52.4 cm. (15 11/16 x 20 5/8 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1989

Accession Number: 1989.1082


This tortured landscape shows Devil's Canyon, which is cited in William Bentley's Hand-Book of the Pacific Coast (1884) as a "favored resort for pleasure seekers" from nearby San Francisco. Located in Sonoma County, its chief feature was a crevasse six feet in diameter known as the "Steam Pipe," a Dantean inferno from which steam bellowed forth with a blast that often exceeded the scream of a locomotive whistle. The tiny figure on the left, a surrogate for the viewer, is rare in Watkins' work and is thought to be the photographer himself.