Get your Utah-related products here
Get Travel Info

Explore Utah

Search This Site
Got a Question, Comment, Suggestion?
ExploreUtah home Blog


BLM Areas
National Forests
Nat'l Monuments
National Parks
Recreation Areas
Southern Utah
Surrounding Areas
State Parks
Vacation Ideas
Wasatch Front
Wilderness Areas
Wildlife Refuges




Air Sports
Fall Colors
4x4 + OHV
Ghost Towns
Horseback Riding
Rock Hounding
Ruins & Rock Art
Scuba Diving
Snow Sports
Water Sports
Wildlife Viewing


Getting Around UT
Outdoors Info
Get the Gear

Trip Reports

Sand Island Petroglyph Panel
Edge of the Cedars State Park

Our first stop was to investigate the "Sand Island Petroglyph Panel." We found accommodations at the Sand Island BLM campground, a not-well-advertised spot in an area managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) located about 3 miles south of Bluff on route 191 in the SouthEastern Corner of the State. It is a free campground and boat ramp for access to the San Juan River, and the whitewater fun available there.

The petroglyph panel is on about a 1/2 mile long stretch of rock, and has hundreds of individual petroglyphs in various scenes. It is fun to imagine just what they really mean. There are Kokopellis (said to be a fertility god) galore, a parade of bighorn sheep, deer, snakes, and many symbols I haven't seen anywhere else. We were joking that maybe they didn't really mean anything amazing at all, maybe it is just ancient grafitti. Or maybe, the parents told the kids to "get out of their hair and go write on the walls".

Part of the panel is fenced in to keep the vandals out, (It is a shame that fences have to be erected. Why can't people understand how precious these things are, and refrain from desecrating them with grafitti? But I digress...) and part is open for closer investigation. However, the open part is not for the weak of heart as it requires a steep, unsturdy climb to get there. And watch for those cow patties!

After a fun day amoung the ancient art, we headed back to camp for dinner and relaxation by the campfire. In the course of the evening, we were treated to the chorus of a coyote clan, and later to some hooting owls. Ahh, the sounds of the desert! Sometime in the wee hours, a dog from a neighboring camp came into our camp and proceeded to bark right into the tent. My husband hollered "Shush", the dog barked again. He hollered "Git", and there was yet another bark. Then he said "I wish I had my pit bull" and thus barked the dog nevermore. I guess you just have to know the right thing to say.

The next morning was cold but clear and calm, and I sat in the quiet of the morning, with a cup of hot coffee and observed the activity of the animals in the vicinity. Some of the critters I had the great fortune to watch were cottontail, flycatchers, scrub jays, ravens, and numerous other birds I couldn't easily identify.

We broke camp and headed North for the "Edge of the Cedars State Park" in Blanding, about 20 miles away. The first thing that amused me was the "road signs". Instead of traditional road signs showing the way, there are modern "pictographs" in the road pointing the way. Very clever!

Outside of the building are sculptures reminiscent of actual ancient art, and the inside walls of the building are decorated with modern "pictographs" and "petroglyphs" modeled after authentic ones which give one the feeling of actually being among the ancient ones.

The museum exhibits more artifacts than I've seen anywhere else, hundreds of pots, ladels, and other vessels in remarkably good shape. There are two art galleries. In one there were paintings of southwestern scenes, and the other displayed an exhibit of children's art some of which was pretty incredible.

Outside, there is one excavated ruin site and three more that have been discovered, but not yet excavated. The Kiva is open to visitors to go inside.

Of course they have a nice gift shop where there were a few books I couldn't resist. Hi, my name is Theresa, and I'm a book-aholic.

The last stop of the trip was at the "Lazy Lizard Hostel" in Moab where we took a nice, hot, long, $2.00 shower before heading back to Salt Lake.

Recommended Reading:

Cowboys and Cave Dwellers :
Basketmakers Archaeology in Utah's Grand Gulch

by Fred M. Blackburn, Ray A. Williamson
Utah's history is rich with ancient lore from ancient peoples such as the Anasazi. This is the story of the discovery of artifacts from a previously unknown group of peoples these researchers called the "basketmakers".

Kokopelli :
Fluteplayer Images in Rock Art

by Dennis Slifer
Kokopelli is said to be the fertility god. This books explore the myths surrounding this fellow.

A Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest
by Alex Patterson
This book takes an educated guess at what each of the individual symbols mean.

Images in Stone
by David Muench (Photographer), Polly Schaafsma
Muench's stunning photographs combined with anthropologist Polly Schaafsma's in-depth text provides powerful insight to these ancient people.

Indian Rock Art of the Southwest
by Polly Schaafsma, and extensive study

Legacy on Stone :
Rock Art of the Colorado Plateau and Four Corners Region

by Sally J. Cole

Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Utah :
The East And Northeast (Volume 1)

by Kenneth B. Castleton

Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Utah (Vol 2)
by Kenneth B. Castleton

The Rock Art of Utah :
A Study from the Donald Scott Collection

by Polly Schaafsma
Anthropologist Polly Schaafsma's educated musings about what this all really means.

Utah : Wildlife Viewing Guide
by Jim Cole
Some places to go where you're likely to see the critters that inhabit the land.

Backroads of Utah
by Theresa A. Husarik

In stores now.