The San Rafael River is the boundary-Buckhorn Wash north of the River, Cottonwood Wash to the south. The southern section, Cottonwood Wash, is a wide-open rolling high desert, with low rocky bluffs studded with distant towering buttes. This road is well maintained and is generally a safe road to drive. The Buckhorn Wash portion of this route is especially scenic, with canyon walls rising many hundreds of feet above you, Native American rock art panels, a well-preserved dinosaur track and more! There are many side roads along this route, but the navigation of this road is easy-when in doubt, stay on the main road!
Believed to be the work of the BARRIER CANYON CULTURE, the Buckhorn Wash panel is more than 2,000 years old. It predates the Fremont work found in Castle Country. The Barrier Canyon people did not have pottery. They hunted and gathered, used stone and bone tools and atlatls (spear throwers).
Distinctive features of Barrier Canyon
- life-sized figures without arms or legs
- broad shoulders, tapered trunks and bug eyes
- dots, rays and crowns above heads
- figures accompanied by birds, insects, snakes and dogs
How these Pictographs were made
Pictographs were painted on the surface of rock with natural pigments. Black was made from yellow ochre (a mineral found in the soil), pinyon gum and sumac. When stirred together, they form a black powder. Reds were made from red ochre and the roots of mountain mahogany. Rabbitbrush was a source of yellow. Likely binding agents were plant oils and animal fats. Petroglyphs were carved, pecked or chiseled into the rock.
Likely tools used in making Pictographs and petroglyphs
- brushes made from human hair, dog hair or yucca fibers
- flint or other stone chisel and hammers
- hollow bird bones filled with pigment
- fingers or mouths- paint could be blown out of the mouth and onto the rock creating a negative image often associated with handprints.
Paint, chalk, carvings and bullet holes have vandalized the Buckhorn Panel. The canyon’s proximity to the Old Spanish Trail and its use as a hideout for outlaws made the pictograph panel a prime target for vandals. Sadly, much of the damage is permanent and lost art cannot be repaired. However, the Buckhorn Panel was greatly improved in 1995 through an intensive restoration effort. Today vandalism of rock art is illegal and should be reported to law enforcement authorities.
The Restoration Project
As part of the 1996 Centennial Celebration citizens of Emery County initiated the restoration of the Buckhorn Panel. This project was a joint effort by citizens, the BLM, Utah and county governments. This site is one of several in the United States that has been restored by Constance Silver, an internationally known art conservator. The clean up took about six weeks at the site.
Please help preserve the panel by:
- looking with your eyes, not your hands
- reporting vandals to the BLM or local Sheriff