Book Cliffs Rock Art III

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.

Old log home near Westwater Creek
Old log home near Westwater Creek

Westwater private property pictos
Westwater private property pictos

Westwater private property pictos
Westwater private property pictos

Pictographs covered in mud
Pictographs covered in mud

Petroglyphs on boulders
Petroglyphs on boulders

J.B. Dowd and C.O. Chamberlain, Apr 7th, 1888
J.B. Dowd and C.O. Chamberlain, Apr 7th, 1888

Juge not and you be not juged, juge as you be juged
Juge not and you be not juged, juge as you be juged

Barrier Canyon style pictographs overlain with Ute petroglyphs
Barrier Canyon style pictographs overlain with Ute petroglyphs

Rad Ute pictographs
Rad Ute pictographs

Ute pictographs
Ute pictographs

Various initials/brands, 15th May, 1888
Various initials/brands, 15th May, 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.

Driving up Westwater Creek
Driving up Westwater Creek

Abraded circle and dots
Abraded circle and dots

Lunch spot at the mouth of Hay Canyon
Lunch spot at the mouth of Hay Canyon

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.

Painted and pecked rock art
Painted and pecked rock art

The oldest known Denis Julien inscription: D. Julien 1830
The oldest known Denis Julien inscription: D. Julien 1830

Beemer Eugene inscription and some Ute petroglyphs
Beemer Eugene inscription and some Ute petroglyphs

Ute petroglyphs with interesting headdress
Ute petroglyphs with interesting headdress

One of the boldest inscriptions I’ve ever seen: W.J.S. 1896
One of the boldest inscriptions I've ever seen: W.J.S. 1896

Ute horse with hoof prints, and–what is that coming from the bison?
Ute horse with hoof prints, and--what is that coming from the bison?

Overview of historic campsite
Overview of historic campsite

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 La Sals from a different angle
The La Sals from a different angle

Speedgoat!
Speedgoat!

Split boulder panel
Split boulder panel

Split boulder panel
Split boulder panel

Horns, ear decorations, and hair
Horns, ear decorations, and hair

Arms wide open
Arms wide open

Ankle biter
Ankle biter

Bear?
Bear?

Large bighorn sheep
Large bighorn sheep

Boulders and WJ
Boulders and WJ

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.

One of several gate openings
One of several gate openings

Square boulder, south side
Square boulder, south side

Big sheep with design inside
Big sheep with design inside

Very unusual figure
Very unusual figure

The Sun
The Sun

Square boulder, west side
Square boulder, west side

Herding birds
Herding birds

Long puppy dog
Long puppy dog

North side petroglyphs
North side petroglyphs

Ruined boulder shelter
Ruined boulder shelter

WJ and boulders
WJ and boulders

Outside Ray’s Tavern
Outside Ray's Tavern


Photo Gallery: Book Cliffs Rock Art III

2 thoughts on “Book Cliffs Rock Art III

  1. Thanks for hurrying your trip to make it to Ray’s for my b-day get together.
    NO better way to end a day of exploring than a burger / beer at Ray’s.
    And thanks for the info on a site I’ve not been to. ….. I’ll be making a trip to locate that “square boulder” covered in glyphs.
    AJP

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