Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Devil’s Waterhole

with 33 comments


There’s nothing diabolical about the Devil’s Waterhole at Inks Lake State Park. Though we’d been to the park several times in recent years, we’d never wandered all the way down to this end until we visited on May 6th. The first picture is a closer and more abstract take (you know me with abstractions), while the second photograph retroactively sets the scene.




Among things diabolical I include the alarming rise in my country of freedom-hating zealots on the rampage to “cancel” and “deplatform” anyone who has different ideas from them. I’d remind those historyphobes—but of course they’d refuse to listen—how quickly things devolved in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Fascist regimes in Germany and Italy, China’s [anti-]Cultural Revolution, the insanity of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the dictatorship of the Kim dynasty in North Korea, and other disastrous ideological regimes. As George Santayana warned in the first decade of the 20th century, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Good people have to speak and act now, before it’s too late.


© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 13, 2021 at 4:40 AM

33 Responses

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  1. Very nice place. I like that place. Thank you very much for sharing this. My best regards, Lowani.


    May 13, 2021 at 5:31 AM

  2. If you gave the first photo a quarter turn to the right, you’d have a geological analogue to the open rain lily flower you showed a couple of posts back. The different water surfaces in the photos is interesting. I’ve never thought about it before, but the ponds and lakes that you and Steve G. occasionally show may have a better chance of being smooth and mirror-like because they’re enclosed; there’s no under-surface swell to disturb them. Even in our bays, it’s very rare to see such reflectivity.

    The second is an especially inviting photo: perhaps because the shadow creates the illusion of a cave entrance.


    May 13, 2021 at 7:45 AM

    • I like your rotated analogue to the recent rain-lily.

      The water at the Devil’s Waterhole that morning was generally still and reflective, as in the second view. At times, though, ripples arose from a plunking frog (I assume—I didn’t see the animal) and nearby kayaks. I considered tossing in a stone to have more-prominent ripples but I couldn’t find a stone anywhere around me. Maybe other photographers used them all up.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 13, 2021 at 10:58 AM

  3. I wonder why this beautiful spot is called “Devil’s Waterhole”? I’d love to float around on those quiet waters or bask in the sun on those rocks, like a lazy lizard.

    The state of our country and the mindset of many is disturbing to me. “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink” comes to mind a lot lately.


    May 13, 2021 at 7:52 AM

    • I read that the name comes from the somewhat reddish color of the rocks, but that seems far-fetched, given how much redder rocks I’ve seen in some other places. As for floating around, it is allowed, however the only people we saw on the water during our stay were kayakers. And speaking of water, as you did, in some quarters the drinking of it has been given up in favor of Kool-Aid of the intellectually poisoned kind.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 13, 2021 at 7:59 AM

    • There is a devil’s staircase in Guadalupe Mtns NP, A Devil’s sinkhole down around Rocksprings, a Devil’s Den out at Big Bend. People must like naming stuff for the devil.

      Jason Frels

      May 13, 2021 at 10:24 AM

      • And in New York City there’s Spuyten Duyvil, which is said to be Dutch for “Spouting Devil,” due to treacherous currents there. It seems people have a devil of a time refraining from naming things after the Devil.

        Steve Schwartzman

        May 13, 2021 at 10:32 AM

  4. The rock formation and its reflection look like a giant crocodile. Great shot and sombre thoughts, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    May 13, 2021 at 8:15 AM

  5. On our last visit to a local park a plaque with a mention to John Muir had been removed. Some people want to erase history so we can forget it faster. The Devil’s Waterhole looks deep. Interesting place.

    Alessandra Chaves

    May 13, 2021 at 8:25 AM

    • Last year I learned that John Muir, a founder of the Sierra Club, is now persona non grata to the zealots in charge of that organization.

      I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to how deep the Devil’s Waterhole is.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 13, 2021 at 10:19 AM

      • I have kayaked around there and it seems I can always see the bottom, so it seems shallow. But I do see people jump off of those rocks into the water, so perhaps there are deeper parts.

        Jason Frels

        May 13, 2021 at 10:27 AM

        • Either deeper parts or some banged-up bodies.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 13, 2021 at 10:33 AM

          • The nice thing about that area, is that it is a constant level lake so you know what the conditions will be. I have only seen the water level down once a couple of years ago for dock maintenance and during that time, this area was basically a mud flat.

            Jason Frels

            May 13, 2021 at 10:39 AM

            • You made me think it must have been strange to see this area as a mud flat, but of course before the dam most of where Inks Lake is now was dry and the Devil’s Waterhole area was just a creek.

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 13, 2021 at 11:01 AM

      • I know. He defended the preservation of the park we visited, which is one of the few Sequoia groves left in California and by extension in the world. When it was still permitted to talk highly of his positive contributions, my son did a school project on his life and role in nature conservation. “When my son was in elementary school” feels like a long time ago, a different era, a different world, and it’s been only a decade and a half. And then I find myself reading and re-reading this to make sure that nothing I wrote can be quoted out of context to ruin my life, get me fired, shunned from society or worse.

        Alessandra Chaves

        May 13, 2021 at 10:57 AM

        • Yes, we’ve entered depressing times. I’m fortunately not in a job anymore so I can say what I want to. I’ve begun speaking out here, even though this blog is about nature photography, because I felt I couldn’t stay silent in the face of such danger to our civilization. Several authors have pointed to around 2014 or 2015 as the time when threats to free expression got noticeably worse. And of course in 2020 things fell off a cliff.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 13, 2021 at 11:08 AM

  6. Good point, Steve. We must stand on our principles before we no longer are able to.
    Loved your photos, esp. the second that looks like a fancy arrow or even a reptile.

    Eliza Waters

    May 13, 2021 at 7:48 PM

    • It’s encouraging that some people and groups have begun speaking up and resisting. I just hope it’s not too late. The push toward ideological control has already advanced so far in so many institutions.

      As for the photographs, another commenter saw a crocodile. I like your vision of a fancy arrow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 13, 2021 at 10:07 PM

  7. Nice reflections.

    Steve Gingold

    May 14, 2021 at 3:46 AM

  8. Love the images…. First shot great but equally great to be able to see its other perspective. As to perspective, I share your thoughts, democracy and tolerance is again changing and not for the better. As for speaking out…. well as you say, those that should listen, don’t


    May 14, 2021 at 10:30 AM

    • In presentations I normally move in from the general to the specific, but for a change I began with the closer, more abstract view and worked out to set the scene.

      The rapid worsening over the past year of onslaughts against freedom in our countries has prompted some people to begun speaking out against authoritarianism and the imposition of political dogma. I only hope it’s not too late.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 14, 2021 at 2:01 PM

  9. […] water feature we visited for the first time at Inks Lake State Park on our May 6th visit was the Valley Spring Creek Waterfall. The view below, which looks about 90° left from the angle […]

  10. A beautiful place which allows a few moments of calm in a deeply disturbing world. Over here I believe we have more freedom of speech, but I do notice that in places like Facebook there are more polarised opinions appearing from folk I know. Posts that assume that I either think the same as they do, or that they can tell me what to think. I really hate that! Makes me keep my distance and use social media less.

    Ann Mackay

    May 15, 2021 at 6:50 AM

    • Calm it was. It’s interesting that you feel you have more freedom of speech there than we do over here. The situation in the United States has taken a noticeable turn for the worse since 2020. As for social media, I find it pointless to engage in discussions there. Things quickly turn into the equivalent of shouting and name-calling. As you said, it makes sane people keep away.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 15, 2021 at 1:17 PM

  11. Beautiful ❤️❤️


    May 15, 2021 at 1:38 PM

  12. I enjoyed these reflections on the water!

    Lavinia Ross

    May 17, 2021 at 11:20 AM

  13. […] Inks Lake State Park, we explored a section of the park that we’d not been to before and that proved rewarding. When we returned on November 29th for our first visit since then, we adopted the same strategy and […]

  14. […] May 6th we drove the roughly one hour west to Inks Lake State Park, which by coincidence we’d visited exactly one year earlier. Because of the continuing drought, the place wasn’t the coreopsis-covered wonderland […]

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