Press "Enter" to skip to content

Desolate Divine: Back To The Needles

Friday – Monday, January 18-21, 2019

I spent a lot of time exploring the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park last year, but I guess I couldn’t stay away very long since I found myself back there again for my first camping trip of 2019 over the long holiday weekend! With the government shutdown I was not quite sure what to expect in The Needles, but since this district of Canyonlands is usually not fully staffed in the winter I was hoping it would be business-as-usual, and it pretty much was. The only difference I could tell between a normal winter weekend and during the government shutdown was that the bathrooms in the Visitor Center were closed and the current weather forecast was not posted on the door.

I left after work on Friday and drove down to the Squaw Flat Campground where only one other site was occupied. I ended up selecting the same campsite Diane and I had stayed at in December when it snowed on us. The temperature out was in the upper 30’s when I got out of my Jeep and it was very pleasant out. There was also plenty of light from an almost full moon. It was a beautiful evening to spend in Canyonlands! I would spend the rest of the holiday weekend searching for new rock art and ruins both inside the park and outside on the surrounding BLM lands. Here are a few photos taken throughout the weekend.

Welcome to The Needles

Welcome To The Needles

A frozen seep I came across while hiking through a canyon.

Frozen Seep

I thought this sediment flow from a side canyon was pretty cool.

Sediment Flow

Part of an old oil rig.

Old Oil Rig

While hiking through the meanders of a canyon the north-facing shaded bends were covered with crunchy snow and ice.

Winter Canyon Bend

Canyon Boulder

The sunny parts of the canyon were slick and muddy in places. The kind of mud that sticks to your boots and weighs them down.

Sunlight Canyon

Exploring Canyons

Rocks in Ice

Rocks in Ice

After hiking for a few miles I came across an old broken-down ruin with these handprints inside.


Remains of an ancient kitchen.

Ancient Kitchen

A little bit of four-wheeling was required to get into and back out of this canyon.


I drove right by this marker from 1927.


Airing up the tires on my Jeep in my campsite at Squaw Flat. In the morning I had driven down a sandy hill that seemed like it wouldn’t be a problem to drive back up. I was wrong. When I tried to drive back up the hill in the afternoon the sand had loosened up and I was unable to make it to the top again. I haven’t had to air down my tires since I bought my first JK in 2010, but it was my only hope to get back out of the canyon this afternoon without having to spend the night there. Thankfully, after I aired down the tires I had no problem driving back up the hill with a little momentum!

Squaw Flat Campsite

I went for a sunset hike near camp and caught this reflection of the moon in a pothole.

Squaw Flat Evening

Walking back to camp at dusk.

Walking Back To Camp

Early morning light illuminates the old cowboy camp near Cave Spring.

Cowboy Camp Morning

A large tower of sandstone leaning up against the cliff.

Against The Wall

Exploring new areas of The Needles, but not finding many remains of the ancients.

Canyonlands Exploring

I did come across this hard-to-see petroglyph panel.

Petroglyph Panel

A look at the right side of the panel.

Petroglyph Panel 2

Crossing a sandstone divide. I’m glad I decided to bring my microspikes with me on this hike since I needed them to descend that snow-covered hill in the center of the photo. It was very slippery!

Crossing The Divide

There were some unusual shapes in the sandstone in this alcove.

Cool Sandstone

A quick stop at the Roadside Ruin.

Roadside Ruin

Dots & Hands Alcove

Dots & Hands Alcove

The remains of two granaries I found on a ledge that had a bunch of other broken-down ruins, too.


Ledge Granary

Part of the reason I headed to Canyonlands this weekend was so that I could try to photograph the ‘Super Wolf Blood Moon’ on Sunday night. Unfortunately, there was too much cloud-cover in the area and I was unable to get any shots of the Blood Moon. I managed to get this one photo of the partial lunar eclipse through a thin layer of clouds before the moon pretty much completely disappeared and I gave up.

Partial Lunar Eclipse

I woke up to the best sunrise of the weekend on Monday morning.

Monday Morning

First light on Hatch Point

Sunrise On Hatch Point

Junction Butte and the Island in the Sky are bright orange on the horizon above my Jeep.

Junction Butte from Camp

Lockhart Basin Road in the morning.

Lockhart Basin Road

Lockhart Road

Two faded red and white Barrier Canyon Style pictographs that I found.

Faded Red & White

This other interesting Barrier Canyon Style panel was nearby, too.

Faded BCS Pictographs

A winter storm was moving into the area as I was finishing up my hike.

Storm Moving In

Heading into the snowstorm as I started my drive back home. As I neared Newspaper Rock a young mountain lion crossed the road right in front of me. It’s actually the very first mountain lion I have ever seen, but it was too quick for me to get a photo.

Driving Into The Storm

One of my main goals for the weekend was to try and find a large white pictograph panel that I had found a few photos of from the 1930’s in a Peabody Museum collection. I had never seen any photos of this panel before and though it would be pretty cool to find. There was very little information about the location in the captions of the photos, but I thought there might be just enough for me to find it, and I’m happy to report that I did! The light wasn’t the greatest while I was there so I will definitely need to return for some better photos.

White Ghosts Panel. This was the largest and most interesting portion of the pictograph panel.

White Ghosts Panel

A closer look at the figures in the top row that were completely in the shade when I first arrived.

Top Row

Top Pictographs

Here’s a closer look at the top left.

Left Side Pictographs

This large sheep was also in the shade when I arrived.

Upper Sheep

To the right of the main panel are these large circles that are all connected. The circle in the middle is at least two feet in diameter.

Large Connected Circles

To the lower left of the main panel is this smaller panel of pictographs.

Lower Left

Three large sheep and another circle.

Sheep Panel

>> Back To The Needles Photo Gallery


  1. Dianne
    Dianne February 7, 2019

    Thanks so much for showing me sites I will never see with my own eyes. Such beautiful colors and
    textures. I of course love the remains of the ancients and the rock art you discovered are just stunning.
    Thanks again for being so gracious to share them. Your photos are always sharp and well composed.

  2. Tom McCoppin
    Tom McCoppin February 7, 2019

    Outstanding! Thanks Randy…you educate and inspire! Tom McCoppin, McQueeney, Texas

  3. Steph
    Steph February 7, 2019

    Great sleuthing!

  4. Natalie
    Natalie February 7, 2019

    A beautiful set of photographs! The white ghost panel was nicely preserved.

  5. LarryBoy
    LarryBoy February 22, 2019

    That’s crazy – I saw my first mountain lion last fall, darting across US 191 right by the turnoff to the Needles. Same one? 🙂

Leave a Reply