Rock Art in Dry Fork Canyon

Since our itinerary brought us within a reasonable distance of Dinosaur National Monument, Oola thought we should see some dinosaur fossils. That sounded good to me so we stopped in the town of Vernal, UT ready for an adventure the next day.

There my eye happened on a brochure about some petroglyphs in the area. Ever the glutton for art, I thought we could do one tour in the AM and save one for after lunch. So we found our way to Dry Fork Canyon and the McConkie Ranch (the owners of which graciously allow the public to roam parts of their private land).

Since it was a cloudy day and what sun there was was behind the panels, and since I will not be returning here to re-photograph during this lifetime,  it is difficult to see these images.  I enhanced them (contrast only) in Photoshop.  Click on each image to see an enlargement.

A storm of the previous day left everything damp and cool. It had also produced a flash flood of which there was ample evidence. I found the well-marked trail and began to wonder about my ability to follow it. Twenty years ago, yes for sure, but now???…… The whole time as I grunted and scrambled, I though, “How am I going to get down?” Soon, with Oola urging me on, my greed overcame my good sense. And I said to myself, “Self, Quit Whining.  It’s better this way to help keep destroyers away from the images.”

a short but tricky way UP

When we came to the first panel, frankly I was disappointed. Without an overhead sun to cast shadows, things were hard to see. Then, as I squinted and stared, there came the first whumph!. Suddenly I saw the image, full of the visual intent of a human being who lived perhaps a thousand years ago, right here on this spot. KICKIN’ but … I have seen lots of Fremont Culture images, and these looked a little like a learner’s permit.

What are these two doing?
What are these two doing?

Still, having come this far I was not going to give up. Clambering about I found a few images that seemed to have been “enhanced” by much later hands, if I am correct, probably in a misguided attempt to “explain” the image, scratches instead of pits, “boots” instead of the typical “Fremont Culture” feet.

Then, I turned a corner and felt a heart-stopping “WHUMPH!”. This made all the sweat — and the price that I am going to pay tomorrow — as nothing.

Really, the original is so much more brilliant than the pict

It exudes authenticity, and the authority of the original maker-of-images. It combines painting with the chip-chip-chipping of the stone. It is a story from a past that I can never understand. I soon discovered more images of extremely good quality and form.

As I was looking, scrambling and looking, there came along the path a father-son duet. When you are with rock art people, you know you are with good people. We talked a bit, and Kevin, the father, advised me not to over-do it, that I looked very red to him. Though there was more to see, I decided it best to head back. Looking down it became apparent that some of my return would be by the seat of the pants method, inelegant but effective. Kevin and James soon returned and told me that they had seen an image of a bear. I was sore disappointed, in more ways than one.

The signs all say to stay on the trail.  But it is hard to keep one’s feet on the trail when the wet sandstone crumples under them. Kevin had James help me over the rough, slippy-slidey parts of the trail. They could have traveled much faster without helping me. And I am extremely thankful for their help. Man-angels still live, and chivalry will never die. (Oola is looking for the horse.)

Kevin and James from Houston
Kevin and James from Houston

Oola is dancing to know that there is so much individual good in the world to balance out the bad behavior.  This is probably why we haven’t disappeared as a species.

Kevin and James, if you are reading this, Newspaper Rock is south of  Moab, UT and if you walk into the canyon you will find many more hidden away, just waiting for you to clamber up.

Newspaper rock
Newspaper rock

If, in your tour of Utah,  you go through Canyonlands National Monument, be sure to visit Horseshoe Canyon.  You will not want to go home.

Horseshoe Canyon paintings

PS     (All bets off on the dinosaurs)

PPS   And Mysterious One, this is for you:


I knew you would want to take it home and fix it up!

By jandove


1 comment

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: