Petroglyphs, Paula and Pam: Nine Mile Canyon, Utah

Pam was stuck in the back seat for the first part of the trip into 9 Mile, but we spent lots of time outside too!Before we entered the canyon, our fearless blonde with a perfect manicure no less, aired down her own tires. What a woman!

May 28, 2011. Today the Prairie Dogs headed to Nine Mile Canyon, Utah, the world’s longest art gallery. The prairie dog posse, aka Paula, Pam and me, jumped off for Nine Mile in Pam’s jeep. It was exhilarating, astonishing and exhausting and I’d like to go back tomorrow. Guaranteed, you will be sick of this entry before I’m all done. I highly recommend sticking it out to the end though.

Before we entered the canyon, our fearless blonde with a perfect manicure no less, aired down her own tires. What a woman!

This may be one of your last chances to enjoy these petroglyphs. Sadly, massive deposits of natural gas have been discovered on the Tavaputs Plateau, and now gigantic 16 wheelers roll in and out on roads never meant for them as the Bill Barrett Corporation extracts the gas. They are throwing magnesium chloride down to keep the dust down and it is thought the chemicals will destroy the rock art if the dust doesn’t.

The first thing we saw in the canyons was a corral full of unhappy cows, all bawling their heads off. There have been ranchers in the canyons with cows for well over 100 years.

Right now, a big chunk of the canyon is on the radar of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. They are the feds who try to to protect America’s most endangered places. Let’s hope the need for the gas doesn’t eclipse our need to preserve these astonishing images.

Photo Op! Me taking a picture of you taking a picture of me. Old sheepherder's cabin in the background behind Pam.

The ranchers who settled there because of the year round access to water destroyed all the signs of the Fremont and Anasazi people who lived in the canyon from AD 950-1250 at best guess. Their irrigation ditches and earthen lodges are long gone but there are still metates (grinding holes), granaries and the amazing petroglyphs and pictographs.

Some are chipped in and a few are painted on, along with the occaisonal white boy graffiti. the Utes were relative late comers and some of my favor petroglyphs were Ute. How do I know? No horses until after 1680, so if it had horsies, it was Ute.

Early idiot leaving his mark on the canyon walls.

The first graffiti from a not-native American was good old Charles Grosbeck back in 1867. I found this guy myself, from 1881. There are over 10,000 images chipped, incised, carved and painted into the sandstone walls at over 1000 sites through the 40 miles of canyons.

Nine Mile Road was  built by the black Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry of Fort Duchesne, Utah. This was the first major road from Ft Duchesne to Price, Utah. The valley had water, the magic ingredient. Not a lot, but enough for travelers and ranchers to make Nine Mile the main highway through some pretty dry land.

Ute carvings of a hunt. Horses don't show up until after 1680

A moment of definition before we proceed: Petroglyphs are carvings in rock faces that are incised, chipped or abraded. Pictographs are images that are painted on rock faces. Nine Mile has both, but pictographs are much rarer and more fragile.

You can still see traces of the early people in the canyons because their granaries, pit houses and a few shelters are still evident in spots in the canyon. We were so excited to spot a granary way the hell and gone high up on a cliff! We spent an hour trying to puzzle out how they got the corn into it and then back out.

An early Fremont granary still in existence high on a cliff.

And here it is close up.

We started hitting site after site and three women with three cameras spent more time out of the jeep than in it!

Medicene man and big horn sheep

Wonderful hunter with bow and arrow

The canyons were beautiful, walls, scenery and all, so much to see!

Nine Mile Canyon

I will continue this post as a photo essay–make sure to view Part Deux!

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