Over my years of walking, I’ve been fortunate to see various rock images in the backcountry.
These pictographs and petroglyphs fascinate me because of the story they tell. People who came this way and traveled the paths we walk today and lived their lives in the areas I’m visiting.
I thought I’d collect some of my favorite ones because of the striking imagery, what it may represent, or historical interest, among other facets.
These images are mainly from the Colorado Plateau in Utah, but I have some images from other places, such as nearby Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Along with further afield locations such as Nevada, the High Plains, or even north of Banff.
I get asked where I find these images. For the more well-known ones (such as Newspaper Rock), I list them. The more obscure ones? Well, I’ll leave them vague. 🙂
As I’ve mentioned before, I am not any kind of “-ologist” scientist, and I am a person of European background. I can’t speak to the meaning of the images, nor am I authoritative about the history and possible context. But I am an enthusiast and have seen a fair amount of them.
If you want to know more about the images in general, the classic, if an outdated name, is Indian Rock Art of the Southwest by Polly Schaafsma. This book takes a deeper dive with an academic focus and goes into its relationship with Meso-America.
For more information on the Ancestral Pueblo and the Chaco culture, particularly, the People of Chaco stands as a good one-volume introduction.
For more current information and lively debates about many topics, I enjoy watching Archeology Southwest on YouTube. For some thought-provoking ideas, the Native American Power Rangers Instagram account features thoughts by Indigenous park rangers. Some of whom are archeologists.
If you want a guidebook, Non-Technical Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau provides a thorough resource for the area. Kelsey’s maps and writing style take some getting used to overall. But still offers the best information even in our mainly online information era.
If you want a deep dive into the place names and history of the areas, the two-volume Utah’s Canyon Country Place Names by Steve Allen makes for a wormhole where you’ll take a deep dive. Expensive but worth it for any Colorado Plateau enthusiast.
Finally, not everything is in a guidebook or map. In the words of a great philosopher – “You can observe a lot by just watching.”
Updated Jan 2023
On to the images…
Click an image to see it or to start a slide show.
This is a great collection of rock art images you’ve taken over the years, Paul. I’ve seen a handful of them in person and hope to continue to see more. Thanks for sharing them. Can I mention Nat Geo’s Stephen Alvarez at “Ancient Art Archive” over on Instagram for lovers of rock art who want to see more? He is spearheading an effort to record a database of this art to preserve these images as they are increasingly threatened and access is often limited. A large portion of his postings are from the Southwest US. Some of his pictures are… Read more »
Wow. Thanks for the kind words. Joan and I always wonder if these images be as accessible in the near future?
Thanks for sharing! Getting ready to head out this weekend from the Front Range to spend a week around Comb Ridge for my annual spring break trip. I will be keeping my eyes open even wider this year for rock art. We will wave at/towards you as we pass through Moab on our way there.
great collection, love seeing these flicks of americas original graffers. really makes me wanna explore the southwest and see some in person. i wish we could learn more about their symbolism and meaning, there definitely seems to be a couple of themes strongly represented throughout the images.
The true answer behind the symbolism or depictions is “We don’t know.” Even people descended from the cultural traditions often have different interpretations…all of which may be correct of course depending on the viewpoint.
Paul Sure hope you get up to China Lake and see the Petroglyphs there one day. Well worth the trip. You might need proof of citizenship, maybe check before going?
I’ll have to add it to the list!
Thanks for sharing your wonderful collection! I like this slide format.