Utah 2008: Horseshoe Canyon

Our second day in Utah, we took a day hike into Horseshoe Canyon (aka Barrier Canyon) in Canyonlands National Park. Kurt has been there before and has been talking about it ever since, so it was a must-see.

Kit and Kelleen in Horseshoe Canyon
Kit and Kelleen in Horseshoe Canyon

While the canyon itself is spectacular – deep and wide with steep rock walls and lots of trees along the mostly dry stream bed – an added attraction is several panels of ancient pictograms. As we took the trail down into the canyon, we were met by this sign:

As you can see from the graffiti on the left side of this panel, not everyone follows the rules. Of course, at least some of these markings were made long before the area became part of the National Park in 1971. Look closely and you can see two dates – 1920 and 1904.

Here is one of the panels we saw on the way into the canyon. I’m not sure which of the panels this is… they are named, but there weren’t any signs at the panels themselves. There was no need for fences here; the images are high up on the rock wall.

This picture of the Great Gallery (the largest of the panels with the largest images) gives a good indication of the size of the figures.

This panel also had some intriguing images. The skull on the largest figure here reminds me of Day of Dead decorations.

The most intricate figure has lots of detail drawn in side the body outline. Two tiny figures stand on its shoulders, one black, and one white. It reminds me of cartoons where Daffy Duck has a little angel and a little devil on his shoulders, his conscience personified. I was amused and amazed to see something so similar in an image that is 3000 years old and I can’t help but wonder about its meaning.

One more close-up from the Great Gallery panel.

The road to this isolated piece of Canyonlands is a dirt track about 30 miles long. While the road itself provided plenty of excitement, we were also able to see a lot of wildlife along the way: bats, mice, pronghorn antelope, vultures, and jack rabbits. Unfortunately, we never got any of them on film. (Can you say “on film” if you use a digital camera?) I made do with photos of the traces they left behind.

And here’s a footprint of a creature we never saw, and were happy to have missed.

Author: Kit Dunsmore

Kit is a writer and an artist who adores living in Colorado. Whether she's hiking in the mountains or walking the prairies, she's always watching the wildlife in order to learn more about the natural world.

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