The Uinta Basin has been off my radar as far as rock art is concerned, despite being as long a drive north as I would normally drive south to places like Moab. My only experiences with the towns in the region were in passing as I drove to the Uinta Mountains. That changed on Sunday after Alan invited me to accompany him to McConkie Ranch near Vernal. The ranch is well-known for its “Classic Vernal Style” rock art left by the Fremont, and I think it’s really cool of the owners to keep the place open to the public. We spent four hours there and I took almost 250 photos. There are many large and skillfully-made figures with headdresses, necklaces, and other decorations depicted.
I’d done a little research and compiled a list of other sites we could visit if we had time after McConkie Ranch. The first such site we hit is called the Peltier Site. It’s just off a paved road and has been badly vandalized. Although the petroglyphs here weren’t as incredible as those at McConkie, there were nice enough in their own right.
Next we stopped at an unusual site near Steinaker Reservoir. It was a shallow alcove with a steeply slanted floor, and no running water in the immediate vicinity. It wouldn’t have been used as a habitation site, but judging by the pictographs there somebody had spent a great deal of time in the alcove. Alan and I hiked around some nearby sandstone hills and canyons looking for more but didn’t find much else.
We aimed for one final site along Ashley Creek. I’d planned to access it from the top but didn’t know for certain whether there was a route from the top of the cliffs down to the rock art. From the end of a dirt road, we walked to the top of the cliffs and found several weaknesses that seemed as though they would allow us to descend. One spot required us to drop five or six vertical feet. After I dropped down but before Alan descended, I turned around and upclimbed the obstacle to make sure we could get back out before we both committed to it. We reached the rock art and weren’t disappointed. The spicy descent was worth it. There were some large, well-made figures, but also some smaller and unique figures. To get up close to some of the rock art we had to climb and then walk along a narrow ledge. During the ascent back to Alan’s truck we got a good workout. By then it was late enough that we needed to hit the road and head home. I’d had a great first taste of what the Vernal area had to offer. As is often the case, my post-trip research led not only to new places I can visit on my next trip there, but also things I was close to but missed on this trip.
Photo Gallery: Vernal Area Rock Art