The Rock Art Pages

Northeast Utah Rock Art, The Vernal Area

Fremont culture is recognized in Utah from about AD 500 until the great drought around 1300. The prominent culture of the Green River basin and some adjacent areas is Fremont culture. Fremont culture is less complex than Puebloan, yet some of its rock art is artistically finer and includes some of the best petroglyphs in the world. The Uinta Basin in Northeastern Utah features some of the finest rock art in Utah and a very distinct subdivision of Fremont Style, Classic Vernal Style. A concentration of some of the best rock art panels in the Vernal area are located in Ashley Valley along Ashley Creek and Dry Fork, northwest of Vernal. The following sample includes several of the very best Classic Vernal Style panels.
B & W rendition of Three Kings panel, 218 x 371 pixels, 41 K.

The type panel of the Classic Vernal Style, the Dry Fork Panel (the so-called "Three Kings" ) seen at right, below and above, has been called the best petroglyph panel in the world. A more recent discovery in the Sahara now vies for the honor. This is one of many panels along Dry Fork on and near the well-known McConkie Ranch. Although the McConkie Ranch panels are on private property, the site has been developed by the property owners for visitation. The Classic Vernal type panel is about 125 feet up a cliff. The nearest photography position is a six inch ledge on the cliff face using a telephoto lens. Access to the panel is not possible. Take your binoculars or a telephoto lens to appreciate the details if you visit the site. A faint anthropomorph is located a short distance off to the right of this view. The largest figure is well over six feet tall. I assume the circle is about 32 inches, as are other large circles I have measured in the area.

Classic Vernal petroglyphs type panel
Note the rock window to find the negative image glyph to the right and above,
then way below see the person waving. Click image for a larger version.

B & W rendition of petroglyph panel at McConmkie's Ranch, 195 x 353 pixels, 34 K.
You can walk to this and many other McConkie Ranch Panels on the same series of Navajo sandstone cliffs. The trail to the north from the ranch parking lot follows the cliff base atop the talus along the base of these petroglyphs and a long series of other complex panels.  Many of the figures are Classic Vernal Style, with broad shoulders, square or trapezoidal heads, head adornments of horns, earbobs, and dot groups, and necklace and waist adornments, especially dot groups. Some figures are connected at the hands, or hold circles, shields, rakes, figures with facial features, and other figures. Some of the anthropomorphs have circular shields for torsos, most are trapezoidal. The largest of the "Three Kings" has been called the "Sun Carrier," though his shield looks more like Jupiter. Some of the dot group tallies from the Three Kings Panel express proportions of possible astronomic significance, proportions that correlate to ratios of astronomic periodicities of our visible solar system, presenting the mathematics of octalannum (octaeteris) calendars.

Detail of Big Foot Panel at McConkie Ranch site, 325 x 340 pixels, 48 K.

Below Dry Fork (downstream), the line of cliffs and the rock art continues on the east side of and below the confluence with Ashley Creek.
The sites are spread over about a mile, are on private property, and are not developed for visitation. They present a variety of styles. Landowner permission must be sought if visitation is contemplated. This panel is on Ashley Creek and considered to be Fremont Style.  Yes, that's me taking measure of the glyphs.

An accessible site in the neighborhood is the Peltier site, also a petroglyph panel. It has been equated with Turner's Glen Canyon Style #5, a pre-Puebloan period. The Peltier site is located west of the main roadway inside the mouth of a tributary canyon. The figures are small and cluttered in the style of a Newspaper Rock. There are animals, footprints, anthropomorphs and abstract figures. Hand and foot size is also exaggerated in some figures here.

B & W rendition of part of a petroglyph panel on Ashley Creek, 141 x 486 pixels, 29 K.

Ashley Creek, near Vernal, Utah. The drawing above presents more of the same site as the photograph above, including glyphs cropped in the photograph. A variety of rock art styles can be seen along Dry Fork and Ashley Creek. Repatination indicates later addition of the upper-right glyph in the scene below.

Stienaker reservoir rock art panel, 221 x 370 pixels, 31 K.Just a few miles north of Vernal several sites are found just south of Steinaker Reservoir. These feature large painted red anthropomorphs in Classic Vernal Style. Another half-dozen sites are found along Brush Creek and Little Brush Creek. One of these is visible from the highway to Flaming Gorge. These include Fremont and Classic Vernal Styles. One of the sites features two Classic Vernal anthropomorphs composed almost entirely of dot groups.

More Fremont culture rock art in northeast Utah is featured on the NEXT page.

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