Spur Fork to Horseshoe Canyon

For the second Friday in a row, I continued my explorations of Horseshoe Canyon by hiking in from Spur Fork. I was hoping to find some rock art that had been hinted at in something I’d read, but I didn’t know the exact location. Alan joined me on this trip, and since it was such a long drive to get to the start of the hike, we drove in on Thursday evening and camped nearby.

Earth shadow over the La Sals
Earth shadow over the La Sals

Camp after dark
Camp after dark

We awoke before sunrise, quickly and efficiently making coffee and a light breakfast while packing our gear back into the Jeep. A short drive down a dirt road led us to the beginning of our hike. We dropped into the canyon using a fairly popular canyoneering route and headed toward Spur Fork. Along the way I saw horseshoe tracks on the sandstone canyon bottom, probably from the same horse whose tracks I’d seen many miles away during the previous week’s hike. At the confluence of Spur Fork and Horseshoe Canyon, there was an interesting inscription from May 26, 1919. The last part was illegible, but the inscription appeared to be a message, saying, “GONE TO …”

Pink and blue sky over camp
Pink and blue sky over camp

Henry Mountains
Henry Mountains

Alan on the beaten-in trail
Alan on the beaten-in trail

Hiking down a steep fin
Hiking down a steep fin

Climbing down a crack
Climbing down a crack

Horseshoe tracks on the sandstone
Horseshoe tracks on the sandstone

Pothole
Pothole

Sand slide in Spur Fork
Sand slide in Spur Fork

Horseshoe Canyon running left to right at the mouth of Spur Fork
Horseshoe Canyon running left to right at the mouth of Spur Fork

May 26, 1919, Gone to ???
May 26, 1919, Gone to ???

Turning up Horseshoe Canyon, we looked carefully for rock art, inscriptions, or anything else that may catch our interest. A large alcove at the top of a steep talus slope drew our attention and we climbed up into it. It was huge inside! There were a few inscriptions and signs of prehistoric occupation, but surprisingly not much else.

Dryfall and pool
Dryfall and pool

A large alcove in Horseshoe Canyon
A large alcove in Horseshoe Canyon

Alan at the top of a steep talus slope
Alan at the top of a steep talus slope

Metate fragment
Metate fragment

Old spider web
Old spider web

Albert Weber, Aug. 25, 1926
Albert Weber, Aug. 25, 1926

Tip Colton
Tip Colton

Metate
Metate

Inside the alcove
Inside the alcove

Inside the alcove
Inside the alcove

Farther up the canyon were some wild burros with interesting coloring and markings. Near a series of dryfalls with large pools of water below them, we checked out two side canyons. In one of the side canyons, Alan and I each found a broken point. At the mouth of the other canyon were some inscriptions dating to 1939. I ventured up the canyon alone and found a lot of clear, running water, a rarity in this area. I was suddenly certain that this is where I’d find the rock art I was looking for, but it wasn’t there.

Hiking up Horseshoe Canyon
Hiking up Horseshoe Canyon

Wild burros
Wild burros

Fancy inscription by R.J.T.
Fancy inscription by R.J.T.

Under a large overhang below a dryfall
Under a large overhang below a dryfall

Broken blade
Broken blade

Walking across the sand slide
Walking across the sand slide

Cloyd Winters, Dec. 9, 1939
Cloyd Winters, Dec. 9, 1939

Pete Giraud, 11/15/39
Pete Giraud, 11/15/39

Side canyon with flowing water and many small pools
Side canyon with flowing water and many small pools

Above the side canyon, looking toward the sand slide
Above the side canyon, looking toward the sand slide

I hiked another half a mile up the main canyon while Alan took a break but I didn’t see anything of interest. We felt that we’d searched the area thoroughly and were pretty disappointed to have not found any rock art. The hike back out was a long slog, especially the last mile or so climbing back up to the Jeep. When we returned to the Jeep, however, we were treated to a very nice sunset. We’d spent nearly every daylight minute hiking, covering just over 14 miles. I’m thinking that for any future trips into these canyons, I’ll have to try backpacking so I can cover even more ground. There are still things in there waiting to be found.

The same group of burros farther down Horseshoe Canyon
The same group of burros farther down Horseshoe Canyon

A pair of jacks
A pair of jacks

Looking up Spur Fork from the mouth
Looking up Spur Fork from the mouth

Cliffs near the junction with a side canyon
Cliffs near the junction with a side canyon

Alan climbing up a dryfall
Alan climbing up a dryfall

Happy birthday!
Happy birthday!

At the bottom of the crack
At the bottom of the crack

Almost sunset over Horseshoe Canyon and its tributaries
Almost sunset over Horseshoe Canyon and its tributaries

Back at the Jeep
Back at the Jeep

Pink highlights
Pink highlights

A stunning sunset over the Henrys
A stunning sunset over the Henrys


Photo Gallery: Spur Fork to Horseshoe Canyon

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