Several years ago I visited lower Nine Mile Canyon by hiking in from the road below the Bad Land Cliffs, but I chickened out crossing a third of a mile of private property in order to access the public lands downstream. This time I returned with Chris and hiked down a different side canyon into Nine Mile, all 100% on public land. Our objective was to reach a boulder with some Fremont and Archaic petroglyphs that was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. Its nomination form, which is no longer online, read:
Site consists of one of the most important rock art sites anywhere in Nine Mile Canyon, offering evidence of Archaic occupations in this region. Panel A consists of two anthropomorphs and six quadrupeds, five of them with short horns and one with no horns. One large anthropomorph has buffalo-like horns and a second set above the first. The figures are solidly pecked into dark patina on the east face of a boulder. The panel measures 2 meters wide by 1.25 meters high. Panel B is in a cleft in the south side of the boulder and consists of various geometric shapes and at least five anthropomorphs including one with two connected trapezoidal bodies, four arms, but only two legs and one head. Another has a rainbow-like element over its head. It has a trapezoidal body with two sets of arms but one set of legs. All but two geometric figures are solidly pecked into the dark patina. The panel measures 1.5 meters wide and 2 meters high. Panel C is the largest of the three panels and covers the entire top of the boulder that rests on a 45-degree slope. The panel is roughly 12 meters by 10 meters. The panel appears to be much, much older than panels A and B. The surface of Panel C is almost entirely patinated, with the exception of a long line across the entire panel that is lightly patinated (level of patination of the line is about the same as Panels A and B). The anthropomorphic figures are large, rectangular and feature small round heads. There is no evidence of any trapezoidal shapes. The panel consists of numerous anthropomorphs, quadrupeds and geometric designs. At least six rectangular human figures, at least two with phallic symbols.We left Price late Friday afternoon in my truck because the Jeep had a driveline vibration that needed to be fixed. That allowed us to carry a lot more firewood for the cold night ahead. We camped near the airstrip above Sand Wash, and got up around 8AM on Saturday morning before the sun was even poking up above the horizon.
After a drive of several miles we reached the head of a canyon which I hoped would get us down to Nine Mile Creek. The canyon immediately narrowed and we had to climb down some shaly ledges. Then it was a mile and a half of easy walking before reaching another downclimb, which Chris made sure he could get down and back up before I committed to the descent. After a little more hiking we were in Nine Mile Canyon.
The hiking was pretty easy-going in the canyon’s bottom for the first half a mile or so following a cattle/game trail. Then we had to thrash our way through some brush and trees to reach the creek, which was the part I was most worried about. I was hoping the creek would be frozen solid, but there was a relatively thin layer of ice in the center which we could see water flowing beneath. Neither of us dared to walk across it, so we continued upstream on the trail looking for a better place to cross, but we couldn’t even get close to the creek due to thick brush. We returned to where we’d first reached the creek and hauled some long tree branches in to bridge the gap. It wasn’t easy to walk on but we both made it across.
After another bushwhack and a short climb up a steep hill, we reached the boulder I’d identified in the satellite imagery, hoping it was the correct one–and it was! There were petroglyphs on the downhill side of the boulder, more in a crack on the backside that we used to chimney up to the top, and even more on the top of the boulder. It was a difficult climb to the top, and there was only room for one of us up there so we took turns. The rock art on top was difficult to photograph due to the slope of the boulder, and also because we were looking at the petroglyphs upside down.
We poked around the area a little more but didn’t find any other rock art, so we reversed course and hiked back to the truck. I had one more hike planned along the route home, but neither of us felt like hiking a couple more miles so we skipped it. On the drive back through Nine Mile we stopped after spotting something unusual–some wooden poles secured to the top of a ledge about 10 feet above the bottom of a cliff. Chris climbed up and found clumps of hay stuffed down into some holes on the ledge, so we assumed it was an archaeological dig that someone was planning on returning to. There was a name in axle grease on the cliff above the ledge, as well as a pictograph with alternating white and red lines, but not much else to see. After that stop we headed back to my house, glad to have a decent meal and warm beds.
Photo Gallery: Lower Nine Mile Canyon II