Petroglyphs, Pictographs, Rock Art

Mysterious Images On Stone - Page 2

by Jay W. Sharp

Exploring Rock Art Sites

You will find rock art sites, hundreds to thousands of years old, extending across the desert basin and mountain range country of the Southwest, from the Pecos River region in the east to southern California in the west, and from the Dinosaur National Monument in northern Utah and Colorado into northern Mexico’s desert basins and mountains.  While many sites lie in remote areas on federal or state lands or on inaccessible areas in private lands, you will find spectacular sites open to visitors in all of our Southwestern states.  The following list gives you a very brief sampling of easily accessible rock art sites:

Western Texas

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site

Rock art:  Some of America’s oldest and most spectacular pictographs, produced in rock shelters by hunting and gathering peoples thousands of years ago. 

Location:  Near the confluence of the Pecos and Rio Grande Rivers


Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site
P. O. Box 820
Comstock, Texas 78837
Phone   1-432-292-4464

Hueco Tanks State Historic Park

Rock art:  Nearly all pictographs, including images produced by hunting and gathering peoples thousands of years ago; masks and other figures produced by artists from the Mogollon Puebloan tradition; ceremonial scenes done by Mescalero Apaches; and a possible battle scene done by Kiowas.

Location:  32 miles northeast of El Paso, Texas, off U. S. Highway 62/180.

Hueco Tanks State Historic Park

6900 Hueco Tanks Road No 1
El Paso, Texas 79938
Phone   1-915-857-1135

New Mexico

Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

Rock art:  Petroglyphs, most of them done during the Mogollon Puebloan period.  With more than 20,000 individual designs, Three Rivers has one of the densest concentrations of prehistoric rock art in the world.

Location:  Western flanks of the northern end of the Sacramento Mountain range.

Bureau of Land Management
Las Cruces District Office
1800 Marquess Street
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88005-3370
Phone  1-505-525-4300

Petroglyph National Monument

Rock art:  Some 17,000 petroglyphs, most produced during late prehistoric times by Puebloan peoples of the upper Rio Grande. 

Location:  Western escarpment of the Rio Grande, immediately west of Albuquerque.

Petroglyph National Monument
6001 Unser Boulevard, NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87120
Phone 1-505-899-0205<

Chaco Canyon National Historic Park

Rock art:  Petroglyphs, including many stick figure human and animal images done by Anasazi Puebloan peoples, and some historic works done by Navajos and Anglo travelers.

Location:  Northwestern corner of New Mexico, between State Highways 44 and 371.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park
P. O. Box 220
Nageezi, New Mexico 87037
FAX 1-505-786-7061


Mesa Verde National Park

Rock art:  A secluded large petroglyph panel, which includes a concentration of images done by Mesa Verde Anasazi peoples.

Location:  Southwestern Colorado, in park on Petroglyph Point Trail, a round-trip hike of about 2.8 miles. 

Mesa Verde National Park
P. O. Box 8
Mesa Verde, Colorado 81330
Phone 1-970-529-4465
FAX   1-970-529-4637

Canyon Pindado Historic District

Rock art:  Numerous haunting pictographs and petroglyphs produced by the people of the Fremont Culture.

Location:  Northwestern corner of state, between Rangely and Fruita, along Highway 139.

Contact:             White River Field Office
Bureau of Land Management
73544 Highway 64
Meeker, Colorado 81641
Phone                        1-970-878-3800

Dinosaur National Monument

Rock art:  Numerous large Fremont petroglyphs and pictographs along canyon walls.

Location:  Northwestern corner of state, astride border with Utah


Dinosaur National Monument
P. O. Box 4545
Highway 40                       
Dinosaur, Colorado 81610
Phone 1-970-374-3000

The Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center
P. O. Box 128
Jensen, Utah 84035
Phone 1-435-781-7700


Arches National Park

Rock art:  Pictographs and petroglyphs, representing numerous cultures, scattered throughout park.  Courthouse Wash pictographs are listed on National Register of Historic Places.

Location:  East-central Utah, north of Moab. 


Arches National Park
P. O. Box 907
Moab, Utah 84532
Phone 1-435-719-2299
FAX  1-435-719-2305

Canyonlands National Park

Rock art:  Famous and striking pictographs of uncertain origin and cultural affiliations.  Includes the famous Newspaper Rock in the Needles District of the park.

Location:  East-central Utah, south of Moab. 

Canyonlands National Park
2282 SW Resource Blvd.
Moab, Utah 84532
Phone 1-435-719-2313
FAX 1-435-719-2300

Capitol Reef National Park

Rock art:  More than 90 extensive rock art sites, primarily representing the Fremont Culture but including other cultures as well.

Location:  South-central Utah, off State Highway 24.

Capitol Reef National Park
HC 70 Box 15
Torrey, Utah 84775
Phone 1-435-425-3791 Ext. 111
FAX  1-435-425-3026


Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Rock art:  Prehistoric petroglyphs by Anasazi.  Historic pictographs by Navajo, including an image of a Spanish colonial expedition.

Location:  Northeast corner of the state, near Chinle.

National Park Service
P. O. Box 588
Chinle, Arizona 86503
Phone  1-928-674-5500
FAX 1-928-674-5507

Casa Malpais Archaeological Park

Rock art:  Petroglyphs from the Mogollon Puebloan tradition, including some associated with a prehistoric astronomical observatory.

Location:  East-central part of state, near Springerville.

Casa Malpais Archaeological Park and Museum
318 East Main Street
Springerville, Arizona 85938
Phone 1- 928-333-5375

Palatki Heritage Site, Coconino National Forest

Rock art:  Primarily Sinagua Puebloan tradition pictographs with some earlier petroglyphs.

Location:  North-central Arizona, Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon area.

USDA Forest Service
Coconino National Forest
1824 South Thompson Street
Flagstaff, Arizona 86001
Phone  1-928-527-3600

Southern Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park

Rock art:  Extensive pictographs and petroglyphs from diverse prehistoric cultures.

Location:  North of Las Vegas, about a 55-mile drive.

Valley of Fire State Park
P.O. Box 515
Overton, Nevada 89040
Phone   1-702-397-2088

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Rock art:  Extensive pictographs and petroglyphs from diverse prehistoric cultures.

Location:  About 17 miles west of Las Vegas.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
HCR 33, Box 5500
Las Vegas, Nevada 89124
Phone 1-702-515-5350
FAX 1-702-363-6779

Southern California

Coso Rock Art District, a National Historic Landmark

Rock art:  More than 100,000 petroglyphs, scattered over four miles of canyons, produced by desert cultures over more than 4000 years.

Location:  West of Death Valley, near China Lake, on the U.S. Navy testing station (access restricted).

Maturango Museum (for tour arrangements)
100 E. Las Flores Avenue
Ridgecrest, California 93555
Phone 1-760-375-6900
FAX 1-760-375-0479

Black Mountain Rock Art District, a National Historic Landmark

Rock art:  Some 12,000 petroglyphs, few pictographs, representing work of desert cultures since the Ice Ages.

Location:  Northwest of Barstow.

Bureau of Land Management
Barstow Field Office
2601 Barstow Road
Barstow, California 92311
Phone 1-760-252-6000
Fax 1-760-252-6098

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Rock art:  Petroglyphs in the northern end of the park, pictographs in the southern end, representing the work of various desert cultures. 

Location:  Between Palm Springs and El Centro.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center
200 Palm Canyon Drive
Borrego Springs, California 92004
Phone 1-760-767-4205

I should warn you that you may find rock art beguiling.  You may fall under its spell.  I have acquaintances who have traveled throughout the Southwest, Spain and southern France, the Australian outback and several Latin America countries to explore rock art sites.  You can find kindred spirits in numerous societies and associations across the Southwest, including, perhaps the largest and most well known:

American Rock Art Research Association
3711 West Deer Valley Road
Glendale, AZ 85308-2038

Your associates in these organizations will not cure a rock art addiction.  They will feed it.  Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.

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