Shay Canyon Petroglyphs
Utah Scenic Highway 121 strikes off to the west just a few miles north of Monticello. This is the road along Indian Creek that would ordinarily have taken us to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park, but thanks to the idiotic posturing going on in Congress we had turned left at the intersection for an entirely different reason.
Our Blanding hotelier for the evening prior, Craig Simpson, had told us about a little-visited petroglyph site not too far away from the famous Newspaper Rock. The site he described sounded pretty interesting, involving a short hike up a dry wash and then onto a ledge extending several hundred feet up a side canyon. Along the entire way, he told us, a series of petroglyph panels could be seen on the sandstone cliffs above the ledge.
We parked on the side of the road at the spot Craig had mapped out for us (there are no official markers or other indications of the presence of this site), and set off across the perennial stream and up the wash toward the cliffs, only a few hundred yards away.
To find the first panel one must amble a short way along the rough trail at the base of the cliffs to the west, facing Indian Creek. The remainder of the panels are back around the corner of the draw facing Shay Canyon, and are strung out one after another, just as Craig described, for a distance of about 100 yards up the canyon.
The panels show a range of animals (bighorn sheep, deer, dogs – even a burly bear), along with human figures and others that may or may not have been intended to convey spirit presences. Some are quite eerie, as these things tend to be given the fact that we know nothing about their artists or their intended subject matter.
These panels are notable for containing a large number of flute players of the Kokopelli ilk – with one rock face in particular showing no fewer than three flautists in one illustration.