Daytrip – Crystal Wash Rock Art – Entrance Site

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(Fig. 01)
Site/Area Description: Standing at the metal kiosk, before you lies Crystal Wash. This quite sandy wash is surrounded hundreds of volcanic tuff boulders, the result of a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Beginning about 450 yard northeast up the wash from the sign-in register, there are six panels that are sporadically placed in and around the wash. Since the rock art found here is easily accessible, this would have been a public site. Their placement suggests a possible travel route, with the rock art providing information along the way. Although the occasional lithic flakes found in the wash indicate that some stone tools were made here, along with the fact that there are a couple of boulders that may have provided shelter for short term stays, there is also nothing to suggest this was a habitation site. There is however, evidence in the rocks above the wash at the Crystal Wash Main Rock Art Site located north of this location, that ancient people stayed in the area for long periods of time. The size of the main site is large enough to have accommodated a village of several small families, most probably living there during the winter months. Archaeological findings consisting of ceramic sherds, projectile points, four hearths, several cupules and some cobblestone alignments have been found on the site. Receiving water from the snow melt off from the surrounding hills, coupled with its large boulders, it offered suitable protection against the wind, making it climatically more desirable than the lower valleys which were colder during the winter months. Click the following link for pictures and description of the main site … Crystal Wash Rock Art - Main Site.
Rock Art Description:  The dominant rock art found at Crystal Wash are Petroglyphs that are etched onto rock faces by pecking, abrading, scratching, or a combination or these techniques. There is one example of pictographs (painted rock art) and one example of cupules (pit and groove rock art) at markers #5 & #6. Note: Cupules are thought to be the oldest form of rock art, first appearing in parts of the Great Basin 7000 years ago. The predominant style of rock art found at the Crystal Wash is classified at the Great Basin Pecked Style which includes the substyles of Great Basin Representational, Great Basin Curvilinear Abstract, and Great Basin Rectilinear Abstract.
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(Fig. 02)
Directions: From Las Vegas, drive north on I-15 to US Highway 93. After exiting onto Highway 93, drive north past Alamo and Ash Springs to the intersection of Highways 93 and 318. From the intersection of Highways 93 and 318 continue on Highway 93 for 3.16 miles to an obscure dirt road on the left. NOTE: This unmarked road is very difficult to spot. Turn left onto the dirt road and drive northwest for a few hundred to a man-gate in the fence that parallels the highway and park. This is the trailhead. Total distance from Las Vegas is about 110 miles.
04/09/2015 Trip Notes: I made today's trip with the rock-hounds from the Henderson Senior Center. Even though I had been to the Crystal Wash Main Site a couple of years ago, I had never hiked the Crystal Wash Entrance Site. After going through the gap in the fence, follow the old road northwest to the edge of the wash. You will come to a metal sign-in register. After dipping down into the sandy wash, head upstream (northeast). There is no obvious hiking trail, but when walking up the wash, the petroglyphs start near the first big boulders on the right edge of the wash (Fig. 02). These are indicated by markers #5 and #6. From here walk back towards the main wash, walking slightly north. Notice a large boulder in the center of the wash with some petroglyphs towards the top (Marker #1). From this boulder, Marker #2 is back to the left against the cliffs across the canyon. Continuing up the wash, Marker #3 is on the left where the wash starts to bend to the east. Heading east, further up the wash you come to a boulder (Marker #4) in the center on the point of a fork in the wash. Taking either of these forks from Marker #4 will eventually lead you to the Crystal Wash Main Rock Art Site. (Refer to Fig. 03 below) I must point out that, due to the glaring sunlight, capturing good pictures of many of the panels on today's visit proved to be extremely difficult. The pictures and descriptions below are organized according to the site markers found at each location noted in (Fig. 02) above. The descriptions provided for each of the noted markers below were taken from the BLM’s Crystal Wash Entrance Brochure. Scroll to the bottom for more trip notes.
Marker #6: At this location there is a petroglyph panel depicting zoomorphs (mountain sheep and other quadrupeds) and anthropomorphs (people) (Fig. 6-01 & 6-02). In addition to the more easily recognizable anthropomorths in these figures, one figure is a type called an "elongated anthropomorph" (Fig. 6-04). This location appears to have been a small habitation or campsite that could have accommodated a family-sized group of people (Fig. 6-03). Sites of this type were often found near travel routes and could have functioned as stopovers for travelers on their way to another destination. Found in the area to the right of the panels is a grinding slick indicates that the food processing took place here. Grinding slicks were created when food (i.e., seeds, pine nuts) were ground on a flat stone surface with a mano, or a hand-held stone. Over time this activity would produce a smooth surface. Portable grinding stones or "metates," were also used. Besides plants, certain kinds of insects like grasshopppers and crickets, were dried and ground into meal. Minerals like hematite were also ground for use in pigments. These were then mixed with an organic binding agent such as water, plant juice, saliva, or urine to create paint.
(Fig. 6-01)
(Fig. 6-02)
(Fig. 6-03)
(Fig. 6-04)
Marker #5: At this location there is a boulder with a hole through it (Figs. 5-01 & 5-02). It appears that the roof of the hole has been painted with red ochre, a pigment made from iron oxide. The significance of the painted roof is unknown because there are no other designs on the rock. Although no discernible imagery seems to have been created in the application of this pigment, it’s placement was likely deliberate and is therefore not a natural occurrence. This shelter could have been meaningful to the individuals who used it and may have had a ritual significance.
(Fig. 5-01)
(Fig. 5-02)
Marker #1: The boulders found here are located on the right edge of the wash. There is a thin horizontal line that runs around all four sides of the uppermost boulder (Figs. 1-01 thru 1-04). This is a good example of one of the many non-representational motifs found at this site.
(Fig. 1-01)
(Fig. 1-02)
(Fig. 1-03)
(Fig. 1-04)
Marker #2:  Most of the petroglyphs at this site tend to be directly associated with the wash, however, this panel (Fig. 2-01) is somewhat more set in from the wash than many of the other panels. These non-representational motifs are typical of the Great Basin Curvilinear Abstract Style. As with many of the panels found at this site, the motifs appear to be very faint and quite worn due to the effects of age, wind and periodic flooding of the wash over hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
(Fig. 2-01)
Marker #3: The small motif depicted on this panel, left center of  (Fig. 3-01), is an image that may or may not be an anthropomorph. The small projections extending from this shape could possibly be arms
and legs. There is only one other figure at this site that may be an anthropomorph, and it can be found at marker #4. Other panels found here (Figs. 3-02 & 3-03), appear to be more non-representational motifs, typical of the Great Basin Curvilinear Abstract Style.
(Fig. 3-01)
(Fig. 3-02)
(Fig. 3-03)
Marker #04: This boulder, located near the division of the wash, is heavily embellished. Underneath the front side is a panel consisting of three very faint, wavy lines (Fig. 4-02). They are waterworn due to the periodic flooding of the wash. On the opposite side is a motif known as a "wearing blanket" that may be an anthropomorph dressed in a woven cloth (Fig. 4-01). This image is similar to others of this type, and is characterized by the "woven" pattern in the body of the figure. Some, like this one here, appear to have fringe at the bottom of the blanket. These figures are generally known as "patterned" anthropomorphs (PBAs) and are depicted with a variety of dots, bars and other designs arranged in a well-ordered manner. Since the Pahranagats have no known weaving tradition other than baskets, it’s possible that this motif represents the presence of Southwestern Puebloan cultures that lived in the area at the same time as the Pahranagats (AD 500-1250).
Fig. 4-01)
(Fig. 4-02)
(Fig. 4-03)
Trip Notes continued: After reaching Marker #4 and the last of the panels for this area, we continued to hike up the wash (Fig. 01) in search of the “Main Site”. Unfortunately, we missed a turn in the wash that would have led us to the entrance for the main site (Fig. 03), and as a result never did reach it. Sorry guys! Surprisingly, as hot, dry and barren as this area was, I was still able to find several blooming plants and wildflowers scattered along the wash. From blooming creosote bushes and Indian paintbrush to desert daisies (Figs. 04 thru 07). Even though there are many more petroglyphs to be found at the Crystal Wash Rock Art - Main Site, everyone seemed pleased with the petroglyphs we found here and enjoyed the hike.
Crystal Wash
(Fig. 03)
(Fig. 04)
(Fig. 05)
(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)

Reference Materials:

Terms Commonly Associated with Rock Art Study
Lincoln County Rock Art Guide

Click here to view pictures and info on the main site … Crystal Wash Rock Art - Main Site.