Ruin Arch, Buckhorn Wash

Mark in Ruin ArchAfter work on Friday, I was trying to figure out a place I could go the following day to do some hiking. There is still a lot of snow on the ground, and I wasn’t very optimistic about finding somewhere that would be fun. I somehow ended up browsing the images at, and I ran across a picture of Ruin Arch. I had seen that picture a couple of years ago, but at the time I didn’t recognize the area where it was taken. When I saw the picture again on Friday, I immediately recognized it as being near the head of Buckhorn Wash, and I knew exactly what I would be doing on Saturday. 🙂 I called my sister and made plans to head out with her and her family the next morning.
Our first stop was a cliff across the canyon from the arch. I had been told by Jason that there were some petroglyphs there. Mark and I spent quite a while walking slowly along the base of the cliff, but all we saw were some very faint red markings that appeared to be pictographs, and some modern carvings/graffiti. After we reached the west end of the cliff, we turned around and went back toward the road, but this time we spotted a lot of petroglyphs. I guess the sunlight had to be reflecting back to us at just the right angle in order for us to make them out.
After taking a lot of pictures of the rock art there, we drove a couple hundred yards down the road and parked again. We headed out on foot across the flat, snow-covered canyon bottom to the cliffs on the south side. The hillside was steep and covered in 6-8″ of snow. The arch was no more than a couple hundred feet up, and it took some scrambling on all fours to make it to the top. It was amazing up there, and well-worth the trouble of climbing up. There were some awesome patterns eroded into the sandstone, and a few petroglyphs–some in an alcove near the arch, and some on the arch itself. I assume the arch is called Ruin Arch because of the ruined rock wall built up in front of one of the many alcoves near the arch, but to my untrained eye the rocks appear to have been stacked by gringos and not injuns. We stayed up near the arch for a long time, and I took about 80 pictures while I was there.
Getting down from the arch went very quickly–I just took a lot of big lumbering steps and let the deep snow break my momentum. After reaching our trucks, we drove about a half-mile down the canyon and parked just around the corner from the dinosaur footprint. Jason had told me about some more petroglyphs here, and they were much easier to find than the previous ones. Not only that, but they were magnificent. Unfortunately, my pictures didn’t turn out well. The petroglyphs are about 10′ high on a cliff, and the cliff is angled back about 45°. When holding my camera above my head, I couldn’t see my viewscreen well enough to tell if I had the rock art in focus or even fully within the camera’s view.
It was late by the time we were finished up at that panel, so we drove farther down the canyon to find a picnic spot. We should have pulled over at the nearest camp spot and just sat on our tailgates, but I wanted to eat at a picnic table, the nearest of which was at the campground near the San Rafael River bridge. There was a cold breeze in that area, so we just quickly ate lunch and then hit the road for home.

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