fremont indian state park   10 comments

Posted at 10:54 am in geology,history,sage,traveling alone,Utah


petroglyphs near museum at Fremont Indian State Park

For those who are concerned that we may yet be on the road dealing with the much colder weather that has moved into the southwest, the good news is that Sabrina, Sage and I rolled into Bisbee late last week. Now I’m busy getting us settled in at the house where we will spend our third winter since my decision to leave the farm following Don’s death. This autumn’s journey proved to be very different than those of the past two years. I look forward to sharing photos and accounts of this trip. My plan to post to this blog while traveling turned out to be a bust as I was not able to set up a 3G account for the iPad once in the states. Due to the remoteness of my route, I had very few chances to make use of wifi hotspots, so I’ll have some catching up to do over the next couple or so weeks. Watch for more frequent posts now that I have a good net connection for the winter.

Before I get to the subject of this post, I would like to say a few words about the overall journey. Until arriving at Writing-on-Stone in southeast Alberta, I had no real feel for the direction that we would take over the next month. Originally, I had been planning to do a less meandering version of the route we had followed over the past two autumns – down through Washington and Oregon, along the coast of northern California, over to the east side of the Sierras, across the Mojave into northwest Arizona, and then a diagonal to our destination in the southeast corner. However, while camped at WOS, I came to the realization that I wasn’t feeling up to that route. I think it was less a case of mileage, and more that I wanted to spend time in wilder places where I could be alone much of the time. In the end, I decided to drive south through Montana and Idaho, then wander through Utah for a few weeks. The arrival of colder weather by the time I reached Idaho caused me to delay a couple of days holed up in a motel, and then push on down to the most southern part of Utah, abandoning part of my plan to revisit and spend more time around the Escalante and Capitol Reef region. At some point, the journey took on a very different feel as I found myself reluctant to come into even the smaller towns, and instead, seeking out quieter places to camp. Also, what began as a casual interest in visiting a couple of petroglyph and pictograph sites, and also pueblo ruins, shifted to become what might be considered a major thread in this autumn’s journey. Over the next few posts, I will try to write about some of these special places.

backdrop of towering spires at Castle Rock Campground

After leaving Idaho, I drove south on I-15 with the intention of camping at a favorite site outside of Kanab. However, after a morning of driving, I began to feel some fatigue. I should mention that this has happened more often on this trip than in the past. The only explanation I can come up with is that I don’t seem to be experiencing the same angry, smoldering fire that has kept me pushing onwards over the past two years. In its place, there exists a more mellow state of mind that seems prone to fatigue. In any case, at a rest stop, I studied my map and noticed that it wasn’t much further to the turn-off for I-70 which passes Fremont Indian State Park. I had thought of visiting the park on my way through last April, but the weather was frigid and it had been snowing that day. However, on this day, just the peaks of the mountains were dusted with fresh snow, so I decided to take that route, reasoning that if it was too cold to camp, I would just push on to some other place at a lower elevation.

Arriving at the park, I found that it was cool but sunny. I checked out the Castle Rock Campground before going on to the visitor center and museum. The water was shut off for the season, so the campsite rate was reduced – always good for my budget. There were no other campers, which was much to my liking, as were the towering stone spires, and the tall cottonwoods shading a trickling creek with their glowing yellow leaves. Camping beneath autumn-leaved cottonwoods became a signature for this season’s trip as I moved ever southward following warmer weather. I chose a site which would receive the earliest morning light as these deep canyons often remain shaded until almost noon.


view of Clear Creek Canyon overlooking site of Five Finger Ridge

With our evening accommodations sorted out, I drove to the museum and visitor center on the other side of I-70. It was very quiet there as well. Park staff directed me to a couple of short trails from which to view petroglyphs – of which there are many. Before leaving the center, I purchased a copy of Archaeology of Clear Creek Canyon (Janetski), which tells of the study of this canyon during the 1980s, before construction of I-70 which would forever destroy several ancient village sites. Fremont Indian State Park was established in 1987 to preserve the almost countless panels of petroglyphs found throughout a fairly concentrated area. The museum houses thousands of artifacts unearthed during the excavations that took place before the building of I-70.


panel of petroglyphs on the type of rock formations found at Fremont Indian State Park

A few bits of information from the above-mentioned book. Petroglyphs in the park are believed to date back at least 1,800 years.t They are of several styles representing successive cultures that may have lived in the region. At the time of publication of the book, there were 43 recorded sites containing 697 panels and over 3000 elements within a study area of about 5 linear miles following Clear Creek Canyon. Many of the panels exhibit evidence of superpositioning – the addition of more recent elements over older elements.


petroglyphs along Rte 4 at Fremont Indian State Park

While visiting the museum, I purchased a second book entitled Rock Art Savvy: The Responsible Visitor’s Guide to Public Sites of the Southwest (Sanders). Back at camp, I flipped through it and soon realized that the route which I had been sketching out for the Utah leg of our journey, would take us to the doorstep of a good many of the sites. I began figuring in small side trips in search of rock art and ruins.

another panel of petroglyphs along Rte 4 within the park

The dogs and I enjoyed an evening walk followed by a quiet night. At other times of the year, the campground would undoubtedly be full and busy as there is an extensive network of ATV trails passing through the park – part of a much larger system that extends throughout much of southwest Utah. However, for those who are willing to brave the cooler temperatures of autumn, it’s likely that they would find the park quite peaceful.

In the morning, I cooked up pancakes for the three of us before setting out for Kanab. Upon leaving, I stopped along Rte 4 for a last look at several panels of petroglyphs. As always, when in the presence of such creations, I feel fortunate to be able to visit these places to gaze upon images that continue to speak to us across centuries.


Sage keeping watch over me while I photograph petroglyphs

Written by bev wigney on November 30th, 2010

10 Responses to 'fremont indian state park'

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  1. Great photos. I also love petroglyph sites and have visited them wherever I get the chance. I look forward to visiting these through your photos


    30 Nov 10 at 1:54 pm

  2. Wonderful Dear Bev!


    30 Nov 10 at 4:23 pm

  3. I like this route you took, Bev. It does have a very remote and quiet feel, and very different from what you would have encountered on the coast. The petroglyphs are so beautiful. There is something hauntingly compelling about them. An ancient hand telling us a story all these years later.

    robin andrea

    30 Nov 10 at 4:50 pm

  4. Ah, Bev, I do envy you so, but I’m also glad for the time you spent on your journey to Bisbee. The petroglyphs make me think about what this land used to be and how it once was treated.


    30 Nov 10 at 7:56 pm

  5. So good to hear from you, Bev.
    And something of a relief to hear that you are feeling a little less driven – it is impossible to keep it up for ever, however much we try.
    Your petroglyph pictures are so moving. It is such a human compulsion to leave behind something of ourselves. But I can’t imagine there is anything of me that will be recognisable as such in just 100 years, let alone several millennia. It is somehow humbling to think that a ‘primitive’ person with absolutely no concept of what was to come can still make his mark in our lives today.


    30 Nov 10 at 8:14 pm

  6. Rain – it’s really quite amazing to see petroglyphs or pictographs that are hundreds, or in some cases, thousands of years old. Definitely worth the effort to visit them when in the area.

    Anon – Thanks!

    robin – This year’s route took me into all new territory and I very much liked the solitude that may be found in many places. I look forward to further explorations next year. I do enjoy the west coast too, but you are rarely far from people and that creates it’s own tensions for me. there is something about the high desert that very much appeals to me – the sights, sounds, and the smell of sagebrush….

    John – The time on the road has come to be important to me. I find myself just moving a little from one place to the next pso that I can study the landscape and think about what it was once like – and of how it will probably be changed in the future. I think that, if more people understood how landscapes may be changed forever, perhaps we might do things much differently.

    J – You’re quite right about how we can’t really sustain a constant state of feeling driven, whether it be by sadness, anger, or aimlessness. I find myself in a different place these days – one that seems more contemplative and less anxious and wanting to be on the move.
    The petroglyphs have quite a profound effect on me when I’m in their presence – particularly a panel which I will be writing about quite soon. There is a presence about some of them that makes them seem so alive even though they are over a thousand years old.

    bev wigney

    1 Dec 10 at 11:14 am

  7. Ah, those blue skies, those mountains, those ancient rock drawings… They are SUBLIME, as are your photographs. I’m a fan of petroglyphs and always enjoy seeing new ones – will be looking at these for some time to come.


    1 Dec 10 at 1:34 pm

  8. Bev,

    Thanks for the great blog post about our park! We’re glad your visit was enjoyable and hope to see you again on your next trip past.

    Kari Carlisle, Museum Curator
    Fremont Indian State Park and Museum

    Kari Carlisle

    3 Dec 10 at 1:07 pm

  9. Cate – I will try to get some more of the rock art photos up soon. There are a couple that are going to blow you away. (-:

    Kari – Thanks for commenting here. I had a wonderful visit at the park and hope to return to spend more time hiking around and studying the petroglyphs. The hiking trails look terrific.

    bev wigney

    10 Dec 10 at 3:19 pm

  10. Atsa kyoot dawwg pitchur.


    11 Dec 10 at 3:29 pm

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