Escalante Canyon Petroglyphs I

Round Trip Distance: 0.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 4826 - 4889 feet
Cellphone: 0-1 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: Escalante Canyon Road
Fee: none
Attractions: Petroglyphs

The Escalante Canyon near Delta, Colorado has two main areas of petroglyphs. The first location is along the Gunnison River. The site isn't marked on any maps and there are no trailhead signs showing its location. Once you come near to the petroglyphs there are brown mylar trail markers with the standard 'Site Etiquette'  message. Escalante Canyon is named after one of the two padres of the Dominguez-Escalante expedition that passed through the Delta are in 1776. The party didn't actually pass through the canyon but like many other locations in Colorado and Utah it is nevertheless named after one of them.

Before crossing the railroad tracks and the Gunnison River pullover and park near the Delta County Gravel Pit sign.

Follow the road the leads downstream toward the cliffs.

As you near the first mylar marker pick out a route up the hillside. This area doesn't get a lot of visitors so you might have to make your own trail in a few places.

The petroglyphs are scattered along the flatter surfaces near the upper section of the hillside. It takes a little bit of scrambling to get to the trail that runs along that part of the cliff where the panels are. One of the first panels seems to depict a man chasing a bighorn towards a dog that is standing fast, noted by the rounded feet, in its path. Each of the figures has chips of rock missing that make them a little harder to see clearly.

This panel is interesting to study. It appears that a man is waiting around a corner, denoted by the ridge in the rock, for the bighorn to come to him so he can hit them with whatever it is he is holding up. Above the animal figures is an object that is made of pecked circles that I outlined in white. I have my own thoughts on the meaning of that object. There are other figures on the panel that are more faint and some others that are damaged. They become a little clearer when the picture is enlarged.

Continuing along the face of the cliff leads to more panels.

One particular panel that appears more modern has numerous images many of which are somewhat out of the norm. There are many anamorphs, one of which appears to be looking over its shoulder, bear paws that look a little different and a walking man with what looks like a spear or flute that is trailing the wind or something behind him. It could also be that he is carrying a tobacco pipe and the lines represent many words. Smoking tobacco, I've read, often preceded sitting in council or telling stories. Maybe he was bringing news.

Another mylar petroglyph marker near the road designates the furthest point of the rock art on the cliffs.

A broken piece of chert looks like it may have been the tip of one of the tools used to make some of the petroglyphs.

There are quite a few bighorn sheep that make the Escalante Canyon area their home. They can often be spotted on the cliffs or even in the pastures as you drive further into the canyon. This ram came down one of the cliffs in the canyon and passed within about 30 feet as we remained quiet while taking lots of pictures.

There is one other petroglyph site, the Ute Petroglyphs mentioned at the Escalante Canyon turnoff from Highway 50, and several other places of interest in Escalante Canyon. This is also where you will find the trailhead for the McCarty trail. If you have a 4x4 you can follow the road all of the way to the Divide Road on the Uncompahgre as well as a few other places like Dry Mesa. Many of the petroglyphs at this site along the Gunnison River appear to be very old and look like they may date back to the archaic period. The newer ones may be Ute but with no horse images that we noticed they may predate the arrival of the Spaniards. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.