Ref - Rock Art Sites in Nevada's Great Basin

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This page last updated on 01/07/2018

Rock Art Sites in Nevada's Great Basin

As noted, the maps in previous chapters of this online manuscript indicate that the "Great Basin" encompasses nearly the entire state of Nevada. With the help of others over the past three years, I have visited more than two dozen sites throughout the south-central portions of Nevada in Clark and Lincoln counties. The map in (Fig. A) shows the approximate location for 26 numbered sites. The map legend below is a brief summary for each of the numbered sites and a link to the site specific page with detailed descriptions and pictures. For the purpose of displaying them, I have grouped then by the county that they are located. Some locations are well known to the public, while others are either not know or not well publicized do to their sensitivity.

(Fig. A)

Petroglyph Sites in Lincoln County Nevada

(Fig. 01) Click to Enlarge
(1) Black Canyon Site Famous for its Pahranagat Man petroglyphs (Fig. 01, Black Canyon is located within the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge and is only one of nearly a half dozen rock-art sites within the Pahranagat Valley area of southeastern Nevada. Based on what they know so far, archaeologists have only been able to paint the Desert Archaic culture that lived here with a very broad brush. Dating, deciphering and understanding the meaning of the vast amount of rock art found here has been elusive at best. 

(Fig. 02) Click to Enlarge
(2) Crystal Wash Site: Evidence found in the rocks and hillsides indicates that this area was frequented by an ancient culture of people known as the Pahranagats, one of several known Southern Paiute groups. The Pahranagats represented a long-standing tradition of hunter-gatherer life ways over a period of time covering several thousand years. The size of this site is large enough to have accommodated a village of several small families, most probably during the winter months. 

(Fig. 03) Click to enlarge
(3) Mt. Irish Archaeological District: The Mount Irish Archaeological Site is located approximately 10 miles southwest of Hiko, Nevada. This area provides four distinct petroglyph sites: Echo Rock, Paiute Rock, Shaman Knob and Shaman Hill. Chipped and ground stone, rock shelters and the petroglyphs studied there suggest the sites were occupied from 1000 B.C. to the 1860s. Most of the petroglyphs found here have been classified by what is referred to as Great Basin Representational style.

(Fig. 04) Click to Enlarge
(4) Ash Springs Site: The Ash Springs Rock Art Site is located in the small community of Ash Springs. The site is predominantly a small habitation site comprised of two high intensity areas of domestic activity. With its large boulders sheltering people from the cold, this area is known to have been a winter site for the Pahranagats, and might have accommodated a small village of 25-40 individuals. Sherds of Fremont-like greyware have also been found, indicating the presence of these Southwestern groups who co-existed in this area along with the Pahranagats c. AD 500-1250.

(Fig. 05) Click to Enlarge
(5) Shooting Gallery Site: This site is located in the Badger Mountain Range approximately 9 miles from Richardville and US-93, west of Alamo, NV. A now-known "game drive" site, the area is currently thought to have been inhabited from as early as 2,000 years ago to as late as 500 years ago by several different groups. The rock art found here is representative of the three distinct styles found within the Pahranagat Valley: The Great Basin Abstract Style; the Pahranagat Representational Style; and the Fremont Representational Style.

(Fig. 06) Click to Enlarge
(6) White River Narrows Site: It is located in the Weepah Spring Wilderness, 23.0 miles from the intersection of State Route 375, State Route 318 and U.S. Route 93 (known as the "Y"). White River Narrows is a winding canyon that was carved by the White River during the Pleistocene or Ice Age (ca. 2.5 million to 11,700 years ago). It forms a travel corridor that was used by ancient Native American cultures. Some of petroglyphs found in the White River Narrows have been estimated to be 4,000 years old.

Petroglyph Sites in Clark County Nevada

(Fig. 07) Click to Enlarge
(7)  Arrow Canyon Site: Located off of NV-168, northwest of Moapa and Glendale, Arrow Canyon runs along the northeastern edge of the Arrow Canyon Wilderness Area. To this day, Arrow Canyon is considered sacred by the Moapa Band of Paiutes who still reside in the area just east of the Arrow Canyon Range. The petroglyphs in the canyon were likely carved by both the modern Paiutes and their historical precursors, possibly as far back as the Desert Archaic peoples.
View petroglyphs from this site: Arrow Canyon Site Petroglyphs.
Read about my visits to this site: Arrow Canyon Site Visits.

(Fig. 08) Click to Enlarge
(8) Atlatl Rock Site: Altatl Rock is located inside of the Valley of Fire State Park. After about AD 1200-1300, a time of great drought, the Numic ancestors of the Southern Paiute occupied this portion of southern Nevada. More to the point is the fact that Altatl Rock contains petroghyphs that are fully characteristic of the prehistoric and ethnographic cultures of the Great Basin, but it also contains some motifs that are more typical of Puebloan rock art sites and presumably date to the period when farming was practiced here.

(Fig. 09) Click to Enlarge
(9) Buffington Pockets Site: Located about 8 miles east from exit 75 on the I-15, the Buffington Pockets is a geographic area that surrounds the beginning of the Bitter Spring Backcountry Byway Road that runs in a south easterly direction through the Muddy Mountains, About the only information that I have been able to ascertain about their creation is that the Anasazi Indians dominated this area of Nevada from around 1 A.D. to 1150 A.D. The virtual art gallery of petroglyphs on these soft sandstone canyon walls can probably be credited to this early culture.  The Paiute Indians are the likely descendants of these Indians and may have also contributed to some of these panels.

(Fig. 10) Click to Enlarge
(10) Brownstone Canyon Site: Brownstone Canyon Archaeological District comprises 2,920 acres inside the La Madre Mountain Wilderness Area, and contains the most expansive display of polychromatic pictographs found in all of Southern Nevada. The Native American cultures that may have used this area are: Southern Paiute (900 AD to modern times); Patayan Culture (900 early historic times in the 1800s); Anasazi (1 A.D. to 1150 A.D.); Pinto/Gypsum (Archaic - 3,500 B.C. to 1 A.D.). Native Americans who inhabited or passed through this area left behind roasting pits, tools, implements and trash of their everyday living.

(Fig. 11) Click to Enlarge
(11) Grapevine Canyon Site: Grapevine Canyon is located within the boundaries of the Bridge Canyon Wilderness Area, south of Spirit Mountain. One of the most prolific petroglyph sites in Nevada, the vast number of rock art panels found here make it apparent that it has had a long history of use. These prehistoric people appear to be ancestral to several Yuman and Numic speaking tribes from this area, including the Mojave, Hualapai, Yavapai, Havasupai, Quechan, Pai Pai, Maricopa, Chemehuevi and Southern Paiute.

(Fig. 12) Click to Enlarge
(12) Hiko Spring Site: This site is located at Hiko Spring in the Newberry Mountains, about 12 miles west of Laughlin, Nevada. Because it seems to have essentially, many of the same rock art designs as the site found in Grapevine Canyon, located only 4 miles to the north, it can be assumed that they were probably made by the same peoples. Because this is considered a spiritual site by many local tribes, very little is written about the site.

(Fig. 13) Click to Enlarge
(13) Keyhole Canyon Site: Keyhole Canyon is located off US-95 in El Dorado Valley, south of Boulder City, Nevada. Keyhole Canyon is an amazing archaeological area with many petroglyphs and a few pictographs. Though very little is written about this site, it seems to have essentially, many similar rock art designs as the site found in Grapevine Canyon.

(Fig. 14) Click to Enlarge
(14) Mouse's Tank Site: Located in Valley of Fire State Park, the Mouse's Tank Petroglyph Trail consists of an impressive series of panels located along a short trail to a deep depression in the rocks that collects and stores water seasonally. Mouse’s Tank falls within a region that was occupied  Puebloan farmers during the period from approximately AD 1 to 1200 and contains many Puebloan style petroglyphs. Indeed, Mouse’s Tank includes motifs of pre-Puebloan, Puebloan, and post-Puebloan or Numic ages. The Mouse's Tank Trail affords a rare opportunity to view a kind of site in southern Nevada that typically would require traveling to Arizona or southern Utah to see.

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(15) Sloan Canyon Site: Though relatively little is known about this area, the Sloan Canyon Petroglyph Site is one of the most significant cultural resources in Southern Nevada. Archaeologists believe its individual petroglyphs were created by native cultures from the Archaic to the historic era. Experts believe the earliest of these were made by ancestral Puebloans in the Archaic period, but other tribes may have continued to add petroglyphs in later years. Archaeological evidence suggests resources within Sloan Canyon may have been used as long ago as 7,000 years.

(Fig. 16) Click to Enlarge
(16) The Cabins Site: The location for this site is at "the Cabins" in the Valley of Fire State Park. Even though there are several sandstone cliffs here that contain a dark patina, only the one located directly behind the cabins has any petroglyphs. Even though there are recognizable elements such as zoomorphs ("sheep-like"), this large panel contains many glyphs that are quite abstract in nature if not downright strange.

(Fig. 17) Click to Enlarge
(17) Willow Springs Canyon Site:  Located in Willow Springs Canyon in the Red Rock Canyon Park, there are dozens of petroglyphs and several pictographs. Unfortunately, due to their age, many of the pictographs have deteriorated to the point that many are unrecognizable and just barely visible.

(Fig. 18) Click to Enlarge
(18) Yellow Plug Site: So far, I have been unable to find any information about the petroglyphs found at this location. The only thing I have learned is that the location is referred to as the "Yellow Plug". The full panel of glyphs here runs about 40 feet in length. At its northern end, there is a shady crevice in the rock that even contains some well aged pictographs.

(Fig. 19) Click to Enlarge
(19) Red Springs Site Red Spring: The Red Spring area is part of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The first humans were attracted to the Red Rock area due to its resources of water, plant and animal life that could not be easily found in the surrounding desert. This made the Red Rock Canyon area very attractive to hunters and gatherers such as the historical Southern Paiute and the much older Archaic, or Desert Culture Native Americans. As many as six different Native American cultures may have been present at Red Rock over the millennia.

(Fig. 20) Click to Enlarge
(20) Sheep Panel Site: Located in the Gold Butte Region, this is without doubt one of the longest petroglyphs panels I have encountered. There are two rows of glyphs, with the upper row being at least 25-30 feet long. The upper row contains twenty-one zoomorphs (goats or big horn sheep) in a single line. Below and to the left of this depiction, there are two more sections containing some abstract glyphs, as well as another dozen zoomorphs. Though there were many Indian tribes who used this area as a migration corridor, the petroglyphs are probably Virgin River Anasazi (Ancestral Puebloan). It has been estimated that some of these glyphs are more than 500 years old.

(Fig. 21) Click to Enlarge
(21) Falling Man Site Falling Man Site: This is another site in the Gold Butte Region. It appears to be generally believed that Archaic hunter-gathers were the first prehistoric rock art makers to live here, with the last period being the Late Archaic Period from 1500 BC to the period of contact with Euro-Americans in the nineteenth century. Therefore, many of the petroglyphs here can be anywhere from 7000 to 700 years old. It appears that at some point the early hunter-gathers were followed by the Virgin Branch of the Keyenta Anasazi which appear to have occupied the area until sometime between 1000-1300 AD. Coming from the east, the western Anasazi include the Kayenta Anasazi of northeastern Arizona and the Virgin Anasazi of southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona, both areas of which boarder the Gold Butte Region.

(Fig. 22)
(22) Duck Rock Hike Site: While on a hike to Duck Rock in the Valley of Fire, we came upon a huge sandstone wall with a large panel full of petroglyphs. There were also some on some other rocks nearby.Again, it was created by Puebloan peoples during the period from approximately AD 1 to 1200 as they passed through this area hundreds, if not thousands of years ago.

(Fig. 23) Click to Enlarge
(23) Mud Wash Road Site: The panels containing these petroglyphs are located along Mud Wash Road in the Gold Butte Region. As noted before, there were many Indian tribes who used the Gold Butte area as a migration corridor. The petroglyphs are probably Virgin River Anasazi (Ancestral Puebloan). It has been estimated that some of these glyphs are more than 500 years old.

(Fig. 24) Click to Enlarge
(24) Kirt's Grotto Site: So only a few miles from the Mud Wash Road Site in Gold Butte, Kirt's Grotto is somewhat difficult to locate. These petroglyphs are situated between the two sets of cliffs. One of the most photographed panels found here is of the "dying corn plants", perhaps a symbol of a sustained drought causing the corn to die.  It is believed that many of the Gold Butte panels were created by the Anasazi, who as planters of crops, their survival was all about the rain. Other panels contain images of an anthropomorph, sheep, a stylized sheep or coyote, a horizontal journey symbol and an anthropomorph with two circle or spirals on his arms/legs.

(Fig. 25) Click to Enlarge
(25) Kohta Circus Site: Located in a desolate area in the middle of Gold Butte, the Kohta Circus petroglyph area contains the largest petroglyph panel in the state of Nevada. The lower panel contains so many glyphs it actually seems ‘cluttered’. It is roughly 80 feet long and 6 feet high and is packed full of petroglyphs. As to who was responsible for their creation is anyone’s guess. Over the years many different people utilized the resources of Gold Butte making it difficult to determine who made what rock art. The first to live here were the bands of Archaic hunter-gatherers. They were followed by the Virgin Branch of the Keyenta Anasazi. When the Anasazi left sometime around 1000AD, the Patayan and southern Paiute made Gold Butte their home.

(Fig. 26) Click to Enlarge
(26) Warshield Canyon Site: These panels are located on two side of the Pahranagat Wash above the Arrow Canyon Dam at the north eastern edge of the Arrow Canyon Wilderness Area on the northern end of the Arrow Range. There are several petroglyph panels on the boulders and cliffs above the wash. Due to the fact that many of the glyphs found here appear to be representative of Indian  “war shields”, the reason this area is loosely referred to as Warshield Canyon