Rock art was produced by a number of prehistoric and historic peoples over thousands of years. Their histories in the area are very complex. A big game hunting people, known as Paleo-Indians, are considered to be the first human users in the area. Their game included now extinct Pleistocene fauna such as mammoths and mastodons. A later culture called Archaic, probably used central base camps during their seasonal round of activities based on harvesting wild plants and animals. They did not build permanent habitation structures, but lived in caves and in small brush shelters built in the open.
The Anasazi whose culture centered south of Moab in the Four Corners area, concentrated much of their subsistence efforts on the cultivation of corn, beans and squash. These sedentary people, also harvested a wide variety of wild resources, such as pinion nuts, grasses, bighorn sheep and deer. The Fremont, who were contemporary with the Anasazi people, also grew corn, and were apparently more dependent on hunting and gathering wild resources than were the Anasazi. Their territory was mainly north of the Colorado River, but overlapped with the Anasazi at Moab.
Both cultures had a complex social structure, and were highly adaptive to the extremes of the environment. The Anasazi and Fremont are classified by scientists as “Formative” cultures.
The most recent inhabitants, the Utes have been in southeast Utah since the 1200’s. They were a very mobile hunting and gathering people who moved in from the Great Basin. They used the bow and arrow, made baskets and brownware pottery, and lived in brush wickiups and tipis. The Notah (Ute people) lived freely throughout western Colorado and eastern Utah until about 1880, when they were forced onto reservations.
At the comer of Main and Kane Creek Drive (McDonald’s is on the southwest corner) turn west and proceed .8 miles to the intersection of Kane Creek Drive and 500 West. Stay left and continue along Kane Creek Drive approximately 2.3 miles to the mouth of “Moon Flower Canyon. Along the rock cliff just beyond the canyon, you will see a rock art panel dating from he Archaic to Formative Periods. The site is behind the tall protective fence. There is a Barrier Canyon Style figure (a large triangular shape with headdress), desert, bighorn sheep and a number of abstract elements. The panel is from ground level to a height of about twelve feet and extending approximately 100 feet. You will see a blue residue left from an illegal latex mold on one of the bighorn sheep motifs. This entire panel is one of the most vandalized rock art sites in the Moab area.
Continue another 1.2 miles to another rock art panel. A huge rock surface covered with desert varnish faces the river from the cliff side of the road. Here, you can see bighorn sheep, snakes, human forms, and a trail, possibly indicating a route from the river up Kane Springs Canyon. Again, you will notice some vandalism. (If you miss this site, it may be seen more easily on the return trip.)