San Rafael Swell, Thanksgiving 2009

cnynrat

Expedition Leader
We spent Thanksgiving week in the San Rafael Swell this year. It was our first visit to the area, and it seems like we just scratched the surface. It was a week of canyon hiking and exploring for rock art sites. We also visited a few interesting arches in the area.

There are quite a few canyons through the San Rafael Reef. We hiked the Little Wild Horse/Bell Canyon and the Ding/Dang loops. All four were fun little canyons.

Little Wild Horse -



Another in Little Wild Horse -



I think this one was from Bell (not sure though) -



One highlight of the trip was seeing the Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon. Just an amazing place with over 65 figures, most large Barrier Canyon style images.

Great Gallery -



We also spent some time exploring behind the reef. Managed to find our way to Swasey's cabin and a few other smaller rock art sites as well.





 
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cnynrat

Expedition Leader
We had in interesting encounter with a big horn sheep on our way up to Wild Horse Window. My wife had no sooner commented that we had been seeing quite a bit of deer or sheep sign, but hadn't seen any wildlife, when we looked up and saw a big horn sheep crossing our path. On the way back down we saw what may have been the same guy crossing back the other way.



Wild Horse Window is a pretty cool alcove with a big hole in the roof that kind of makes it a combo alcove/arch.



We also managed to find Hurst bridge, which involved an interesting mostly cross country route through some pretty convoluted terrain. We spent some time poking around in the wrong drainage, but eventually figured out where we went wrong and then quickly found the bridge. Hurst bridge is named after Jim Hurst who discovered the bridge in 1954 while flying over the area.



We also spent some time exploring the interesting rock formations in Goblin Valley.

 
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ETAV8R

Founder of D.E.R.P.
I'll revive this one. Talked with a familiar friend today who has a black Nissan. He reminded me you had a post about the San Rafael Swell. We passed it on our way back from Canyonlands. Looks like an awesome place. It also looks like you didn't spend your whole trip in 2009 at the SRS but visited several other places. Surely there are more photos somewhere. The rock art is awesome! What resources do you use to find the glyphs?
 

cnynrat

Expedition Leader
I'll revive this one. Talked with a familiar friend today who has a black Nissan. He reminded me you had a post about the San Rafael Swell. We passed it on our way back from Canyonlands. Looks like an awesome place. It also looks like you didn't spend your whole trip in 2009 at the SRS but visited several other places. Surely there are more photos somewhere. The rock art is awesome! What resources do you use to find the glyphs?
All but one of the areas we visited on this trip are in the SRS, at least as I understand it. SRS is kind of a loosely defined area though. The only hike we took that probably isn't considered to be part of the SRS was the hike to Horseshoe Canyon, which is a seperate area administered by the Maze District of Canyonlands NP. Horseshoe is about 35 miles or so east of the San Rafael Reef, which is where we camped on this trip.

As it happens, Horseshoe Canyon was the original motivation for visiting this area. Leading up to this trip we had been visiting the Cedar Mesa area for a number of years on our Thanksgiving jaunts. There is an amazing variety of great canyon hiking, rock art, and ruins in that area. Anyway, I really wanted to see the art in Horseshoe, but a trip up from Cedar Mesa seemed a bit too far. So, we planned a trip in the Swell that would allow us to visit Horseshoe and some other areas while we were there. Initially I was a little concerned about whether there was enough to do there to keep us busy for a week. Turned out there was plenty to see and do in the area, probably even worth another visit sometime down the road.

I don't have a single answer as far as locating information on rock art and other cultural sites. I spend a fair amount of time Googling around on the web to find interesting artifact sites. We've also learned about a lot of interesting places from talking with people we've met on the trail and around camp.

One resource that has led me to some of the less well known locations is Climb-Utah, which is primarily a site for Utah canyoneering beta, but the owner also has information on non-technical hikes and visits to interesting sites. He does hide some of the data unless you pay an annual fee ($25 I think). He tends to reserve some of the less well known locations for subscribers.

There are a few more photos from this trip that I didn't post in my report - I'll PM you a link to my photo site so you can take a look.
 
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