I stumbled onto an extraordinary rock art site in Mill Creek Canyon east of Moab. It contains a large number of interesting images and artifacts and is apparently relatively unknown.
Oh, I've known there are rock art images in the canyon for years. Several boulders covered with images can be seen along the North Fork, just upstream from its confluence with the South Fork. I photographed those images years ago and figured I'd seen the best the canyon had to offer.
Wrong. On a recent trip I climbed into a few of the many alcoves found in the canyon and every one showed signs of ancient habitation. The alcoves are 1 or 2 levels above the canyon floor. The ones I explored are easy to reach - no technical climbing needed - but I saw others that could only be entered by rappelling or climbing.
One particular large alcove, located about half a mine above the waterfall, is fascinating for these reasons:
1. The sheer number of rock art images. There is artwork on the cliff wall, but more on large slabs that have fallen from the alcove ceiling. Some slabs are literally covered with images. Hundreds of images. There are places in the alcove where it is hard to walk without stepping on them.
2. The large variety of images. Some petroglyphs appear to be very old, are faded and are somewhat difficult to see and photograph. The patina over the image is almost as dark as the patina on the surrounding rock. Others appear to be more recent. There are also interesting pictographs, some apparently old and others more recent. Sadly, some images have been vandalized.
3. There are interesting images that are not common at other sites. There's a large number of lines etched into the rock. Some squiggle and others are relatively straight. Many are long - 6-8 feet in length. I've photographed many rock art sites and I don't remember another one where there are some many long petroglyph lines.
4. Few other artifacts remain, but you know there were probably plenty when the first vandals came through. In the large alcove I noticed several metate depressions (grindstones) in large rocks (too large to be carried away). I also noticed one ancient-looking corncob and one piece of bone fragment. One spot looks like the remains of an old floor with a smooth, formed edge.
This alcove grabbed my interest as solidly as many of the famous sites on Cedar Mesa. I didn't make it very far up the North Fork, but from what I saw you can appropriate call it a mini Grand Gulch.
I'll be back to explore further and higher...