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  • Writer's pictureDan Wagner

Spectacular Tales on Stone: The Rock Art of Indian Creek

Stretching from its intersection with Rt 191 to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Rt 211 hosts the stunning Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway. The scenic drive showcases towering sandstone formations, such as North & South Six Shooter Peaks, alongside verdant valleys and stunning canyons. Along the byway, hidden in plain sight, lies numerous rock art sites, offering glimpses into the ancient past through some of the more fascinating rock art panels in the area.


Indian Creek rock art

Newspaper Rock

The first rock art site along Indian Creek, and the only signed location we'll explore in this article, is Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument. Here, etched into a single 200-square foot panel, over 650 petroglyphs await visitors. These depictions, dating back as far as 2,000 years, represent various cultures including the Archaic, Basketmaker, Fremont, and Anasazi. Accessible with just a brief walk from the parking area, Newspaper Rock is by far the easiest rock art site to visit along the scenic byway.


Newspaper Rock Utah

The panel features a diverse array of petroglyphs including buffalo, deer, bear, squirrels, reptiles, human-like figures, human hands and feet, animal tracks, hunt scenes, wheels, shields, geometric shapes, and more. The collection ranks among the largest petroglyph assemblages discovered in America to date.


Newspaper Rock Utah

Numerous depictions on Newspaper Rock feature polydactyl individuals, characterized by an extra toe or finger. Typically, the additional appendage appears as a sixth toe beside the small toe. Around the time period of these carvings, an estimated 3% of Native Americans were born with polydactyly, a significantly higher rate than the 0.2% observed in today's population. These individuals were often esteemed within their communities and honored in death by burial in or near ritual spaces.


Nine Sheep Site

The next site along Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway is located half a mile west of Newspaper Rock. Apart from Newspaper Rock, none of the remaining sites covered in this article have formal names, so I've assigned names based on the depictions present at each location. To reach the Nine Sheep Panel, park at the first pull-off on the north side of the road after Newspaper Rock, near coordinates 37.9918556, -109.5220161. From there, walk westward along the road to coordinates 37.9938608, -109.5251301, where you'll encounter the formation depicted in the photograph below.


Indian Creek rock art

Here, you'll need to walk through the brush toward the formation. Upon reaching the wall, you'll discover an array of petroglyphs, including nine sheep aligned in a row, numerous human-like figures, various animals, and geometric shapes. The panel below showcases nine sheep or deer standing in a line, located approximately fifteen feet above ground level.


Indian Creek rock art

A fascinating bird-like depiction, bearing a resemblance to a penguin, rests at eye level along the wall.


Indian Creek rock art

Several intriguing human-like depictions, potentially depicting a family, are also positioned at eye level.


Indian Creek rock art

On your return to your vehicle, you'll find the formation captured in the photo below, located approximately 20 feet before reaching the pull-off.


Indian Creek rock art

After walking through the brush, you'll find a petroglyph panel near the base of the formation including depictions of various animals, human-like figures, and several indistinguishable representations.


Indian Creek rock art

Centipede, Scorpion, & Pictographs Site

The parking area for the next rock art site sits close to a bend in the road, precisely at mile marker 4, near coordinates 38.0201791, -109.5387896. The photo below was taken while standing in the parking area, facing the formations containing the rock art for this site. From the parking area, located on the north side of the road, walk along Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway for about 150 feet until a foot trail emerges on the right-hand side.


Indian Creek rock art

Shortly after forming, the trail ascends a slope until it reaches the base of a formation, where you'll encounter a plethora of interesting petroglyphs. Among them are depictions of human-like figures, a diverse array of animals, astronomical symbols, snakes, human footprints, and various indistinguishable images. One of the more intriguing depictions captured in the photo below is the anthropomorphic figure wielding a bow, sporting six toes, located near the bottom left of the wall. Notably, one foot features five toes while the other exhibits six, continuing the polydactyl theme of Indian Creek.


Indian Creek rock art

Continuing left along the formation, you'll find another interesting cluster of petroglyphs, including what appear to be astronomical representations and the depiction of a large centipede.


Indian Creek rock art

Nearby, you'll also find a depiction of a large scorpion, several more astronomical representations, and numerous anthropomorphic figures.


Indian Creek rock art

Beneath the scorpion and at ground level, you'll come across a human-like figure crouching on a snake, clutching a spherical object.


Indian Creek rock art

From this point, trace back in the direction you came, but remain along the base of the formation and proceed around the corner. While the trail might disappear momentarily, keep to higher ground, and upon rounding the corner, you'll encounter several more petroglyphs along with numerous pictographs. The initial images you'll notice are situated near ground level and likely represent an astronomical occurrence. Additionally, you'll discover several pictographs immediately to the left of these depictions, also at ground level.


Indian Creek rock art

The pictographs, created in red ochre, portray at least two distinct types of animals alongside an anthropomorphic figure positioned to the right of them.


Indian Creek rock art

Adjacent to the pictographs and petroglyphs, positioned high up on the formation, you'll also find numerous depictions of animals and presumably astronomical symbols.


Abstract Art & Big Feet Site

The next site is approximately 0.8 miles to the west. A designated pull-off for the site is located along the north side of the road near coordinates 38.0301471, -109.5409200. From the pull-off, proceed about 500 feet westward and keep an eye out for the formation shown in the photo below.


Indian Creek rock art

Ascend the rocky slope, aiming for the lower right section of the formation where the darkest desert varnish is prominent. Here, you'll discover an abundance of petroglyphs, featuring snakes, astronomical symbols, human-like and animal depictions, and more. Notably, one of the intriguing depictions on the panel below portrays two human-like figures engaged in what seems to be a fist fight. Also, take note of the crescent moon depiction near the bottom left of the panel, a motif that repeats itself several times at this site.


Indian Creek rock art

Directly adjacent to this panel is the one below, distinguished by an unusual anthropomorphic figure situated towards the far right.


Indian Creek rock art

Another intriguing depiction nearby features what seems to be a human-like figure standing atop what could be interpreted as a scorpion.


Indian Creek rock art

Further to the left of these panels, you'll encounter depictions of hands, animals, astronomical symbols, and human-like figures. Particularly fascinating is the anthropomorphic figure located immediately to the right of the crescent moon in the photo below.


Indian Creek rock art

At the foot of the formation lies the sole pictograph at this site. Its meaning is open to interpretation and remains a mystery.


Indian Creek rock art

Continuing to the left, you'll encounter several more interesting depictions, such as a horned figure, an unusual animal depiction, concentric circles, and an anthropomorphic figure.


Indian Creek rock art

To the left of the those depictions, you'll come across a sizable geometric shape, a snake, a sheep, a series of dots ascending the wall, and two notably large footprints—one with five toes and the other with four.


Indian Creek rock art

High above those depictions, you'll find an intriguing panel that appears to have served as some form of astronomical calendar. The photo below was captured with a 3x zoom.


Indian Creek rock art

One of the final images at this site stands out as one of the most striking along Indian Creek, yet its meaning remains unclear. Some interpret it as possibly depicting a pregnant woman. The artist's intentions behind it are uncertain, and like much rock art, its significance will likely remain unknown.


Indian Creek rock art

There are several other rock art sites along Indian Creek, such as Shay Canyon, but I did not have time to explore them. Due to poor cell reception in the area, it's advisable to download offline maps if you intend to use the coordinates provided in this article to locate the parking areas for the rock art sites. All the rock art sites mentioned in this article face westward and are ideally explored in the morning when the sun isn't casting direct light on the panels. Remember to take only photographs, leave only footprints, and show respect for the artists' work by refraining from touching the images.

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