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Return to the Unexpected

San Rafael Swell Rock Art XI | Saturday, February 7, 2015

Yes, I am aware that the title of this trip report doesn’t make much sense, but that’s OK since I liked the sound of it. Way back in June of 2011 I was hiking with my friend Philippe at the edge of the San Rafael Swell when we came across a Barrier Canyon Style pictograph panel that no one seemed to have seen before. When I wrote up the trip report for that day I decided to call it the Unexpected Panel since we were looking for something else and the find was very unexpected. That name seems to have stuck a bit, but I have also seen it referred to as the New Panel. Whatever you want to call it, I have wanted to get back and visit this amazing pictograph panel again, but sadly had not been back since our initial visit. Diane has also been interested in seeing this panel after seeing my photos of it and I had promised a while ago to take my friend Marty here sometime, so a trip was in the planning for sometime this spring. With the warm temperatures we’ve been having lately I decided to move the trip up and visit it this weekend. We couldn’t have had better weather for this hike. The temperature was in the mid-sixties and there were some nice clouds moving through the sky all day. It sure felt more like March or April than the beginning of February.

Shortly after the sun came up we drove past this tall skinny hoodoo.

Tall Hoodoo

Just out for a nice morning drive past Temple Mountain.

Morning Drive

Marty follows in his Liberty.


We reached a pretty good washout in the road with a steep drop-off. I might have been able to get past it (it was worse than it looks in the photo) but we were close to our trailhead so we decided just to park here and start hiking.


A view of the surrounding badlands as we started hiking down the road.


Morning light on a nearby sandstone butte.


After following an old mining road that’s been closed for a long time we reached the end where we found these old core samples.

Core Samples

Hiking down the wash.


Diane follows.

Wash Hiking

Eventually we reached the Unexpected Panel. It was just as amazing as I remembered!

Unexpected Panel

This is probably my favorite pictograph of all time.

My Favorite Guy

Such a unique portion of the panel.


The lower part of the panel is more washed out than the rest, but still very cool.

Lower Pictographs

The upper left-hand part of the panel is being covered with streaks on the sandstone.


Diane explores more of the area to see if we can find anything else.


On our way back we found another old tobacco case. This one appears to have some old rolling papers still inside.


Nice spotlighting on Temple Mountain as we drove over to North Temple Wash.


The drive through North Temple Wash is always nice where it cuts through the San Rafael Reef.

Canyon Wall

Down the Wash

Into the narrows.


Canyon Driving

Leaving North Temple Wash

Exiting the slot.

Slot Exit

Before leaving the area we made sure to stop by the damaged pictographs in South Temple Wash since Diane had never seen them before.

Temple Wash Pictographs

We still had some time before sunset on our drive back to Green River, so we made a detour into Black Dragon Canyon to visit the pictographs found there.

Praying Dog


Since I had never visited the cave near the pictographs before, Diane and I climbed up to check it out. We should have brought our headlamps since we couldn’t see much, but we could tell it was deep!

Cave Entrance

We were treated to a colorful sunset as we drove back home. It was a great way to end the day.

The Last Shot

>> Return to the Unexpected Photo Gallery


  1. Steve K.
    Steve K. February 10, 2015

    Another great post, Randy. Thanks!

  2. Don Gilmore
    Don Gilmore March 22, 2015

    Randy: I saw the photo of the man chasing the birds a long time ago when we featured Phillipe on our web site. He showed it to me and ask not to publish it, which we didn’t. Really liked that pictograph though. Thanks for sharing this.

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