Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The World's Longest Art Gallery - Nine Mile Canyon

Many red pictographs of alien-like people on a white rock wall in 9 Mile Canyon Utah
Spectacular Red Pictographs High on the Canyon Wall
Living in Utah is like cheating.  We live close to so many unique adventures that it is hard to drive even for a couple of hours without bumping into things you can't see anywhere else in the world.  Nine Mile Canyon is just such a place.  Despite its name, Nine Mile Canyon is closer to 40 miles of ancient petroglyphs (pecked figures) and pictographs (painted figures) created by the Freemont and Ute native american tribes.  With more than 1,000 rock art sites in the canyon, it has a higher concentration than anywhere else in the United States.

Overlooking some Freemont Indian Granary Ruins in Nine Mile Canyon
Freemont Indian Granary Ruins
On this trip we made Green River, Utah our home base.  You can find basic hotels there for around $100/night with a pool, hot tub and breakfast (kind of our holy trinity when we travel ;-).  Green River is close to lots of great things to see.  I am focusing this post on Nine Mile Canyon--which was only one of the three days we spent on this trip.  I'll cover the fossils, dinosaur footprints, ghost town, and red sand jeep trails (which we drove in our car...) in future posts.

Large Freemont Petroglyph Panel with Long Necked Goat in Nine Mile Canyon Utah
Large Petroglyph Panel with Long-Necked Goat
Many of the art panels throughout Nine Mile Canyon are right off the road.  This one was a very short hike from the side of the road.  The goat with the long neck is unique to this panel.  We didn't see it anywhere else.  Maybe there were giraffes in Utah back in 900 A.D...
The family at the foot of the Freemont Petroglyph Panel with Long Necked Goat in Nine Mile Canyon Utah
A closer look at the petroglyphs
Some of the petroglyphs looked like aliens to us.  There is also a rumor that Area 51 has been moved from Nevada to Utah, so maybe the Freemonts and Utes knew something we are only now finding out...  Maybe there were goats with heads on both ends and even what looks like a character from Chicken Run on this panel below!

Aliens, Chicken Person, and 2-Headed Goats on this Petroglyph Panel in Nine Mile Canyon Utah
The Utah fauna used to be more diverse, I guess
Besides the wavy armed break dancing character on this panel below, there is one that looks a lot like Kokopelli with a spear instead of his traditional flute.

Kokopelli with a Spear on this Petroglyph Panel in Nine Mile Canyon Utah
The petroglyph panel below was very detailed and had pictures of a medicine man, a dead man (at least he was laying down), and an entire herd of animals.
Medicine Man, Laying Figure, and Large Herd of Animals on this Petroglyph Panel in Nine Mile Canyon Utah
Very detailed panel with a lot going on.

Freemont Indian Cave Dweller Home in Nine Mile Canyon Utah
Freemont Cave Home

The Freemont were cliff dwellers and we hiked to a large complex of caves, dugouts, and natural cliff-side caverns that make up one of their ancient villages.  The cave above had two entrances and enough space for a family to take shelter in relative comfort.

Freemont Indian Cliff-Side Cavern with a Great View of Nine Mile Canyon Utah
View from the Chief's penthouse.
This cliff-side cavern in the picture above had a very nice view of the canyon below.  Maybe this was the Cheif's penthouse.  Either way, it was my favorite of the potential places to make my home.

Largest Freemont Indian Cliff-Side Cavern in Nine Mile Canyon Utah
Enough room in this one to send kids for a time out?
Above is a view of the largest cavern on the cliff.  Maybe my In-Laws' ancestors lived in this one...

Precarious Freemont Indian Cliff-Side Cavern in Nine Mile Canyon Utah
When you live on a cliff, you need to make your footsteps count
The picture above shows a little better how precarious it was to live on the side of a cliff.  

Balancing Rock in Nine Mile Canyon Utah
Balancing Rock in Nine Mile Canyon Utah
The drive through the canyon has a lot more to see than the petroglyphs, pictographs, and ruins.  This was a balancing rock that caught my attention as we were diligently searching for art.

Peaceful Sunset over the Red Rocks of Central Utah
Peaceful Sunset over the Red Rocks of Central Utah
It seems like I have been ending my posts with sunsets, so I'll keep it going with this last picture.  The sunsets in Utah come in many flavors and evoke many different emotions in me.  How does this one make you feel?  

You may not live in Utah, but I can guarantee you that there are treasures not far from where you live.  Do yourself a favor and do a little exploring close to home.  You might just be surprised at what you find, and it will give you memories to last a lifetime! 


  1. Wow, did you guys really have a different 9 Mile Canyon experience than we did! We'll definitely have to go back and look for all these amazing things. I did love feeling completely hidden from the world driving through. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Well Michelle, my motto has long been choose luck every time! We didn't really do much research on 9 Mile Canyon before going, so we really must have just gotten pretty lucky. I must admit also that this is one of my favorite things about travel--a place is never quite the same experience twice, which means I'll never run out of new experiences even if I return to places I've already been. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. The canyon's name originates from its distance being nine miles from the nearest settlement, and it winds through a remote and rugged landscape, surrounded by the vast expanses of the high desert. Despite its isolation, Nine Mile Canyon has attracted explorers, archaeologists, and art enthusiasts from around the world due to its extraordinary cultural heritage. Clipping Path Service provider