American Indian history has always been interesting to me, so for our annual Father/Daughter trip this year, Quinn and I traveled to southern Utah to find and explore some ancient Anasazi ruins.
The Anasazi lived there from year 200 to 1300. The Ancient Ones preceded them pre-1,000 BC. The Cedar Mesa area of Southern Utah was a very populated place for pre-pueblo and Anasazi communities, having hundreds of ruins in a maze of canyons. I chose the remote Lower Fish Creek and Sheik’s Canyons to explore. I picked up Quin at the Phoenix airport and drove to the Lower Fish Creek Trailhead, midway up the base of Comb Ridge. On the way we saw the pretty saguaro cacti bloom. Comb Ridge is a majestic monocline reaching 700 feet above the desert floor and extending 80 miles from the border of Arizona to Blanding Utah.
As a sneak-peek to what we would see in the following days’ hikes, there were two small petroglyph sites in Comb Wash. We were the only ones at the trailhead campsite. It was remote and so quiet. The night cooled very quickly, and the fire was welcomed warmth. We were treated to a spectacular super moon rise over Comb Ridge. There was a large animal bone in the bushes and few yards away from the truck, so Quinn said it made for an uneasy sleep that night. (click on any slide for show)
Day 1; The next morning we took off on sandy trails across a few washes before dropping into Lower Fish Creek Canyon. After about a mile along a tree lined canyon bottom, we were treated to a view of a large ruin up the cliff. A quick scramble revealed an extensive ruin with several rooms. Interesting on the cliff ceilings were handprint pictographs. The positive ones were paint dipped hands pressed against the cliff face. The more interesting ones were the negative ones where the paint was blown over the hand leaving the silhouette on the wall. A second ruin was about a mile down canyon with hand paintings also. Another mile down the canyon was a small ruin and granary where we had lunch. We followed the canyon and saw three more ruins or granaries. We explored each before hiking back to the car.
Rather than backtracking out to the highway, we took off across the mesa following a maze of dirt roads, some of which were challenging 4WD. We stopped midway to hike Snow Spring Cave. It was less than a mile and rather unspectacular. We proceeded on to the next campsite at the Sheik’s Canyon trailhead. Again, we had a beautiful campsite and cozy fire all to ourselves. (click on any slide for show)
Day 2 Sheik’s Canyon trail starts at a nice potential campsite among nice Juniper trees. The path starts out easy and then comes to a ledge that requires a little scrambling. The first ruin, called Yellow House is about ½ mile from there. Along the ridge from Yellow House are walls and granaries, indicating a good-sized community. Another 2 miles brought us to our lunch spot in a ruin high on the cliff wall. We hiked a little way down the canyon finding several small ruins and granaries before turning back to the truck for the next hike.
The afternoon adventure was to find the 7 Kivas ruins. Kivas were large underground rooms used for ancient spiritual ceremonies. To see seven in one place would be amazing. Another 4 WD down Cigarette Springs Road led to a nice parking area with several trails. Finding our trailhead proved difficult. The trail followed a canyon rim then dropped 500 feet straight down to Road Canyon. The route was very steep with a little Class 3 scrambling. Once in the canyon bottom, it was easy walking but very hot. The 7 Kivas made a spectacular site. There were two intact with the earth roofs still being supported by 2,000-year-old logs. We even saw little 2,000-year-old corn cobs, only about 3-4” long. Years of genetic engineering gives us decent sized corn today. After hiking back out, we drove down Moki Dugway, a 1,200 ft 11% grade of switchbacks from Cedar Mesa to the floor of the Valley of the Gods. Our campsite that evening was on the canyon rim 1,000 ft above the San Juan River at Goosenecks State Park. Great views.(click on any slide for show)
Our last morning’s hike was along the base of Cedar Point looking for petroglyphs from the early Basketmaker age. We began to see them right away, and even found what we believe was an old rock shelter of the Basketmakers. One of the best petroglyphs was a tilted rock. The rock had fallen over, and older glyphs were now horizontal, while the newer ones were vertical. The older ones were more alien looking. Further route finding was difficult, but we found the Dancer’s rock which had very well-preserved petroglyphs. We hiked back to the car and drove back through Monument valley, stopping at a Navajo stand. We made friends with a Navajo artist who decided to show off using his slingshot, with which he claims to have killed a bobcat. He was very impressed that we discovered the petroglyphs along Cedar Point. We bought some of his art and he gave his slingshot to Quinn to give to me. So, I should be looking for a bobcat I guess.(click on any slide for show)
This southeast corner of Utah looks about like it did 300 years ago, which looked like it did 3,000 years ago: vast, wild and sunbaked, with deep canyons and towering buttes. There are dozens of trips still to be taken in this area. Our 7th father/daughter trip was as enjoyable and memorable as the previous ones. (Click on the link below and hit play for more pictures set to Navajo music)
3 thoughts on “Cedar Mesa Utah May 2021”
You are an EXPERT tracker and guide, Dad. Our trips are my most favorite days of my year. Thank you for putting all this together.
What a great trip! Cool that you got to all those remote sites.
Thanks for sharing, Jack. More great photos and descriptions. Loved the background music in the slideshow.