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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We started hitting site after site and three women with three cameras spent more time out of the jeep than in it!
The canyons were beautiful, walls, scenery and all, so much to see!
I will continue this post as a photo essay–make sure to view Part Deux!