Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Black Dragon Canyon

Original Report - May 11, 2009

The Black Dragon?
I took a tour with my two youngest children this past Saturday. The Prehistory Museum at the College of Eastern Utah in Price does a regular series of expeditions through the San Rafael Swell, which they call "Saturday on the Swell". This last Saturday's was headed by Dr. Renee Barlow and focused on Native American rock art in the Swell. We visited 4 sites with the group and one of the most fascinating was the one in Black Dragon Canyon.

Black Dragon Canyon is, in fact, named for the pictographs there. There are two panels: one is a Barrier Canyon Style (BCS) panel like those found in Horseshoe Canyon. The other is roughly contemporaneous, meaning it is also three to five thousand years old. It is a completely different style, however. Being in a better overhang these pictographs are in better condition than the BCS panel which is more exposed to the elements and has faded a bit. Dr. Barlow informed us that the closest match to these pictographs comes from Southern Mexico.

Black Dragon Wash is easy enough to access. You need to exit the westbound lane of I-70 about 3/4 a mile after it crosses the San Rafael River. There is gate in the fence. Follow the dirt road north for just over a mile and you will come to a sign pointing up the wash to your left. If you don't have a four-wheel drive, park here and walk up the wash. You can drive (slowly) up the wash if you have four-wheel drive. From the sign to the panel is .65 miles. The canyon narrows and turns to the right and the panels are on the northeast side of the canyon as it loops back to the left again. The BCS panel is located on the cliffs above the rubble pile. The second panel is located to the left of this, lower down, under a slight overhang.
One interesting thing I noticed after I got back is that some of the figures in both panels have been outlined in what looks like white chalk. This seems to indicate that the outlining was done sometime after both sets of figures were drawn. How long, I can't begin to guess. Black Canyon Wash was a well-used route through the San Rafael Swell for many, many years. The chalk outlines could be modern or very old.

8-12 foot figures in the Barrier Canyon Style

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