Santa Clara Petroglyphs

After a morning of chores Tom and I decided to take advantage of the cool, cloudy weather to head down to the desert and see a petroglyph site he’d recently heard of. Located on the Land Hill Heritage Site inside the Santa Clara River Reserve, the carvings are easily accessed by the short mile and half Tempi’po’op (Rock Writing) Trail which winds its way up to the volcanic rim overlooking the Santa Clara River. Once you reach the first visible etchings on the tops of rock you may then continue along the rim of follow one of the dirt paths that winds its way from the canyon rim down through the boulders. We opted to descend first and then loop back along the main trail at the top.

We spent 45 minutes looking around and ended up seeing a couple hundred different petroglyphs within a quarter mile stretch of the rim. Many designs were similar to others I’ve seen in the southwest and in the nearby area, but with no historical context I’d hesitate to absolutely declare them as created by Virgin Anasazi (a branch of the so-called Kayenta Anasazi who are sometimes referred to as the Western Anasazi), particularly because this section of southern Utah served as a home to numerous prehistoric groups at different times including the Fremont and possibly the outer fringes of the Cohonina, in addition to the Virgin Anasazi. In addition, evidence at nearby sites such as Parowan Gap show that many peoples used what is now southwestern Utah as a migratory route.

Within a half mile of the petroglyphs is a (backfilled and thus, non-photo worthy) “prehistoric farmstead” identified aas an Anasazi habitation site which lends weight to the petroglyphs being created by that group, but because of the unique forms of some of the rock carvings and the habitation of the area by multiple groups and cultures over time I’m not convinced that all the carvings can be attributed to them. Anyway, in summary: I unfortunately don’t know much about the petroglyphs we saw, but I did take some pictures.

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