White River Narrows I, II & III

Round Trip Distance: 5.8 miles (driving)
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 4462 - 4570 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: White River Narrows
Fee: none
Attractions: petroglyphs

The White River Narrows Archaeological District is located just north of Hiko, Nevada between Crystal Springs and Ely along Nevada Highway 318. The district has 6 sites scattered throughout the narrows where petroglyphs, dating from 4,000 years ago up to Fremont times and the nineteenth century, have been carved into the soft sandstone and volcanic tuff that makes up most of the cliffs of the winding canyon. Due to its importance as an archaeological resource the district has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

To reach sites I through V drive 17 miles north of Hiko or 112 miles south of Ely on Nevada 318 and turn east onto a dirt road where there is an information kiosk that will help with getting orientated to the district.

From the kiosk head east for less than a quarter mile and go left at the fork. The right fork leads to Site V. After a few hundred more feet there is another fork where you need to go left again. The right fork at that point leads to Site IV.

After the second left the road gets a little rough as it crosses a hill and drops into a narrow valley. From there the road becomes much smoother. As you head up the valley watch for the rock formation in this photo that will be on the right hand side of the road near the 1 mile point from the highway. There is a faint road that leads in that direction to Site I. A keen eye will be able to spot the petroglyphs from the main road.

From Site I continue to follow the road around the bend where after a half mile or so there will be another side road, this time on the left, that leads over to Site II where there are petroglyphs all along the base of the cliff as well as some up high near the rim where the blue arrow on the left is in this photo.

Here you will find an interesting style of elongated mask like images with horizontal and sometimes vertical lines and antennae or horns. It is easy to miss some of the images that are scattered all along the cliff in this area. Those in the lighter, almost white, rock are the easiest to miss.

We outlined some of the masks that are found on some darker patinated rock higher up on the cliff. Notice how the horns from the lower images stretch up to meet a crack in the rock that runs across the cliff in this area. One of the higher masks is also sitting right on the same crack. Could it be that they chose this spot for the panel because the crack was integral to the message they wanted to convey?

It is just under another mile up the narrows to Site III where you will find petroglyphs all along the base of the cliffs for several hundred feet.

Here it seems that every smooth surface of rock has petroglyphs.

The parts of the panels that are closest to the ground are washed out quite a bit either from weathering or from a chemical reaction from rain splashing contaminates off of the soil. The worst of the etching is nearest the ground where it looks like the rock is actually dissolving away.

Judging from how low the images are on the cliff in places there is a good chance that the canyon has filled with several feet of dirt since the first images were created.

These images appear to be Fremont. Notice the two females on the right giving birth. Earrings can be seen dangling from the head of the rightmost female in typical Fremont style.

Be aware of Great Basin rattlesnakes as you walk through the grass and give them the right of way. Usually they will sense the vibrations of your feet or trekking poles and give you plenty of warning as long as you aren't moving too fast. This one was right beside the trail as we returned to our truck and wasn't there when we headed out so you might encounter one in an area you have already traveled through.

Site III is as far as you can go before turning around and driving back the other way to check out sites IV and V. To get to Site VI you will need to get back on 318 and drive about 3 miles north up the highway. The rock art in the White River Narrows Archaeological District is very intriguing and both fun to search out and to contemplate. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.