Thursday, June 7, 2012

Visiting the Sand Island Petroglyphs

Part of the Sand Island Petroglyphs

The Sand Island Petroglyphs are easy to access just outside of Bluff, Utah.  Follow Hwy. 153 from Bluff and travel southwest for about 4 miles.  You will see a sign for the campground. Turn off here, and follow the signs to the petroglyphs.

Turn at the sign for the campground.

The rock panel here is extensive, and the petroglyphs are between 300 and 3000 years old.  If you look carefully, you can see the desert varnish darkening the older glyphs.  Like Newspaper Rock, many different styles and ages of petroglyphs are present on this wall.

Sign at the Sand Island Petroglyphs

We parked, and followed the easy trail along the rock wall.  There are fences up to discourage visitors from damaging the rock art.  You can easily see the images from the trail.

Sand Island Petroglyphs

I love looking at rock art.  Obviously it took some effort to create, and I can't help but wonder what the symbols mean.

Spiral glyph

A rock art book I consulted suggests that spiral images could represent solstices, equinoxes, or sipapus (places of emergence).  This spiral doesn't look like the samples in my field guide, however!

Animal petroglyphs.

The upper left figure in this section of the petroglyphs is a frog or lizard figure.  Variations of a frog or lizard figure are found throughout the southwest, including in Chaco Canyon.  The other animals look like some kind of mountain sheep.

Large figures at Sand Island.

I couldn't find anything similar to these figures in my field guide. They remind me a bit of pictures I have seen of the Grand Gallery in Horseshoe canyon.

Another figure at Sand Island.

Sand Island Petroglyphs

This petroglyph panel contained shapes that looked more like animal or bear tracks than a human foot.  Could the squiggle lines represent lightning?  Is this some sort of map?  If you look closely, you can see the faint, darker outlines of older glyphs on the panel.

Kokopelli petroglyph

This was the first time I have seen a Kokopelli (flute player) petroglyph, so that was pretty exciting.  The Sand Island Petroglyphs are easy to access and have enough variety and detail to make a visit here well worthwhile.

Looking back toward the Sand Island Campground.

Vault toilets are available at the campground, but there are limited facilities here.  Bring plenty of water.  The Sand Island Petroglyphs are near the San Juan river.  When we visited the Anasazi ruin on the other side of the river, we wondered if any of the ancient inhabitants had contributed to the art at Sand Island.

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