Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Shay Canyon Petroglyph Trail

The Shay Canyon Petroglyph Trail is 1.9 miles past the well know Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs site on the way to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah.

There is a pull over parking place on the west side of the road but there is not a sign. A trail leads down to Indian Creek and you have to find a place to step across the creek and then follow the trail to the right side of the canyon wall. Creek junctions like this one are a typical place to look for petroglyphs.

The Indian Creek has year round water and a lush riparian habitat between steep sandstone canyon walls. A little further west the canyon widens and there are good pasture and farm areas. The Shay Canyon Creek was dry in late fall when I visited.

These panels show a lot of animal figures mixed with some human figures. One can guess that there may be some relation to hunting rituals and to religious activity. There is no interpretation information at the site and we are left to admire the rock art and wonder about them.

Some of these figures are considered to be the Fremont Indian style but the Fremonts are not thought to have lived in this area. The style could have been copied by Ancestral Pueblos or perhaps the Fremonts visited this area for hunting. This view has the often noted copulating sheep in the upper left and a flute player in the lower left.

Most of the figures here are at eye level but there are a few that are very high on the sandstone walls in locations where it is hard to see how anyone got up there to work.

The cliffs in the Indian Creek corridor are Wingate Sandstone. This layer is below the Navajo and Entrada Sandstone layers that are seen near Arches National Park and above the Cedar Mesa Sandstone that forms the Needles.

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