Writing on the Wall: Rochester Rock Art Panel


A story pecked in stone

I uploaded these pictures a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve hesitated to share them. They’re very nice shots, but they pale in comparison to the subject matter – encountering this panel of finely pecked, richly detailed rock art, previously sight unseen (I had never laid eyes on a photo of the panel or read a description of this place) – was one of the most astonishing moments of my life.

I followed some brown BLM signs that simply said Rock Art, down a long washboarded dirt road that ended abruptly at a canyon. An obvious, ancient footpath cut down canyon, winding between big blocks of brown sandstone, out to a prominatory above two creeks, both running thick and muddy.

Hiking out to the Rochester Panel

Hiking out to the Rochester Panel, on the side of one of the big blocks  up ahead. We’re hiking across a peninsula of rock wedged between the confluences of Muddy and Rochester Creeks.

When I turned that corner and discovered this arcing rainbow of beastly, humanoid figures, swirling in a mad, mysterious atavistic story, the figures wholly captured me and I sat in their thrall for a long time, until swarming biting gnats drove me away. Rochester is the kind of place that stays with you; I barely slept that night, my ears uncomfortably itchy with bites, the ancient figures still dancing behind my restless eyelids.

Turn the corner...

Turning the corner…

Main Panel Detail

Main Panel Detail


Birth/ Bullet Detail. The curator at the Museum of the San Rafael told me the bullet holes are likely from  a cowboy's bullet in the early 1900's.

Birth/ Bullet Detail. The curator at the Museum of the San Rafael in Castle Dale told me the bullet holes were likely left by a target-shooting cowboy in the early 1900’s, although some Native Americans ritually desecrate panels to fend off malevolent spirits.

Phallic Hunt

Phallic Hunt

Anglo Graffiti

An Idiot Was Here

Bowie says, Whatcha lookin' at?

Bowie says, Whatcha lookin’ at?

More detail, main panel

More detail, main panel

People who mar rock art should be shot.

The bright, blank spots are scars left by collectors removing parts of the panel. People who mar rock art should be haunted by the ancients all night, every night for life.

So please accept my apologies for posting these and ruining your chance at stumbling upon this place, sight unseen, as I did. I hope that next time you drive by a brown sign that says simply Rock Art, that you make the turn and drive down the washboarded dirt road and park at the end and follow the trail down canyon to where it turns the corner around a big block of sandstone.

Shadow Self Portrait

Shadow Self Portrait

Rochester Rock Art Dogs. We approached through the canyon on the right.

Rochester Rock Art Dogs. We approached through the canyon on the right.

Love Rock Art? Me too! Check out some of my previous petroglyph and pictograph posts: Writing on the Wall: Sego Canyon, Utah Petroglyphs,  Urban Petroglyphs & Geologic Unrest and Writing on the Wall: Backyard Petroglyphs. I also recently hit two other famous collections at Parowan Gap and Buckhorn Wash.

I hope you all had a fantastic solstice! I celebrated with a hundred other Sun-loving art geeks in the middle of the Utah desert at an art installation called the Sun Tunnels, which line up with the sunset and sunrise on the longest and shortest days of the year. I heard of this place for the first time three days ago and happened to be in just the right place at the right time to catch the alignment. Gotta love that road trip serendipity! Stay tuned for a post!

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Science Writing, Sustainable Living, Teardrop Trailer, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Writing on the Wall: Rochester Rock Art Panel

  1. Jewels says:

    Absolutely amazing!

  2. John says:

    Makes me want to fine where the “idiot” is an write on their tombstone. No really…

  3. swade says:

    Great post – thanks for the info. I love watching where you take your dogs so I know where mine can go!

  4. writeejit says:

    So glad you chose to share! Fascinating to contemplate the creative urge behind these and other early cave illustrations.

  5. ritaroberts says:

    Reblogged this on Ritaroberts's Blog and commented:
    Re blogged because I love Cave Art

  6. Fascinating. Thanks for posting.

  7. hhhornblower says:

    Intriguing…! Love the natural spontaneity of it. Wish the bullet holes had found the greed mongers instead.

  8. Wow, that is the most amazing outstanding collection of petroglyphs I’ve ever seen! What a stuffing find!

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