Joe's Corral

Round Trip Distance: 0.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 4325 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: Joe's Corral
Fee: none
Attractions: petroglyphs

Joe's Corral is a petroglyph site that is located near the San Juan River, west of Bluff, Utah, between the River House Ruin and the Kachina Panel. The site has multiple Basketmaker style images similar to those found at the Kachina Panel. Access to the area can be made either by the San Juan River or a suitable off road type high clearance vehicle.

From Bluff head west on UT-191 and continue straight at the junction with UT-163 toward Mexican Hat and Monument Valley. The turnoff will be on the left at the bottom of the hill on the west side of Comb Ridge about 6.4 miles from Bluff.

The road through lower Comb Wash can be a little confusing as it takes multiple routes that mostly all lead to the same place. Care must be taken as some of the routes go through deep sand. Also be sure to follow the wash and don't take any of the roads that leave the wash and head west. At the 3.8 mile point from the highway the route turns sharply to the left and climbs a short but very rough little hill that requires both high clearance and 4wd.

Stay to the right at the top of the hill where the left fork turns toward the spot where the Mormon Hole-in-the-Rock trail made its climb up San Juan Hill. The right fork drops down to where the Rincone Trading Post sat on a bench overlooking the San Juan River. From there it travels around a rocky outcrop before leveling off and continuing eastward.

At the 4.7 mile point from the highway the route passes by River House Ruin. Besides the pictographs at River House Ruin there are also some good petroglyphs along the cliffs in both directions.

The petroglyphs at Joe's Corral are right next to the 4wd road.

Most of the images appear to be of the basketmaker style. There are a few Ute or Navajo images as well as inscriptions made by early settlers and such that are scrawled across the cliffs like graffiti.

This large panel that is low on the cliff disappears into the ground as wind blown sand has raised the level of fill next to the cliff. It's too bad that archeologist couldn't excavate the site and permanently remove the fill. As you can see, as always happens with images near ground level, the rain and soil action is eroding away the lower part of the images. These may have suffered as well from cattle rubbing up against them.

Carol Patterson has provided a wealth of valuable information that goes into detail explaining the meaning of many of these images. The large katsina depicted on this panel can be seen hearing prayers for rain and sending thunder claps up to the sky to get the cloud people to release their water.

Other images are so old that a newer layer of patina has obscured them enough that they are easily missed and many of them are well worth taking noticing. If you follow the cliff around the corner to the east you will see some very fine images where the rock itself is decomposing in places and being covered with lichens in others. According to Patterson the crane is the 'bringer of winter snow and hail'.

Some images are very high up on the cliff and must have been made with the aid of ropes or ladders. Here is a katsina with the head of a duck, which is the form they took when traveling through the air, and a pair of lobed circles that are the emblems of the 'war gods' (Patterson).

We moved Joe's Corral to a separate post to better show more of what can be found there. Rafters can be seen stopping at the Kachina Panel and the River House Ruin but there are no indications that they ever stop at Joe's Corral. Anyone else visiting the area would want to make it a point to stop here in passing to the Kachina Panel. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.