2011 Sego Canyon

Location:  39° 1'5.39"N 109°42'37.21"W

Getting There: 
From Green River, UT, travel east on Interstate 70 to Thompson Springs.  Turn north onto Thompson Canyon Road, following it through town and then up the canyon.  The parking area is on the left.

Site Information: 
Sego Canyon is home to three distinct rock art panels, the Barrier Canyon Pictographs, the Fremont Petroglyphs, and the Ute Petroglyphs.  Signs provide the following descriptions of each panel.

Fremont Petroglyphs

The Fremont Culture thrived from about A.D. 600 to A.D.1250 and was contemporary with the Anasazi Culture of the Four Corners area. It is distinguished by its remarkable rock art. Like the Anasazi, the Fremont planted corn and lived in pithouses and surface stone structures. They constructed a distinctive basketry and made pottery. They had a complex social structure, as is illustrated in their rock art, and were highly adaptive to the extremes of their environment. At the top of the panel are the oldest figures. These are the line of large, red-painted figures with the rectangular-bodies and small-heads, which are similar to the Anasazi Basketmaker style. Superimposed on the older, painted figures is a line of carved (pecked) human figures. Typically, these have trapezoids for the head and body. The most recent Freemont period is also represented by superimposed carvings. They are deeply grooved outlines of two life-sized human figures with collars and waistbands, and the associated mountain sheep and abstract elements. This last group is representative of the Classic Fremont Style.

Barrier Canyon Pictographs

Some of the most spectacular examples of rock art in the Southwest are attributed to Archaic people. Archaic people were nomads, hunting large and small game animals, collecting and processing wild plants. They did not build permanent habitation structures but lived in caves and in small brush shelters built in the open. They occupied this are from approximately 8,000 years ago until the introduction of corn agriculture about 2,000 years ago.

This rock art, the Barrier Canyon Style, usually consists of larger than life-size anthropomorphic (manlike) forms. The identifying characteristic of these figures is hollowed eyes or missing eyes, the frequent absence of arms and legs, and the anthropomorphic with bug-eyes, antennae, earrings, snakes in hand, and leg-less torsos. The "ghost-like" images, may represent shamanistic art associated with ritual activities of the Archaic people.

Ute Petroglyphs

The Historic Ute rock art is identified and dated by the horse and rider figures. Horses were introduced to North America by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. Other figures, or elements, painted in red and white on the panel include a white bison, a human figure with leggings, several large human figures, and large circles believed to be shields. The Ute people practiced a hunting and gathering lifeway. They used the bow and arrow, and made baskets and brownware pottery, and lived in brush wikiups and tipis. The No-tah (Ute people) lived freely throughout western Colorado and eastern Utah until about 1880, when they were forced onto reservations.

Notes About Our Visit:
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Sego Canyon, and it was one of the easiest sites to access.  It is amazing how the three distinct cultures produced three distinct styles of rock art and they respected the previous culture's work.  I wish modern man would follow in the tradition.  It was saddening to see the names of people etched into the rock distract from the amazing 8000-year pictorial timeline.


Travel, DeLorme, Garmin, ToyotaKrista Johnston is the Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Living Overland. Krista is an avid outdoor enthusiast who enjoys exploring National Parks, fly fishing, and hiking with her husband (Beau) and their two dogs.


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