Moab, Utah is famous for the strong off-roading culture as well as world-famous off-roading trails. However, there is a lot more to Moab than the stunning scenery and off-roading. This is an area that is steeped in history and the fertile valley around Moab has been home to different human settlements for centuries.
When we’re not holed up in our auto shop in Moab working on Jeep mods and upgrades or the latest custom 4×4 builds, we at Dixie 4 Wheel Drive like to go out and explore all the historic sites in the area.
One of the remnants of these ancient civilizations that really fascinate us is the rock art they left behind. These date back as far as 3500BC and were created using two different methods: petroglyphs are incised, scraped or abraded into black or brown rock surfaces while pictographs are pictures that have been painted- usually on smooth red sandstone surfaces – using plant or mineral hues.
Both kinds of rock art are plentiful in different locations in Moab, Utah. Here are 7 popular rock art sites in Moab –all of them are easily accessible by car or a short hike.
Kane Creek Boulevard Rock Art Site
Kane Creek Blvd is home to 2 awesome petroglyph sites both dating from the Archaic to Formative Periods. In the first panel, you can see some bighorn sheep, a large triangular human figure with a headdress- drawn in the Barrier Canyon Style- and some abstract figures. The second panel is located on a black colored rock facing the river, about 1.2 miles from the first one. It also depicts some animal life and you can clearly see snakes and bighorn sheep, human figures and a trail that is thought to have been giving directions for going up Kane Springs Canyon from the river.
If you continue about 1.7 miles from the Kane Creek Rock Art site, down Kane Creek Drive and past the cattle guard, you should come to two small pullouts suitable for parking single vehicles. Once you leave your vehicle, look for a huge boulder with rock art on all four sides just down the hill from the road.
One of the petroglyphs here depicts a birthing scene (hence the name of the site). The other scenes etched on the rock include various animal life including bear paws, a centipede, snake and a horse. You’ll also see triangular anthropomorphic (human) figures as well as a sandal trail.
Wolfe Ranch Rock Art
Found in Arches National Park, about 5 miles north of Moab, the Wolfe Ranch petroglyph panel is an excellent example of Ute rock art. Other than bighorn sheep, there are also scenes of figures on horseback indicating that these were made after the Spanish brought horses to the area. The site is open all year round and the trailhead is found about 14 miles past the entrance to the park.
Courthouse Wash Rock Art
The Courthouse Wash rock art site consists of a rock panel that spans 19ft high by 52ft long. This panel has large pictographs and petroglyphs painted or scraped into the red-orange surface of the rock. Here you can see depictions of human figures, bighorn sheep, shields, some scorpion-like illustrations, and abstract elements. Thanks to its awesome depiction of Barrier Canyon Style rock art, this site made it to the National Register of Historic Places. The Courthouse Wash rock art panel was heavily vandalized in the 1980s but was luckily saved through extensive restoration.
Golf Course Rock Art
Fancy playing a round of golf then taking in some beautiful petroglyphs? You can do both at this site. This rock art panel runs from ground level to about 30ft high and 90ft wide and dates back to the Formative Period. A close look at the panel will reveal etchings of bighorn sheep, elk, canines as well as human forms including the famous “Moab Man”. If you look a little further to the right you’ll also catch sight of the infamous reindeer and sled petroglyph.
Potash Road Rock Art Sites
For more stunning rock art images dating from the Formative Period (2000 BC-250 AD), check out the petroglyphs along Potash Road (Utah Scenic Byway 279). To get there, take Highway 279 and head west 5.2 miles along the river. These petroglyphs are easily accessible and there’s even a sign (Indian Writing) guiding you to them. The art here depicts a wide variety of animal life and abstract images. Look out for the images of “paper doll cutouts” and horned human figures wielding shields. There are also images of centipedes, bear paws, horses and bighorn sheep.
If you’re approaching Moab along the I-70, take a detour to Sego Canyon which is about 5 miles north of the highway. Take the Thompson Springs exit and drive through the small sleepy town of Thompson Springs until you come to the area with split rail fences and the rock art. Sego Canyon is a fine example of prehistoric rock art with preserved drawings that date back thousands of years. These works of art catalog Native American history and cultures and range from the Barrier Canyon Style to the Fremont Style and the latest, the Ute etchings.
As you go on a hunt for different rock art scenes in Moab, we remind you to behave responsibly. Kindly don’t touch the artwork as oil from human hands can cause changes in the rock, making the drawings fade much more quickly. Also don’t make scratches or any marks to the rock art panels as this is considered an act of vandalism. These drawings and etchings have been here for thousands of years and we would like them to last for several thousands more. We ask all visitors to these sites to play their part in ensuring that they are well preserved so that the next generation can also enjoy them.