The Lost Park Canyons are some of the many unnamed tributaries to upper Horseshoe Canyon. These particular canyons head near Lost Park, but don’t have an official name on the USGS topo maps. My exploration of the area began in Google Earth, though I learned about some nearby petroglyphs from a guidebook. I left home very early on Friday morning and began hiking at 8:00AM, just before the sun peeked through some clouds after sunrise. I initially walked down an old, closed dirt road that’s now only used by cattle. I feel sorry for the BLM employee who had to drag logs and dead trees onto the old road to block it off for the entire 1.5 miles (and probably more) that I hiked along it, since the surrounding land is so flat and wide-open that any ATV or OHV could effortlessly drive around their feeble road blocks. For the cows and me, it was quite easy to walk around the hundreds of logs and trees in the old road. I eventually left the road and checked out a brush corral near the edge of the canyons. While walking cross-country, a lone wild burro was walking parallel to me, watching me intently but being careful not to get too close.
From the corral I worked my way down the slickrock into a small canyon that contained some petroglyphs. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but there I found some typical and some unusual Fremont petroglyphs. On either side of a dryfall with a pool of water below it, there was rock art depicting normal Fremont motifs such as sandal prints, bear tracks, and bighorn sheep. Also depicted were curvilinear shapes, circles, and long lines consisting of many drilled holes.
From the rock art, I worked my way overland toward what appeared to be a natural arch that I’d noticed in Google Earth. It turned out to be a natural bridge, with an obvious watercourse occasionally flowing through it. Alcoves on either side of the watercourse were deep and dry enough to possibly hold some cultural debris, but I found the area completely devoid of any such remains on the surface.
I hiked into Horseshoe Canyon, where I saw the skeletal remains of a wild burro and some recent horseshoe prints. I used my binoculars to check out some alcoves in a small side canyon but saw nothing obvious worth exploring.
Up another side canyon I encountered an alcove that held many signs of prehistoric occupation. There were a couple of metates, and some adobe from what I would suppose was a storage cist. The chunks of adobe were scattered near some flat rocks, and fingerprints were visible in the dried mud. I would guess that somebody destroyed the cist in modern times, since nothing was left of its structure. Near the alcove was another dryfall with a pool of water below it.
The next little while was nerve-wracking for me. The guidebook I’d read mentioned two possible exits from this canyon, but the first exit was clearly not possible without technical gear. I backtracked down the canyon and tried another exit–a narrow, brush-choked canyon. Three or four times I came across ledges which I could not climb either up or down, which left me yet again doubting the credibility of the guidebook author. Each time, however, after a short exploration I would find a route that seemed infeasible but that actually worked! After a stressful mile of hiking, I was relieved to eventually find a route to reach the petroglyphs which I’d first visited earlier in the morning. From there I knew it was a relatively easy three-mile trek back to my vehicle.
Before climbing out of the canyon system, I took a short detour to inspect an overhang that I had seen in Google Earth. Upon approaching the short drainage that contained the alcove, my spirits were bolstered upon seeing flakes of flint littering the sandy floor of the wash. At the alcove I found a round scraper made of flint, a broken mano, a few metates and metate fragments, and a nice, round, worked pot lid made of sandstone. I have never seen a pot lid in the wild, which makes me think not many people have visited this site in historic times. Again, nearby was a dryfall with a pool of water below it. If ever there was a formula for finding prehistoric habitation sites in the Horseshoe Canyon area, that’s it!
I was pretty exhausted before the climb out, but I still had 2.5 miles and 600 feet of elevation gain left before I reached my Jeep. Despite the uphill effort required before I could rest, I plunged ahead and tried to keep a fast pace. Again I saw the cute wild burro that I’d seen in the morning, but this time she appeared to be hanging out with a few cows. They all stared at me as I walked past. My GPS had registered 13.3 miles when I reached my vehicle, but after correcting for the poor signal in all the alcoves I’d visited, my total hiking distance was 11.5 miles over the course of 8.5 hours. Strangely, although I’d seen some pretty interesting stuff, I was still disappointed that I hadn’t found any new Barrier Canyon Style pictographs. Perhaps during future explorations I’ll find something more worth my while.
Photo Gallery: Lost Park Canyons