San Rafael Swell Rock Art
|Cottonwood Wash/ Buckhorn Wash
While this sounds like two different roads, it is actually one single continuous road. The San Rafael River is the boundary-Buckhorn Wash north of the River, Cottonwood Wash to the south. The southern section, Cottonwood Wash, is a wide-open rolling high desert, with low rocky bluffs studded with distant towering buttes. This road is well maintained and is generally a safe road to drive. The Buckhorn Wash portion of this route is especially scenic, with canyon walls rising many hundreds of feet above you, Native American rock art panels, a well-preserved dinosaur track and more! There are many side roads along this route, but the navigation of this road is easy-when in doubt, stay on the main road!
Mile 28.3 Mile 0
This is where the Cottonwood Wash Road intersects I-70 and heads north towards Buckhorn Wash.
Mile 26.2 Mile 2.1
This is a Sagebrush test area, used to study the effects of grazing by livestock. The western section of the enclosure was fenced off in 1937, while the eastern section was enclosed in 1961.
Mile 23.3 Mile 5.0
You are at Sinkhole Flat, with the actual sinkhole surrounded by a circular log fence. The sinkhole is of little scenic value, and is included here only as a landmark.
Mile 10.8 Mile 17.5
Massive Window Blind Peak is to the east of the road, with the smaller Assembly Hall Peak to the north of Window Blind. Rising to an elevation of 7030 feet, it is the tallest free standing monolith in America, one of the largest in the world. It is called "Window Blind" because some of the rock formations near the top on Northeast side look like windows with the blinds closed. Assembly Hall was named for its resemblance to the original LDS assembly hall in Salt Lake City.
Mile 10 Mile 18.3
To the west, slender Bottleneck Peak rises to an elevation of 6401 feet.above sea level.
Mile 9.2 Mile 19.1
This is the bridge over the San Rafael River, and it is the boundary between Cottonwood Wash and Buckhorn Wash roads. Just to the south of the river is the San Rafael Recreation Area campground, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management. It offers many campsites, picnic tables, fire rings and pit toilets. There is no drinking water available. North of the river are many sandy primitive campsites under the cottonwood trees. The swinging bridge, located to the west, was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1938 and was the only bridge over the river until the early 1990s. Though you can no longer drive on it, it is perfectly safe to walk on.
Mile 7.4 Mile 20.9
Calf, Cow and Pine Canyons enter from the East.
Mile 5.5 Mile 22.7
One of the highlights of the entire San Rafael Swell is the mysterious Buckhorn Wash pictograph panel. There are some faint petroglyphs here, but the red pictograph figures are the stars of this site! The main panel was painted over 2,000 years ago by the Barrier Canyon culture. Learn more about the Barrier Canyon culture and how they made pictographs and petroglyphs. There is also a boulder with the names of the same CCC boys that built the swinging bridge over the San Rafael River carved into it. There is a pit toilet at this location.
Mile 4.2 Mile 24
On the sandstone ledge, about 40 feet above the road, is the Matt Warner inscription, dated Feb 17 1920. Matt was a very colorful outlaw that operated (on occasion with Butch Cassidy) from New Mexico to Washington State for over 18 years. Learn more about Castle Country's outlaws. During that period, he frequented Green River, operating a saloon and brothel there.
Mile 2.3 Mile 25.9
There is a cattle guard here. Just south of the cattle guard is a parking area. Park there, and notice the trail heading to the east, up a steep hill. There is a large panel of petroglyphs at the end of this short trail.
Mile 2.1 Mile 26.1
To the east of the road a short distance is an interesting petroglyph. It can be hard to spot, so look for a series of bullet holes where some fool shot his initials (TKG) onto the cliff. Look left of those for a large, light colored crack running vertically. The petroglyph is just left of the crack.
Mile 1.6 Mile 26.6
A very clear and large dinosaur track can, with a little searching, be found here. On the east side of the road is a ledge of sandstone about 10 to 15 feet above the road. There are several paths up to the ledge. Once on top of the ledge, look for a larger flat area of bare sandstone at your feet. The footprint is on this large sandstone area, although you may have to move some flat rocks to uncover it. Visit the dinosaur pages within our site to learn more about other dinosaurs in Castle Country.
Mile 1.4 Mile 26.8
A short canyon is east of the road. There is an easy hike up the canyon.
Mile 0 Mile 28.3
You are at the intersection with the Green River Cutoff Road. West will take you to Castledale and Highway 10, east will lead you to US Highway 6
Text above is from a "Roads Less Traveled" brochure by Way Out Ideas.
Information about the Buckhorn Wash pictograph panel
Believed to be the work of the BARRIER CANYON CULTURE, the Buckhorn Wash panel is more than 2,000 years old. It predates the Fremont work found in Castle Country. The Barrier Canyon people did not have pottery. They hunted and gathered, used stone and bone tools and atlatls (spear throwers).
Distinctive features of Barrier Canyon
* life-sized figures without arms or legs
* broad shoulders, tapered trunks and bug eyes
* dots, rays and crowns above heads
* figures accompanied by birds, insects, snakes and dogs
How these Pictographs were made
Pictographs were painted on the surface of rock with natural pigments. Black was made from yellow ochre (a mineral found in the soil), pinyon gum and sumac. When stirred together, they form a black powder. Reds were made from red ochre and the roots of mountain mahogany. Rabbitbrush was a source of yellow. Likely binding agents were plant oils and animal fats. Petroglyphs were carved, pecked or chiseled into the rock.
Likely tools used in making Pictographs and petroglyphs
* brushes made from human hair, dog hair or yucca fibers
* flint or other stone chisel and hammers
* hollow bird bones filled with pigment
* fingers or mouths- paint could be blown out of the mouth and onto the rock creating a negative image often associated with handprints.
Paint, chalk, carvings and bullet holes have vandalized the Buckhorn Panel. The canyon's proximity to the Old Spanish Trail and its use as a hideout for outlaws made the pictograph panel a prime target for vandals. Sadly, much of the damage is permanent and lost art cannot be repaired. However, the Buckhorn Panel was greatly improved in 1995 through an intensive restoration effort. Today vandalism of rock art is illegal and should be reported to law enforcement authorities.
The Restoration Project
As part of the 1996 Centennial Celebration citizens of Emery County initiated the restoration of the Buckhorn Panel. This project was a joint effort by citizens, the BLM, Utah and county governments. This site is one of several in the United States that has been restored by Constance Silver, an internationally known art conservator. The clean up took about six weeks at the site.
Please help preserve the panel by:
* looking with your eyes, not your hands
* reporting vandals to the BLM or local Sheriff