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Tour de Swell

Saturday & Sunday, March 29-30, 2014

I recently realized that I hadn’t been out to the San Rafael Swell in quite some time and felt it was time to get back again. Diane had never been to the Swell before so I thought it would be nice to give her an overview tour of the northern Swell this weekend. She would get to see some new sights and I would get to revisit and rephotograph some sites I have been to in the past. We left Grand Junction early on Saturday morning and made our way west through Green River before passing through the San Rafael Reef and climbing onto the San Rafael Swell.

Our first stop was at the Skeleton Shaman pictograph panel, which also happens to be one of my favorites.

Skeleton Shaman

Locomotive Point sandstone.

Sinbad Cliff

Another damaged but interesting pictograph panel next to the Skeleton Shaman.

Copyright Panel

We stopped to check out Dutchman Arch.

Dutchman Arch

Diane poses on top of the arch.

On Dutchman Arch

We also visited the Feet of Sinbad pictographs. This one looks like it would probably be quite an amazing panel if the top half hadn’t broken off.

Feet of Sinbad

Driving through a tunnel under I-70.

Tunnel Vision

Next we followed Buckhorn Draw Road to the San Rafael River and stopped to checkout the old Swinging Bridge.

The San Rafael River. It’s on my list to float one of these days if I can catch it when it’s running high enough…

San Rafael Reflection

Diane and I crossing the Swinging Bridge.

Swinging Bridge

Of course we had to stop and checkout the large pictographs at the Buckhorn Wash Panel.

Rain Angels

Then we hiked to the Cattle Guard Panel.

Cattle Guard Panel

View down Buckhorn Wash.

Buckhorn Draw

We stopped to visit the popular dinosaur track.

Buckhorn Dinosaur Track

I’ve been through Buckhorn Wash plenty of times over the years but have never took the time to check out the MK Tunnels before…so we did that.

MK Tunnel

Next we drove onto The Wedge and setup our camp for the evening.

Wedge Camp

Then we drove up on Cedar Mountain to check out the view from the overlook since I had never been up there before. The overcast sky didn’t cooperate today.

Cedar Mountain Overlook

We visited a few petroglyph panels at the base of Cedar Mountain along the old railroad grade before returning back to camp.

A cool petroglyph panel at the base of Cedar Mountain.

Cedar Mountain Petroglyphs

Silent Sentinel

Silent Sentinel

45 Degree Rock

45 Degree Rock

Cedar Mountain view.

Cedar Mountain

An 1886 inscription at Railroad Rocks.


Driving along the old railroad grade.

Buckhorn Flat

When we returned back to The Wedge the evening light started filtering down through openings in the clouds. I grabbed my camera to take advantage of the beautiful light. I ran into my friend Dave at the Little Grand Canyon Overlook, which was a nice surprise.

I climbed down to a white sandstone dome below the main overlook. This is the view looking back up at Diane.

Diane Above

Beautiful light across the canyon.

Across the Gorge

San Rafael River below.

Swell Evening

Amazing light in the Little Grand Canyon.

LGC Spotted Light

Did I mention the light was pretty nice this evening?

Swell Light

We had camped at The Wedge so I could try and photograph the sunrise in the morning, but unfortunately the sky didn’t cooperate. When my alarm went off on Sunday morning I looked outside and saw that the sky was overcast so I went back to sleep for a little while longer. After waking up a little later we got our camp packed back into the Jeep we set off to do a little hiking and visit a few rock art sites.

Petroglyphs over pictographs.

Petroglyphs Over Pictographs

Barrier Canyon Style paintings viewed through a small arch.

Through the Arch

Diane suggested I take a photo through the smaller hole in the sandstone.


One more view of this cool pictograph panel.

Dropping Circles

Wavy Arms Guy

Wavy Arms Guy

Red Sheep Panel

Red Sheep Panel

Driving along the Molen Reef.

Cloudy Afternoon

Shadows on the Molen Reef.

Molen Reef

View over Spotted Wolf Canyon through the San Rafael Reef on a dusty day.

Spotted Wolf Canyon

After having a late lunch at Ray’s in Green River we made one last detour on the way home to find a few new pictographs in the Book Cliffs.

While we were at the top of a large talus slope searching for pictographs some stormy weather started rolling in.

Book Cliffs Storm

Book Cliffs Exploring

We did find a few new pictographs.

Ornament Panel


Right after taking that last photo the wind really picked up and there was some pretty close lightning, so we hiked back down to the Jeep. It started to rain a little as we started to drive away. We had to dodge numerous tumbleweeds blowing across I-70 as we finished the drive back home.

>> Tour de Swell Photo Gallery

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