A couple of weekends ago I went on my third trip into the Book Cliffs in search of rock art. The trip was initially set into motion earlier in the week when I was reading Steve Allen’s Utah’s Canyon Country Place Names, in which he mentions a Denis Julien inscription in Hay Canyon. I’d never heard of a Julien inscription there so I decided to attempt locating it. Allen was tightlipped in his book, but I found two mentions of the inscription online, one with a small tidbit of info that may have helped me locate it. However, when I mentioned my weekend plans to my friend Alan, he offered up some coordinates–he’d already been there! It was a long drive to see a single inscription, so I did more research and learned of some rock art to put on my list to visit.
I got an early 7:00 start on Saturday morning ’cause I was worried about making it to Alan’s 6PM birthday dinner at Ray’s Tavern in Green River. I topped off my fuel in Green River and then headed east and into the Book Cliffs along Westwater Creek. My plans to visit some pictographs and the Robidoux inscription near where Westwater exits the Book Cliffs was thwarted by some heavily-posted and fenced private property. Not that I’m necessarily easily dissuaded from trespassing just to get a few photos, but with the nearby ranch appearing to be occupied, I settled for taking photos from the county road. Just beyond the private property I did stop and walk around a bit to get a close-up view of some rock art that wasn’t on posted property. There were a couple of very nice Barrier Canyon style and Ute pictograph panels, along with many inscriptions, many of which were dated 1888.
Near the mouth of Hay Canyon I poked around a spring where I’d hoped to find at least something of interest but only discovered a single abraded glyph consisting of a circle and dots. A nice lunch spot presented itself and I stopped to eat a sandwich before moving along.
I visited one more pictograph panel, and photographed a couple from the road that didn’t seem worth hiking to, before reaching the area of the Julien inscription. I didn’t know fully what to expect there. The Denis Julien inscription was dated 1830, making it the earliest of all his known writings. Nearby, however, were several more inscriptions, mostly from the 1880s and 1890s. There were also some Ute petroglyphs in the area depicting horses and bison.
I had taken a lot of time heading up Westwater Creek, stopping often to peer through binoculars at distant cliff faces. Driving back down Westwater went quickly, though. After exiting the Book Cliffs I saw the La Sals from such a different angle than I’m used to that it took me a minute or two to realize which mountain range I was looking at! I drove back west and pointed the Jeep toward my next destination: two areas at the base of the Book Cliffs filled with boulders covered in petroglyphs. The first spot was simply amazing. The best panel was pecked into a boulder that had split in half, and inside the split were some wonderful petroglyphs. I wandered around and found several more boulders with rock art. I also found a shirt among the boulders that somebody had lost, and after returning home I realized it belonged to a Facebook friend who had lost it earlier that day, and I was able to mail it back to her!
The second location consisted of a single cube-like boulder with rock art on all four sides. There were some unique sheep, sun, and bird petroglyphs, along with one of my favorite rock art symbols, a canine with a curly tail. I finished up there with time to spare. I made it into Green River just as a light rain began to fall, and I waited outside Ray’s for Alan and his group to arrive, then wrapped up a fun day with a burger and a couple of beers with friends.
Photo Gallery: Book Cliffs Rock Art III