Gunnison River Rock Art

Round Trip Distance: 0.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5094 - 5281 feet
Cellphone: 2-4 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: Gunnison River Rock Art Site
Fee: none
Attractions: Ancient rock shelter, petroglyphs

The Gunnison River Rock Art Site, a.k.a. Eagle Rock Shelter, is located in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area between Delta and Hotchkiss, Colorado. The Gunnison River site is very old with Archaic Era rock art dating to the period between 7000 B.C. and A.D. 400. The site is located along a game trail and was used by the ancient Indians as they followed the migrating herds of game animals.

NOTE: We originally posted this as the Gunnison River Rock Art Site, as it was referred to at the time, but it is more commonly known as the Eagle Rock Shelter.

The Gunnison River Rock Art Site is on the side of a hill overlooking the Gunnison River. At present there are no road signs pointing the way and Google Maps 'Get Directions' is likely to send you to the other side of the river so to get there follow Highway 92 east out of Delta to a turnoff on the right hand side of the road at mile 12.2. Pass through the gate and follow the dirt road for 2.2 miles to the trailhead staying to the right at each of the forks. The correct route of the road that you want to follow travels along the side of Lawhead Gulch. The road is listed as a jeep road but we did see one rather nice car parked at the trailhead.

From the parking area follow the well worn path that leads down the drainage toward the river.

The trail has a few spots with some loose rocks and one rock step that has a little wobble to it.

The rock shelter is nestled beneath an overhang in the cliff on a bench above the river.

Currently the University of Wyoming is conducting an archaeological excavation of the site.

The petroglyphs are very old and faded. Individual objects still stand out but the overall scene is unclear.

One area has objects that are white in color which we are guessing are pictographs.

Several fire pits have been excavated that were buried several feet beneath the surface. It must have taken thousands of years to bury them to that depth.

We have come across several such sites along the Gunnison River on past outings. Most of them are unmarked. Some of them include petroglyphs but most do not. Archaic Indians seem to have lived, at least part of the years, in places where game trails came close to the river. Unlike game trails at higher elevations there is much less vegetation to obscure such ruins which makes them easier to notice. The dirt road leading to the trailhead would probably be impassible in wet weather. We were very surprised to see a passenger car at the trailhead and thought that something with a little more clearance would be more suitable. Like much of the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and Wilderness Area attractions this one is still being developed. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.