Monday, November 9, 2015

Horseshoe Canyon: Rock Art Rocks, 1

According to our 1924 Baedeker guide to Utah, the greatest, or at least most extensive, collection of pre-historic rock art in North America is in Horseshoe Canyon, the lesser known fourth unit of Canyonlands National Park. The Horseshoe Canyon unit, which is miles apart from the Park itself, was brought under NPS administration precisely to protect the four large and very distinctive panels thought to have been done by the Archaic peoples, that is, the North American natives well prior to the Anasazi and later Pueblo peoples who are more or less “historic.” The age of the art, according to our guide book, and in more recent stuff we have read, is thought to be in the 2,000-8,000 year range.  NPS puts it at 1,000-2,000 BC. Anyhow, that would put them in the same range as the rock art we saw extensively in Scandinavia six years ago, although those were primarily rock-engravings. The art at Horseshoe Canyon is incised, but interestingly and intricately painted. And spooky, too. Of course, all this pales in comparison with the paleolithic rock art one sees in France and Spain, which is much older and much more advanced, artistically. But still, we wanted to get our boots on the ground in one of these canyons, and the allure of very old rock art brought us to Horseshoe.
En route to Horseshoe Canyon: from Island in the Sky you go
east some miles, then north some miles on route 191 to I-70,
then  west some miles, then south some miles on Utah route 24,
then  east again some 32 miles on a gravel road, then south a
few miles on another gravel road, and then, bingo, you're there;
but getting there is only a part of the fun; above is the great
Green River as it passes through Green River, Utah; I have
always suspected that the Green is to the Colorado as the
Missouri is to the Mississippi: greater river to lesser river with
better PR department...

On the other hand, the fair city of Green River has placed a raw
sewage pumping station right on the river and directly adjacent
to a popular restaurant; what would John Wesley Powell have

Whatever; so now we are leaving the pavement and heading
for the canyon

Despite all the helpful warning signs

Especially this one; if you are a GPS user, you must read this,
and to enlarge

Finally, we have arrived at the primitive campground and are at
the trailhead kiosk, studying all the signage

Thus; despite all the cautions and warnings, it's really not all
that bad...the 32 miles off pavement was some of the best gravel
road we have driven, and the hike itself, although in ideal
weather, was only moderate in difficulty, if that

Sunset sky the night before

The first mile or so of the hike takes you 600-700 feet down
into the canyon, much of it on petrified sand dunes


More interesting signage


Looking across the canyon at a 1920s "road" built for oil and
gas exploration

Finally, you're on the floor of the canyon, which is never more
than a hundred yards wide

In or just above the wash...the trail crossed the stream many
times, but the stream was never a problem

And then, half a mile or so up the canyon, you see the first
installation, the so-called Horseshoe Shelter


1 comment:

Tawana said...

Love all the signage! So, this art is just exposed to the elements? Interesting.