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Return to Big Dominguez Canyon

Sunday, November 27, 2011

After spending the last two days exploring Utah, I decided to stay close to home on Sunday. I have wanted to revisit the petroglyph panels in Big Dominguez Canyon, so I headed over to Bridgeport in the morning and started hiking. I had a later start than usual and was surprised to find that no one else was parked at the trailhead when I arrived.

Shortly after leaving the trailhead and following the railroad tracks, I reached the bridge over the Gunnison River.

Bridgeport by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I took a few photos of the shadows created by the bridge as I crossed.

Bridge by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Bridge Shadows by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Just over the bridge I came across the section of the trail that was almost washed out during the spring runoff this year.

Washout by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

This large boulder had a small wall built to enclose the overhang. It’s most likely historic.

Boulder Structure by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Soon I reached the petroglyph panels in the canyon. I’m not sure what the large figure is in this panel, but it reminds me of an armadillo…

Armadillo Panel by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I scrambled up the loose and steep talus slope to reach this interesting panel carved into the canyon wall.

Hands & Feet by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

High Hands Panel by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The view up Big Dominguez Canyon.

Big Dominguez Canyon by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Another boulder with some petroglyphs nearby.

Boulder Petroglyphs by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

This busy panel is right along the trail and pretty hard to miss.

Trailside Petroglyphs by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After hiking back to the Jeep and I made a quick stop at the Deer Creek Petroglyphs before driving back home. This is the large boulder that the petroglyphs are found on. There are a few historic ruins built here, too.

Deer Creek Boulder by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A closer look at the faded petroglyphs on the left side of the boulder.

Left Side by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The larger panel on the right side of the boulder.

Right Side by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Hiking up Big Dominguez Canyon was a great way to spend a few hours on a Sunday morning to finish off an awesome weekend. I had the place to myself and didn’t run into anyone else until I was hiking back to the Jeep on my way out of the canyon.

>> Big Dominguez Canyon Photo Gallery


  1. Janet Marie Clawson - Archaeologist
    Janet Marie Clawson - Archaeologist October 10, 2017

    Dominguez Canyon is very special. Your photographs are fantastic. My note would be to use the proper identification for rock panels and homesteads. Colorado does not have Armadillos past or present. The Armadillo Panel actually has an incredible history and is dated. Ute Tribal Elder Clifford Duncan narrated this panel before he past away. This so-called animal represents an incredible moment in history for the Ute People. After the Meeker Massacre -1879 – began the relocation movement. At this panel was being held a Bear Dance – . Hundreds gathered for the annual event. As they gathered, so did US soldiers. For three days, the soldiers surrounded the Bear Dance rounding up in the canyon every man, woman and child they could find. Few escaped. Terrified, the Ute people didn’t know what was about to happen. A group of elders gathered at this rock. They draw a Bear Dance enclosure, with the entrances and exits that appear as arms or legs. Within the enclosure, they made one mark for each man, woman and child. They believed they were about to be killed en-mass by the soldiers. The soldiers are represented on the rock riding from the East, then marching to the west. The elders believed everyone was about to be murdered and their people’s memory vanish forever in the canyons. They wanted this final rock marker to be a type of memory marker that they once existed as a people. After three days, the soldiers began the march west towards Utah. The force march ended at Fort Duschene where the descendants still live whose ancestors were represented and present at that Bear Dance drawn on the rock. Rock images have meaning and most meanings have been lost. This was the oral history given by a highly respected tribal elder Clifford Duncan. This panel has sacred and profound meaning..

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat October 10, 2017

      Janet, thank you for your comment. I am actually friends with Carol Patterson and am aware of the history of this panel in Dominguez Canyon (Although, I wasn’t quite as familiar with it back in 2011 when I originally posted this trip report). I even have her book with some of Clifford’s interpretations.

      That said, the title of my photograph in this post is the ‘Armadillo Panel,’ obviously not the rock art site itself. The titles of my photos don’t always represent the actual content of the rock art I am photographing since I take a lot of photos and need to quickly come up with different names for them.

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