Monday

Reference: Petroglyph Interpretation

Petroglyph interpretation often evokes passionate discussion and is as varied as the number of scholars providing interpretations. Depending upon the person offering interpretation, petroglyphs can be viewed as manifestations of self-realization, art, ceremonial beliefs, maps, markers, or narratives that represent a pictorial language, their relationship to the specific environment and location where they are found can often provide clues to their meaning.

Most archaeologists believe most petroglyphs (or rock "art") were produced for ideological or aesthetic purposes, e.g. ceremonies, mythological narrative, representation of visions, artistic expression, etc., while others believe they were produced for more pragmatic purposes, to convey information by providing markers, maps, counters, labels, etc. Martineau (1973, pages 17-23) refers to some markings of this type as “locators.” For example, some have suggested that certain lines that represent a "U" or cup-shaped element are often associated or, in someway correlated, with the occurrence of modified holes or water basins--tinajas.  The sightings often were directed to easy access routes or trails to the basins. There is also some evidence that spirals may represent pathways. Petroglyphs that have been thought to serve as maps often possess long horizontal or meandering lines.

The "amphitheater" is a great semicircular bay ringed by vertical cliffs of welded volcanic tuff
which rise to 50 or 60 feet above the surface of the wash (Fig. 21). On the enclosing cliffs are
long rake designs. Heizer and Hester (1974, 23-28) propose that this topographic feature was
used as a hunting trap for large animals. Animals moving either north or south in the narrow
canyon could have been forced into this flat meadow-like area and be prevented from escaping
by a fence. Further data has come to light to support their claims. At the Calendar Fence site
(CrNV-04-300) located the Amphitheater another long rake (89 vertical lines, "fence stakes"? or
"tied sticks"?) is portrayed. This may represent some kind of barrier that was constructed or
strung across the canyon, which is quite narrow at this point, to trap game. Burkholder (1993),
however, argues that this unusual and isolated design element is a solar marker (see below).
Nearby, at the Cain site (CrNV-04-125) is a hunting scene showing a human, perhaps with a
weapon in hand, driving sheep and maybe a deer over such a barrier fence. One mountain sheep
seems airborne (Fig. 22).

 It should also be said that there are many  petroglyphs that are representational and ceremonial, the traditional view of "rock art." An article (Swartz and Hurlbutt 1994) involves both approaches and argues for integrated ceremonial interpretations at the Mount Irish area, about thirty miles south of the narrows.

Landscape Place Localities: Spatial analysis is of particular concern to the field of architecture, but can also be applied in dealing with determinative land features. Locational analysis tends to be a large scale geographic approach, but is applicable on a small scale to interpret functional interrelationships,
i.e. Taylor's (1948) conjunctive approach. What makes certain archaeological areas more than just interesting spaces in the landscape are the type and configuration of petroglyphs. It is this evidence of user interaction that transforms these spaces into what Rapoport (1975) calls places. Contextual analysis allows the interpretation of both function and space and, hence, can help define and explain the concept of place. At the site known as Shaman Hill, near Mt. Irish, about thirty miles south of White River Narrows (Fig. 23) is an area (designated as Locality 1, Fig. 24) particularly coherent and
distinctly isolated rock grouping. Entry is defined by a straight pathway leading into the enclosed
space from open ground. A break in the rocks forms an implied gateway. The passage is 22 feet
wide and could accommodate a large group of people. A secondary and smaller entry from the south funnels into an outlet nine feet in width. The size of this entry along with the curvilinear nature of its path suggests an entrance for ceremonial use. Various groupings of rock outcrops form the enclosure of the area. This sweeping horseshoe shaped arrangement clearly defines a specific space of general oval form, measuring approximately 80 by 30 feet. The enclosed surface is rather large, flat and unobstructed, capable of supporting a large gathering of people. The obvious focal point is a commanding rock formation positioned across from, and on axis with, the primary entry. The size of this formation, its positioning in the space, as well as, its positioning in the surrounding landscape,
mark it as a significant feature. At Shaman Hill there are two additional enclosed areas of very similar configuration, all abounding with petroglyphs, which conjoin a side of boulder-strewn hill also replete with petroglyphs, forming a unitary complex. In each of these enclosures there is a dominating figure (Fig 25, Loc. 1; Fig. 26, Loc. 3) that is fully visible in all parts of the enclosed space. Though less obvious, directly above these figures, on the escarpment  which a person could stand and be visible throughout the enclosed area below (Fig. 27, Loc. 1; Fig. 28, Loc. 2). It is an ideal set up as a pulpit before an assembly of some kind. Clearly from this example of contextual analysis interpret

HOW PREHISTORIC PEOPLE OF THE NORTH AMERICAN
GREAT BASIN USED PETROGLYPHS TO READ THEIR
LANDSCAPE
By B. K. Swartz, Jr.

Reference: Types of Rocks Used for Creating Petoglyphs

This page last updated on 01/07/2018
Sandstone (sometimes known as arenite) is a clastic sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed of sand-sized grains of mineral, rock or organic material. It also contains a cementing material that binds the sand grains together and may contain a matrix of silt- or clay-size particles that occupy the spaces between the sand grains. Sandstone is one of the most common types of sedimentary rock and is found in sedimentary basins throughout the world. Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any color, but the most common colors are tan, brown, yellow, red, grey, pink, white and black.

Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Most limestone is composed of skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera.Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed primarily of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the form of the mineral calcite. It most commonly forms in clear, warm, shallow marine waters. It is usually an organic sedimentary rock that forms from the accumulation of shell, coral, algal and fecal debris. It can also be a chemical sedimentary rock formed by the precipitation of calcium carbonate from lake or ocean water. Limestone makes up about 10% of the total volume of all sedimentary rocks.

Basalt is a common extrusive igneous (volcanic) rock formed from the rapid cooling of basaltic lava exposed at or very near the surface. Basalt is usually grey to black in color, but rapidly weathers to brown or rust-red due to oxidation of its mafic (iron-rich) minerals into rust. Although usually characterized as "dark", basaltic rocks exhibit a wide range of shading due to regional geochemical processes. A fragmental rock consisting of the smaller kinds of volcanic detritus, as ash or cinder, usually more or less stratified.

Also called volcanic tuff. Tuff (from the Italian tufo) is a type of rock consisting of consolidated volcanic ash ejected from vents during a volcanic eruption. Tuff is sometimes called tufa, particularly when used as construction material, although tufa also refers to a quite different rock. Rock that contains greater than 50% tuff is considered tuffaceous. Tuff can be classified as either sedimentary or igneous rocks. They are usually studied in the context of igneous petrology, although they are sometimes described using sedimentological terms.

Andesite is an extrusive or intrusive igneous rock that is higher in silica than basalt and lower than rhyolite or felsite. Andesite is an extrusive igneous, volcanic rock, of intermediate composition, with aphanitic to porphyritic texture. In a general sense, it is the intermediate type between basalt and dacite, and ranges from 57 to 63% silicon dioxide (SiO2) as illustrated in TAS diagrams.

Reference: Cryptobiotic Soil by Dorde W. Woodruff

This page last updated on 01/07/2018

Land and People:
Conserving the Surroundings of Rock Art
Dorde W. Woodruff

Cryptobiotic Soil

   "Now to look at arid and semi-arid lands in more detail. A peculiar characteristic of all the
world's deserts is cryptobiotic (meaning "hidden life") soil, a crust on top of the ground
composed of a mixture of cyanobacteria (formerly called blue-green algae), several different
types of algae (Flechtner et al.1998:296), fungi, lichens (which are themselves symbiotic
organisms composed of algae and fungi), mosses, and sometimes liverworts or diatoms."

   "The original name for this mixture of organisms, cryptogamic soil, is from an old botanical term
for primitive plants without flowers, cryptogam, meaning "hidden marriage" or "hidden gametes",
gametes being the reproductive parts; before microscopes the reproductive phase of these plants
was hidden from human view. Other terms used are microphytic, "small plant", and microbiotic,
"small life". There is no referee or dictator, so researchers use their favorite term."

   "Cryptobiotic soil is quite important to desert ecology, yet easily damaged. It's not easy anymore
to find a complete cover of cryptobiotic soil between the scattered shrubs, herbs, and grasses of the
desert. ..."

   "For a long time cryptobiotic soil was overlooked; study of its ecology is fairly recent. The
landmark fieldwork of Ed Kleiner and Kimball Harper in Canyonlands in 1967 and 1968 (Kleiner
and Harper 1972) demonstrated basic differences between grazed and ungrazed areas. They
compared Virginia Park, a grassy place surrounded by rock walls and accessible only through a
unique, steep, rocky tunnel through the sandstone wall, to adjacent Chesler Park which had been
grazed for many years in winter by horses, while only deer and no domesticates could get into
Virginia Park."

   "Cryptobiotic cover was about seven times greater in Virginia Park (above), and it was much
richer floristically than Chesler, with more grasses and fewer shrubs. Without pressure from domestic grazers, cacti were less spiny. The soil had more nutrients. There was no drainage channel erosion. The vegetation formed a pattern, indicative of diversity and therefore productivity (Siegel 1999). The soil texture was finer. They concluded that the intact cover of cryptobiotic soil contributed to soil nutrients, and stabilized the soil to resist water and wind erosion."

   "In another landmark study Evans and Ehleringer (1993), using a new and more effective method
of measurement, found that cryptobiotic soil was the primary source of nitrogen for desert soil.
Some of the organisms of this crust, especially cyanobacteria, can change gaseous nitrogen from the air to a form usable by plants. In deserts water is the most limiting factor to plant growth, but
nitrogen is second. Cryptobiotic crusts also increase water infiltration and retention, holding it for
use, limiting runoff and its concomitant erosion. They enhance the establishment of seedling plants,
and warm the soil (Utah Bureau of Land Management, Monticello, 1999)."

   "These small organisms may look insignificant. They are not. All this is helpful and even essential to the health of deserts. But cryptobiotic crusts are fragile, and all the more so when it is hot and dry and they are dormant and brittle. When Kleiner and Harper returned to Virginia Park in the second year of their study, they were surprised their footsteps were still so visible. After that they walked in the same paths. People, domestic or wild animals, vehicles, bicycles, and wildfires all impact the crust (Buttars et al., 1998)."

"Recovery rates are slow. The organisms grow only when wet; summer heat and drought inhibit
them. Estimates vary, but ecologist Jayne Belnap thinks that ground left bare is vulnerable for at least 20 years after disturbance (Belnap 1997). If soil is then lost it may take up to 10,000 years to form again. Time for recovery of the different species varies. Cyanobacteria may begin to recover in as little as six months and may be healthy in five years (Allen 1999). But Belnap notes that it may take at least 50 years for nitrogen fixation to completely return. Furthermore, "assuming adjoining soils are stable and rainfall is average, recovery rates for lichen cover in southern Utah have been most recently estimated at a minimum of 45 years, while recovery of moss cover was estimated at 250 years.""

   "Of course, trampling of any kind disrupts or kills other organisms large and small besides the
cryptobiotic ones (National Park Service, Arches 1996) but these small crust organisms are less likely to be noticed. In the photo at left, sand from disturbance blew over these cryptogams and will kill them. Note the micro-topography; the uneven surface helps water absorption into the ground, helping to prevent runoff."

Reference: Excerpted from the PDF - Utah Rock Art -Volume XIX, Papers presented at the Nineteenth Annual Symposium of the Utah Rock Art Research Association (URARA) Vernal, Utah, September 1999 - pages 87-100 "Land and People: Conserving the Surroundings of Rock Art" by Dorde W. Woodruff - ©2000, 2002 by the Utah Rock Art Research Association (U ), Salt Lake City, Utah. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper. http://www.utahrockart2.org/pubs/proceedings/volumes/Proceedings_Utah_Rock_Art_Volume_19.pdf 

Return to previous page ... Cryptobiotic Soil

Sunday

Daytrip - Gold Butte

On 06/10/2015 Harvey and I went back to Gold Butte for the fifth time. This time we were looking for a petroglyph area called Kirk's Grotto. After locating and exploring this area we headed out for a place called Little Finland, which turned out to be amazing. Here are links to all of the pages I either created or updated for these sites:
Gold Butte - Whitney Pocket - Gold Butte
Gold Butte - Kirk's Grotto - Gold Butte
Gold Butte - Little Findland - Gold Butte
Gold Butte Summary Page - Gold Butte Back Country Byway - Summary Page

Monday

Daytrip - Clark County Wetlands Park & Nature Preserve


06/06/2015 - Today, Blake Smith and I decided to take a morning hike around the Clark County Nature Preserve. The Clark County Wetlands Park is the largest park in the Clark County, Nevada park system. The park is located on the east side of the Las Vegas valley and runs from the various water treatment plants near the natural beginning of the Las Vegas Wash to where the wash flows under Lake Las Vegas and later into Lake Mead. The park includes 2,900 acres of water, trails, and trees along the Las Vegas Wash.  The 210 acre Nature Preserve features two miles of concrete walking trails as well as several miles of graveled secondary trails. Click here for pictures and information ... Clark County Wetlands Park.

Daytrip - Eldorado Valley & the Highland Range

06/02/2015 - Today, my friend Harvey Smith and I decided to spend a day riding his 4WD Rhino around Eldorado Valley and the McClough and Highland ranges at the southern end of Eldorado Canyon. Even though we were unable to reach the McCullough Pass, our initial goal for the drive, we still had an enjoyable day exploring the Highland Range.  Click here for pictures and information on the day's adventures ... Eldorado Valley & the Highland Range.

Walking Box Ranch Site Tours

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This page last updated on 04/28/2017
EFP-P1080038
(Fig. 01)
MAP-Wallking Box Ranch2
(Fig. 02)
04/27/2017 Trip Notes:  Today's visit was for another special tour inside the property and its main residence provided by the BLM that was set up by Sharon Haugen. Jim Herring, Bob Croke, Blake Smith and I joined approximately 12 others for a tour of the property. After meeting at the barn and the Ice house (Figs. 03, 04 & 05) we walked to the new visitor center, the old converted bunk house (Fig. 06). After a lecture and slide show on the history of Clara Bow, Rex Bell, and the building of the ranch, we then were given a guided tour of the ranch house and the property. Other than a lot of cosmetic work, painting, windows, floors, etc. one of the largest changes was that they filled in the pool with cement and placed a top on it that looked like water (Fig. 07). There was also evidence that many of the special fixtures had been sent out to be cleaned and restored (Fig. 08). Overall, a general lack of funds is still limiting the progress and finishing of the renovations. Even though it was decided to open it to tours, the renovations are nowhere complete, and clearly not ready for opening to the general public. Unfortunately, most of the furnishings and many other items are still being held in storage. For more pictures of the ranch, also check out ... Walking Box Ranch/Road - Summary Page

(Fig. 03)
(Fig. 04)
(Fig. 05)
(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)


06/30/2015 Trip Notes:  Today's visit was for a special tour inside the property and its main residence provided by the BLM that was set up by the Henderson Heritage Parks' Senior Facility rock-hound trip organizer, Linda Groft. Having found something online last year concerning possible tours of the property, Linda has been working for nearly a year trying to get this tour set up. I think I can speak for everyone when I say, "that it was a great tour that lasted for nearly three hours." It began with a lecture and slideshow inside the old bunkhouse/new caretakers cottage, provided by Glen Marsh, BLM Project Manager of the Red Rock/Sloan Field Office. While providing some history on Clara Bow, Glen noted that an ankle bracelet and Cartier watch belonging to her had recently been appraised on an episode of the PBS Antiques Roadshow. Click the link to view the appraisal ... [http://video.pbs.org/video/2365026537/]. From there we toured various buildings and points of interest around the property, until we reached the main ranch house. About the only thing that was a little disappointing, was that all the furnishings inside the ranch house had been removed and placed into storage due to the upcoming restoration and renovation plans.
                                  
WBR - Barn
(Fig. 03)
After the lecture and slide show on Clara Bow, Rex Bell, and the history of the ranch, we headed outdoors for a tour of the property. The first stop was at the barn (Fig. 03) #01 & #02), and the “ice” house (#04). It was noted that some of the walls of the barn were made from old railroad ties (#03) from a defunct railroad that ran through the valley.
                                     
WBR - Corel
(Fig. 04)
Next we walked around and through the large coral and holding pens (Fig. 04) that were adjacent to the barn. As you can see from (Fig. 02), the coral encompassed a rather large portion of the property. During the height of their cattle operation the Bell’s had more than 1,600 head of cattle. One of the pens had a long chute where cattle could be led into what is known as a cattle squeeze and dehorning gate (#03 & #04). This was probably used to prepare the cattle for the cattle run down to Nipton, where they would be put on the train for shipment to California for slaughter. This could also have been used for branding. Note the large water storage tank (#02). At the time this was actually shipped to the property in sections and assembled on the site.
                              
WBR - Misc
(Fig. 05)
The collage in (Fig. 05) is a collection of miscellaneous shots taken during my walk around the property. The pictures (#01, #02 & #08) show our group walking around the property in the 105-degree heat. Up near the ranch house I spotted some quail (#03 & #04) and a cottontail rabbit (#05). The view in (#07) is looking out the main gate to the north.
         
                   
We ended our morning by heading to the rear of the property for a tour of the main house, a 5,000 square-foot, two-story Spanish Colonial Revival ranch house nestled among a grouping of Joshua Trees (Fig. 06). When looking at the tree lined driveway leading to three-car garage (Fig. 07), it becomes evident that they were "replanted" to line the drive. These trees would have been replanted here about 85 years ago when the house was built.

The collage in (Fig. 08) is a collection of pictures from some of the home’s interior rooms. Pictures (#01, #02 & #03) are of the large great room with its beamed ceiling and huge fireplace. Pictures (#04, #05 & #06) are of the homes three bathrooms. (#04 & #05) are of the master bedrooms off-suite bathroom. All of the house's three bathrooms were very well done considering the home was built in the early 30’s. Each bathroom shower had three shower jets (#08). Opposite the master bathroom was a built-in vanity (#07). A recreation room had a built in bar (#09). I can’t wait to get another tour after the renovations and restoration (est. the end of 2016) when all of the homes furnishings, rugs and fixtures have been put back in place. For more pictures of the ranch, also check out ...
                            
EFP-Walking Box Ranch
(Fig. 06)
EFP-P1120267
(Fig. 07)
WBR - Interior Rooms
(Fig. 08)
WBR - Fixtures
(Fig. 09)
The collage above (Fig. 09), is a sampling of the home's many custom made finishes, such as lights, sconces, door fixtures, etc. Unfortunately, some of these items had already been removed and placed into storage in preparation for the upcoming restoration work. Our guide pointed out the fact that the glass doorknobs that had been exposed to the ultraviolet rays of sunlight, turned from clear to purple. Even though I failed to get a picture of these, my friend Mary Chaplar sent me a couple that she had taken that show this effect (Fig. 10). Starting in the 1860s, glass manufacturers started adding manganese to help make glass more 'clear'.  Mostly due to the need for manganese during WW I, glass manufacturers stopped using manganese by 1915 and replaced it with selenium. Both elements improve glass clarity.

WBR Doorknobs
(Fig. 10)

The final group of pictures in the collage below (Fig. 11) are of the ranch's enclosed backyard. Two wings of the house embrace a large Joshua Tree and small desert garden surrounded by a large, shaded, wrap-around porch (#01). From this shaded veranda one can view miles of open desert. Period photos indicate that Clara had a rock garden here at one time. There is a large swimming pool (#02 & #03), with an enclosed shaded area at the shallow end (not shown). Also off the pool, next to the enclosed shaded area is an area for cooking with a large bar-b-que grill (#04). The grill has been removed for renovations. Another one of the ranch house’s most distinctive features is its stone chimney, topped with jagged pieces mimicking flames (Fig. 12).
WBR - Pool
(Fig. 11)
EFP-P1120325
(Fig. 12)
After the tour we all climbed back into our air conditioned ban and headed into searchlight for lunch at the Searchlight Nugget Casino (Fig. 13 & 14), where we all thanked Linda for putting everything together and commented about how much we enjoyed the tour and how informative it had been. Everyone would love to return after the renovations and restorations to see the final product.
EFP-P1120326
(Fig. 13)
EFP-P1120329
(Fig. 14)
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Eldorado Valley & the Highland Range


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(Fig. 01)
(Fig. 02)
Directions From the Stratosphere Casino head northeast on Las Vegas Blvd about 3 miles and bear right to merge onto US-515/93/95 south towards Boulder City. Follow US-93/95 for 17 miles and then merge onto US-95 South (Veterans Memorial Hwy), headed towards Searchlight. Follow this road about 12 miles until a set of power lines cross the highway. At the power line turn right and head west on the power line road.  

06/02/2015 Trip NotesToday, my friend Harvey Smith and I decided to spend a day riding his 4WD Rhino around Eldorado Valley and the McClough and Highland ranges at the southern end of Eldorado Canyon. For more information on this area, go to my page ... Highland Range Crucial Bighorn Habitat Area. The drive in from US-95 is along a very straight power line road (Fig. 03) that ends up winding its way (Fig. 04) to the top of a hill with five overhead power line transmission towers. This is actually the northern tip of an area that has been classified as the Highland Range Crucial Bighorn Habitat Area. The view from the base of one of these towers (Fig. 01), follows the power line as it runs due north up Eldorado Valley towards the El Dorado Solar Power Plant. Refer to the map in (Fig. 02).  After spending some time roaming around the top of this hill taking pictures (Figs. 05 & 06), we decided to head north up Eldorado Valley. Our initial goal was to locate and drive through McClough Pass, located at the upper left of the map in (Fig. 02). Unfortunately, before reaching the power line road that runs through this pass, we turned onto a 4WD road that was headed in the right direction, but ended up becoming more of a very rocky wash vice a road several miles short of the pass. It got so bad that we finally decided to abandon our goal and head back the way we had come. Scroll down to "Trip Notes (con't)" for more pictures.
                         

(Fig. 03)

(Fig. 04)
(Fig. 05)
(Fig.06)
Trip Notes (con't): When we got back to the "hill" (Fig. 07) from which we had started, we picked up another dirt road that ran southwest around the hill and into the heart of the Highland Range (Fig. 08). The further we drove into this area, the more we began to enjoy the unique geology (Figs. 09 thru 11). Notice the large "hoo-doo" like conglomerate tower in the middle of (Fig. 10). The views that we experienced here made up for our disappointment of not reaching McClough Pass during the earlier part of the day. The final picture (Fig. 12) features a grouping of odd and end pictures I took throughout the day.

(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)
(Fig. 09)
(Fig. 10)
(Fig. 11)
(Fig. 12)

Kirk's Grotto Site (Summary Page)

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This page last updated on 10/11/2017

(Fig. 01)
(Fig. 02)
Directions:  Kirk's Grotto is approximately 13 miles from the staging area at ... Whitney Pocket.  From Whitney Pocket drive approximately 3.8 miles and turn right onto North Mud Wash Road. After another 3.8 miles you will come to the Mud Wash Petroglyphs on the right side of the wash. Click this link to view ... Mud Wash Road PetroglyphsContinuing on for 1.1 miles in Mud Wash go around the corner and you will see a trail heading south up the bank. Continue straight up the incline, around a couple of switchbacks, and to the top of the mesa overlooking Mud Wash. Follow it for about 2.8 miles until it intersects with Backcountry Byway. At the intersection, take the trail to the left and follow it for approximately 2 miles until you reach a post and cable parking corral. This is the trailhead for Kirk's Grotto.

Description: Kurt's Grotto is down at the bottom of the cliff's before you and through the break in the rocks (Fig. 01). The grotto, from here, is about a half-mile down the drop-off, between the two sets of cliffs. Once at the bottom, the trail is fairly flat and leads around to the right.  There are ancient petroglyphs all along the cliffs to the right; the entrance to the grotto is nearly hidden by a large Mesquite tree in its opening. Right-hand picture in (Fig. 03). Petroglyphs are all along the rocks to the right of the entrance, in the tunnel to the grotto. On the left side of (Fig. 04) is one of the most photographed panels, that of the "dying corn plants", perhaps a symbol of a sustained drought causing the corn to die. Perhaps the author is asking for rain. The main panel is located at the very back of the grotto (Fig. 05). It appears that this panel was either created at different times or by different authors. The left portion of the panel is done in a completely different style than the right portion; the glyphs are not drawn as precisely and the line quality is less defined. It seems that the upside down corn plant, surrounded by rain symbols and a rainbow seem to be the theme.  The prayer for rain and lack of food seems to be a central theme in many of the roack art sites in the Gold Butte area. It is believed that many of the Gold Butte panels were created by the Anasazi, who as planters of crops, their survival wa all about the rain. The passageway narrows again on the other side of the grotto but large rocks have fallen and closed it off not much further on. Many of the glyphs here are abstract designs with a large number of circles and connected circles (portals). though relatively few in number, there are some zoomorphs and a few anthropomorphs; one with very large ears or hair bobs. There are a few places that appear to have some very faint pictographs created in red paint. The panel in (Fig. 08) was very high on the west face of the outcroppint to the north of the Grotto outcropping, This panel is a completely different style than the others and is more typical of what is seen on Gold Butte. There areimages 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. Unfortunately, the condition of many images in this area are very poor due to erosion. The whole area is illuminated only from the "skylight" above and is therefore 10-20 degrees cooler. Exiting the grotto mouth, look up and to the right and you will see "Kirk's Lizard" (Fig. 06). There are a couple of other minor glyphs on the other side of the canyon, we as well. The hike from the current trailhead to the grotto and back is over 0.6 miles.

06/10/2015 Trip Notes: There are actually two ways to reach the back of the grotto area (Fig. 03). The first one between the two cliffs in this figure, the one we chose, is by far the most difficult and requires some rock scrambling. The second on in the picture on the right, guarded by a large Mesquite tree in its opening is actually the preferred route. Both offer slot canyon-like experiences (Fig. 04) and numerous petroglyph panels in different locations (Figs. 07 thru 10). After exploring this area for well over an hour, we sat in the shade of the grotto and had lunch. Even though there were supposed to be a couple more panels on an outcrop to the east of Kirk's Grotto called Babe's Butte, we decided to bypass it on this trip. After taking a few more pictures of the area (Fig. 11), we drove back to Backcountry Byway and began the journey to Little Finland. Click here to view pictures and a description of Little Finland ... Little Finland. On the way we came across a wild donkey (Fig.12). In all of our visits to the Gold Butte Region, this was the first time we had ever spotted a donkey here.

(Fig. 03)
(Fig. 04)
(Fig. 05)
(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)

(Fig. 08)

(Fig. 09)
(Fig. 10)
(Fig. 11)
(Fig. 12)

Back to [Gold Butte National Monument - Summary Page]

Little Finland at Gold Butte

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This page last updated on 04/22/2017

(Fig. 01)
(Fig. 02)
DirectionsThe drive to Little Finland starts along Gold Butte Road, 3 miles from I-15 exit 112. This narrow road runs alongside the east bank of the Virgin River. Drive south on this road to Whitney Pocket, about 19 miles. The surface is good at first but becomes more bumpy as the route turns southeast, climbing into the hills then descending after a while to a wide plain. Continuing straight on, the road becomes partially unpaved though still relatively good, as it crosses desert flats, until it reaches Whitney Pocket. We used this spot as a staging area and off-loaded the ranger here. Although still a major backcountry route, the surface is now unpaved and noticeably more uneven, formed of hard-pressed stones, and it becomes steadily rougher. At about 3 miles from Whitney Pocket you can take North Mud Wash Road to the right (the route in green on (Fig. 02) that we took today) or continue on for a total of 7.2 miles to Devils Throat, where you can head westwards on Mud Wash Road (The road marked in red on (Fig. 02)). This road follows close to (or directly along) the wash for 6.6 miles. The final section (about 2 miles) runs back east, up a tributary drainage to the base of the Little Finland plateau. This wash has in the past been fenced off by the BLM a little way from the plateau, entailing an extra half mile walk, but the barrier has recently been removed. It is now possible to drive to the base of the cliffs, or up to the plateau next to the formations. The route was in very good condition - no problem with high clearance 4WD.

Description:  Little Finland is not officially named and people have called it by many different names (aka Hobgoblin's Playground and Devil's Fire. It is a plateau of red/orange Aztec sandstone covering an area that is about 2,000 feet by 400 feet, where wind and water has heavily eroded the surface into thousands of  fantastical shapes and amazingly complex and intricate forms. From the base of the wash, a short scramble leads up into Little Finland plateau, which stretches out for about 0.4 miles to the north. Though you can seem many of these unique features from below (Fig. 01), getting up on the cliff with them makes photographing them much easier. Exploration is easy because the area is fairly level. The area is truly amazing. The farther you go and the more you look, the more you find, but this is more of an elfin wonderland than an area of towering pillars. Probably the most fascinating thing about this place is the fantasyland of shapes (Fig. 05) found in the thousands of small erosional fins, hence the name Little Findland. Almost every rock seems to remind you of an animal, face, or some type of mythical creature (Fig. 06 thru 09). The majority of them are only 3 ft. tall, but some are smaller, others, larger (Fig. 10). Mixed in with the intricate red rock sculptures are fields of virtually white sandstone with sinuous waves, remnants of ancient sand dunes. In other places, the rock is covered with a thin bluish-white crust, the result of salt that has crystallized out of groundwater running through the rock.

06/10/2015 Trip Notes: This was our second attempt at locating this spot (see 02/05/14 trip notes below) and were really glad that we made the effort. As you can see from the pictures below (Figs. 05 thru 10), this site has some of the most interesting geologic sandstone formations you will see anywhere in the Southwest. If you follow Little Findland Road (Fig. 02) to the end, you end up at a fenced wash (Fig. 03). I think this might be a tributary of Red Rock Springs. You then have to retrace your steps back to the wide open area in the wash (Fig. 04), whereupon you will be confronted with a 100 foot cliff lined with a half dozen palm trees at its base. Though you can see some of these weather worn sculptures along the upper edge of this cliff (Fig. 01), you really need to climb to the top of the ledge to appreciate the true splendor of this area. One can literally spend hours walking thru this area looking for shapes that remind you of something. I could easily visit this area again. On our return back to Whitney Pocket we stopped at the old coral (Fig. 11) located on Mud Wash Road (Fig. 02).

(Fig. 03)
(Fig. 04)

(Fig. 05)
(Fig. 06) The Raptor
(Fig. 07) Head of a Rino
(Fig. 08) Wings of a Chariot
(Fig. 09) Jaw of a Crocodile 
(Fig. 10)
(Fig. 11)

(Fig.12)
02/05/2014 Trip Notes: Looking at the map above (Fig. 12), we came from the upper left corner of the map (red route) and tried to approach Little Finland by going up Red Spring Wash. In addition to the wash being very wet and sandy,the area was filled with some rather large, rocky ledges (Fig. 13 & 14) that prevented us from going any further. Our attempt ended where it says, “Washed out Road” on the map. Heading back from here we ended up driving down Gold Butte Wash (Fig. 02). Several miles down the wash we missed a turn and ended up traveling south on what was labeled ”Back Country Byway” for several miles. After we finally realized our mistake, we turned around again and headed back north and found where we had missed the turn. Unfortunately, by this time it was getting rather late and we had to try and find our way back to our original starting point. Because we never made it to Little Finland, hopefully on our next visit we will be able to have some better luck. On our next visit, we will approach this area from the opposite direction, either going up Mud Wash Road or Mud Wash itself. Shown in yellow on the map in (Fig. 09). About the only good thing that came out of this was that we located some more really great petroglyphs on our return while driving up Mud Wash Road. Click here to view the Mud Wash petroglyphs ... Mud Wash Road Petroglyphs



(Fig. 13)
(Fig. 14)
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