East Creek Petroglyphs II

Round Trip Distance: 0.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 4680 - 4700 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 45 mins.
Trailhead: Highway 141 MM 152.2
Fee: none
Attractions: Petroglyphs, bighorn sheep

The East Creek Petroglyphs II site is located along Highway 141 and East Creek in Unaweep Canyon near Grand Junction, Colorado. The site has several small panels of very faint petroglyphs that appear to be very dated as well as a good number of pecked holes in the sandstone cliff. Petroglyphs and rock shelters are common in this part of Colorado. Most sites are found along rivers and streams and their side canyons or on top of bluffs above the waterways.

The trailhead is about 1.8 miles west of Highway 50 on Highway 141. This is the highway on the south side of Whitewater that leads to the town of Gateway. Watch for the BLM sign in this photo on the right hand side of the road.

The first trick is finding a good place to cross East Creek. The water level ranges from bone dry to a very fast moving 12 to 16 inches. We keep a pair of trekking poles in the truck that come in handy in places such as this.

It is easy to follow along the base of the cliff in both directions. To get to the petroglyph site turn left and head up stream. At some point you may want to explore the other direction also but we didn't find anything other than enjoyment there.

Some of the petroglyphs are very faint and easy to miss. Continue upstream toward the cottonwood tree in this picture and keep a sharp eye on the cliff as you approach.

Watch for a series of pecked holes in the cliff that appear just before the petroglyphs start.

We aren't experts on the early inhabitants of the area but what we have found from other sites that have pecked holes in cliffs is that they can be used to hold roof beams for shelters, as seen nearby at one such location along the Gunnison River. At this site there are holes leading up the side of the cliff that are somewhat reminiscent of those in Chaco Canyon that were used more like ladders. The holes here may have been used in a similar fashion but one other option is that they may have had short pieces of wood stuck in them that were used to cast shadows for marking calendar or solstice events.

The petroglyphs are very faint from weathering and mineralization. The spiral is the easiest to make out. Some of the other portions of images that we outlined on the computer are our best guesses. Don't be tempted to chalk the actual petroglyphs. It is both illegal and will only hasten their further deterioration. Chalking was a common practice 50 years ago until they realized the damage that it did. About all that you can hope to do is to take better pictures than we did and trace them on your computer.

Just to the west are some petroglyphs that are in a darker patina and much easier to make out.

Even further west from the petroglyphs is a probable archaic rock shelter. There are large numbers of these all throughout the area. They are easy to spot when they have a few obviously stacked rocks filling gaps or forming walls. Unfortunately many of the rock shelters in this area have been used by homeless people as of late. It is sad that someone is homeless and has to resort to living in a rock shelter. There are documented cases of settlers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that lived in rock shelters and caves in the area. The book, 'Riding Old Trails', by James Curtis, mentions on page 252 that; 'The man by the name of Belt lived in a rock dugout on Indian Creek near Highway 50'. Belt, along with another local man by the name of Van Emmon, built the 'Beef Trail' that we have posted on this site as the Lower Indian Point trail. At times rock shelters were used temporarily while a more suitable structure could be built.

Beginning at this point in Unaweep canyon and extending west along Highway 141 for about the next 5 miles bighorn sheep can often be spotted on both sides of the road. These were seen coming down to the creek.

In the winter rafters of wild turkeys migrate down from the higher elevations.

When the snow begins falling at higher elevations and roads become troublesome in other areas we like to spend time looking for new sites and getting off the usual trails to explore the countryside. Over time we have gotten to where we can almost predict the most likely places to find something interesting. More faint petroglyphs can be found further west at the next pullout and if you explore the cliffs above here you will find petrified wood and even some Morrison sandstone with dinosaur bones and casts. Across the road there is an area of the cliff that has petrified tree trunks protruding from it. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.