Round Trip Distance: 1.3 miles
Elevation: 5604 - 5694 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: East Four Mile Draw
Attractions: Rock art, calendar site
East Fourmile Draw is the largest of the rock art sites in the Cañon Pintado National Historic District near Rangely, Colorado. The site has several large petroglyph and pictograph panels, the Open Hearth archaeological dig, an old line shack of the Philadelphia Cattle Company, and the Sun Dagger calendar site.
The trailhead is located along Highway 139, near mile marker 61, about 11 miles from its junction with Highway 64 on the eastern outskirts of the town of Rangely.
Kiosks at the trailhead provide good information to get you orientated before hitting the trail. Reading the information will help you not to miss anything.
For this post we are traveling around the trail in the clockwise direction. As the trail leaves the parking area it travels through sagebrush and greasewood. A footbridge carries the trail over the wash as it nears the cliffs.
All of the most extensive of the petroglyph panels have kiosks that point them out and provide helpful information.
We highlighted some of the images on the computer to make them stand out. Notice the various corn plants that imply that the Fremont Indians that were once here may have cultivated crops in the area.
There are fossils of different sizes in the sandstone in places. This picture is of a petrified tree that is protruding from the cliff with a few swallow nests nearby.
Careful study of the cliff face reveals many more petroglyphs.
This petroglyph of a horse would be one of the more recent images in East Fourmile Draw. It would date back to the time of the Ute Indians at a point after horses were introduced to the area by the Spanish. Cañon Pintado received its name from Padres Dominguez and Escalante when they passed through the area on their expedition in 1776. On September 9th of that year they spotted a painting 'which supposedly represented two men in combat' and for that reason named it El Cañon Pintado. A fascinating read of the firsthand account as recorded by Fray Francisco Silvestre Vélez de Escalante is The Dominguez-Escalante Journal, translated by Fray Angelico Chavez available from The University of Utah Press.
As the trail makes its loop toward the east it comes to a fork. From here you can walk over and study the Hanging Hearth site.
The sign mentions what was discovered when the Hanging Hearth site was excavated by the BLM, Northwestern Community College, and the Archaeological Research Institute. There isn't much of anything that really stands out at the site but the information provided gives a conceptual picture of what was once here.
After rejoining the main trail the route continues around the cliff. After passing a few more petroglyphs the trail comes to the remains of a line shack that belonged to the Philadelphia Cattle Company. Line shacks were used by cowboys as a modest one room home away from home while riding the range.
The trail splits again just past the line shack. The left fork is a spur that leads to the Sun Dagger site.
At the Sun Dagger site there are a group of pictographs painted beneath an overhang. The sign mentions that one of the critical times for this site is 'about 10:00 A.M. Mountain Daylight Time.' It is then that the overhanging ledge casts a shadow that exactly bisects all three circles at the same time. (The sign doesn't mention the date for this event but we believe they are referring to the summer solstice between June 20 and June 22.)
This is a picture of some plant fossils found nearby.