What happens when a plethora of glyphs, like this sample, are being destroyed. . .
by trucks passing through Nine Mile Canyon's thoroughfare. . .
for the sake of insatiable fossil fuel energy outfits that care nothing for the environment, let alone peerless archeological  rock art?

Location/Geography: In east central Utah, Carbon and Duchesne Counties. Canyon country geologically favorable to natural gas and oil exploration.

Spotlight: A fascinating 40-mile stretch (64 km) of a 78-mile (126 km) backcountry byway, and therefore not just 9 miles (14 km) in length! World's longest rock art gallery and undoubtedly Utah's finest glyph site. The setting is also the absolute largest display of its kind anywhere in North America (regardless what other sites claim to the contrary).

Please note: Because there are so many excellent glyphs in this locale, there is no way to single out any particular image. Ergo, I think the best thing to do is to send the DKos community to this URL and scroll through Nine Mile Canyon's huge photo collection:


(Opening photo credit to Dave Webb.)

(Continues after the fold.)

Snapshot: Nine Mile Canyon is a veritable outdoor museum replete with rock art. Managed by the BLM Price and Vernal Field Offices, its numerous panels of exquisite petroglyphs are of such remarkable quality that some have been featured in National Geographic, among other publications highlighting such uniqueness. The locale is well off the beaten track. This statement especially infers there are no services available of any kind along its route. Driving through Nine Mile Canyon is like passing through a corridor of time estimated to go back some eight thousand years. The main presentation of rock art follows a sinuous road for some 40 miles. The Fremont and Ute people are the main artisans who made these images. Their dwellings and granaries also abound. The drawings on the panels are engaging to ponder. The meaning of the representational meaning behind the images is the main curiosity for most people. The styles of these images run the gambit from naturalistic to cryptic. However, the majority of the images can be classified as simply representational, meaning not a true depiction of an object so much as a close approximation.

Thus the figure is easily recognizable as human, animal or some other object. Abstract elements, such as shields, spirals, dot patterns are common. Several panels, or at least individual elements, have achieved iconic status because of their beauty, attention to detail and unique quality. The Great Hunt and Bolo Man are two prime examples in the larger grouping. Fremont art tends to be large-scale, bold and imaginative. Humanoid trapezoidal figures are also common, almost extraterrestrial in some ways. Found on the McConki Ranch (outside Vernal) is one in particular, the Three Kings panel, regarded as among the finest petroglyphs in the world. The panel is about 125 feet up the face of a cliff. This Fremont depiction shows six visible figures. The largest is well over 6 feet tall and the circle in the picture is about 32 inches in diameter. The major figure is referred to as the Sun Carrier. When going to Vernal for its world famous dinosaur quarry, visit the ranch and see this inspiring, large graphic image preserved through time.

The celebrated Three Kings panel (photo by Ron Wolf):

Guided Tour Essentials: The name of Nine Mile Canyon is possibly traced to one of Major John Wesley Powell's early-19th Century cartographers who used a nine mile transect for mapping the canyon. (For those of you who are interested, I wrote a 10-part series on this epic explorer, starting with this diary: http://www.dailykos.com/...) During the 1880s, Nine Mile Canyon, once mapped and explored to some degree, became a main transport corridor. Settlers established ranches (a main industry in this part of Utah). There was even a short-lived town in the canyon named Harper. However, in modern times the canyon's thoroughfare is devoid of settlement and settlers. Instead, it’s traveled by visitors with a curiosity of the past and of the Indian cultures that once lived in this region. The fairly recent discovery of rich deposits of natural gas deep beneath the Tavaputs Plateau has also brought another kind of crowd, namely an industrial truck traffic (since 2002). Consequently, large amounts of dust and dirt produced by trucks have proven detrimental to the rock art which has until now endured for centuries. Public outcry and debate is ongoing about how best to balance energy development in the canyon against the preservation of invaluable cultural resources.

Note: The people who are behind the movement to stop truck traffic and its ongoing destruction of glyphs also face an uphill battle with the Bureau of Land Management that claims an entirely different story (see below for more details. You can read all about it at this URL and decide for yourself which side of the story is more correct: http://www.blm.gov/...
Geography: Nine Mile Canyon runs roughly southwest to northeast, making numerous winding turns. There is a stream of sorts, Nine Mile Creek, that initially formed the canyon but has never been classified as a significant body of water. Nevertheless, the importance lies in the fact that it's one of the few reliable and year around water sources in the region. It was also a viable water resource in prehistoric times. Branching off the main canyon, a number of tributary canyons are worth exploring, namely Argyle Canyon, Cottonwood Canyon, Minnie Maud Canyon and Dry Canyon. Significant rock art sites are frequently located near the junctions where each annex meets the main canyon.

Human History: Conservatively, there are at least one thousand rock art sites in the canyon, containing a total of more than ten thousand individual images. The true figures may be ten times as high. There is no question that rock art in this domain is more concentrated than anywhere else in North America. The majority of the rock art is pecked images––petroglyphs. There are also numerous painted drawings—pictographs. Hundreds of ancient pithouse dwellings, rock shelters, and granaries add to the rich repository of artifacts, although only a limited amount of excavation has been carried out. Many of these structures are located high above the canyon floor on cliff ledges, pinnacles and mesas, built by the Fremont, whose presence in Nine Mile Canyon has been dated at 950 - 1250. Notably, the canyon was one of the locations most heavily occupied by Fremont people. Their designate is given to diverse groups of Native Americans that initially inhabited the western Colorado Plateau province and the Eastern Great Basin area from 400 to 1350. In contrast to the hunter- gather cultures that surrounded them, the Fremont practiced agriculture along the canyon bottom. Unlike some other Fremont areas, only a small amount of pottery (mainly shards) is found in Nine Mile Canyon, their irrigation ditches and earthen lodges on the valley floor plainly visible as late as the 1930s. Since then unscrupulous thieves of time, those who plunder archeological evidence, have inevitably damaged the value of many sites.

By the 16th Century, the ancestral Utes migrated into the region and added their own rock art, but in their own styles. For example, many scenes depict Ute hunters on horseback, dating to the 1800s. Despite the impressive quantity of Ute artifacts, there is no archaeological evidence of any of their camps, not even permanent or semi-permanent settlements. More recently, there is some evidence that American fur trappers in the early-19th Century may have entered parts of the canyon. However, we find the earliest unequivocal sign of Anglos in this area an inscription on the canyon wall reading S. Groesbeck August 19, 1867; also Major John Wesley Powell's second Green and Colorado River expedition camped at the mouth of the canyon in 1871. The earliest appearance of the name Nine Mile Canyon is in the records of this expedition. Nine Mile Road was constructed through the canyon in 1886 by the famed Buffalo Soldiers of the U. S. 9th Calvary Regiment (a/k/a the "Negro Cavalry"), linking Fort Duchesne to the railroad through the city of Price, Utah. Road traffic surged in 1889 after the discovery of Gilsonite in the Uinta Basin. (Gilsonite is a form of natural asphalt that resembles shiny black obsidian––volcanic glass.) This crude roadway was the main transportation route in eastern Utah until well into the 20th Century. Most of the stagecoach, mail, freight and telegraph traffic into the Uinta Basin passed through the canyon until after the arrival of the Uintah Railway around 1905.

A Veritable Ghost Town: The regional freight trade led to the settlement of the canyon itself. Nine Mile Canyon lacked a formal town site, but one of the main stagecoach stops developed into a town of sorts––Harper. Its rustic settlement included a hotel, store, school and unofficial post office. In fact, Harper's municipality was merely a lengthy stretch of scattered ranches and buildings that was populated by very few people. Gradually, the community grew from the 1880s until the overall and concentrated settlement was officially established as the town of Harper in 1905. However, the Harper precinct as a whole had a peak population of only one hundred-thirty residents by 1910l. Then in the early 1920s, the town and its sparse community became the stark layout of just another Western ghost town. Atmospheric, but nonetheless a ghost town.

Questionable Times And Exploration: Recently, Nine Mile Canyon's unique archaeological resources have led to intense debate over land use. As in many rural areas of the Western United States, land in this region is a patchwork of public and private property, which complicates the preservation of archaeological sites. Additionally, commercially important deposits of minerals and other geological resources have also been discovered. Since 2002, the natural gas industry has been aggressively pursuing the exploration of the West Tavaputs Plateau in and around Nine Mile Canyon. Added to the heightened sales pitch for the project is the economic boost supplied by one thousand or so jobs the project has brought to the state. Government involvement to help foster the commercial venture has created controversy, drawing complaints from conservation groups that not enough is being done to protect natural and cultural resources. It's the same complaint and outcry that have been heard throughout the West for decades. The main complaint filed by pro-conservation groups is that unprecedented levels of industrial truck traffic on Nine Mile's main road have produced troublesome clouds of dust. The group contends the poorly maintained dirt road was not built to handle so much traffic. Moreover, the road is deteriorating at an alarming rate as the dust reduces visibility, settles on the rock art, obsurcing this ancient repository from view. Carbon County, which supervises the road, has approved the application of magnesium chloride on the road as a hopeful compromise for dust abatement. The compound pulls moisture from the air to dampen dust, but this procedure may be doing more harm than good. For instance, once the dust dries, the magnesium chloride drifts onto the rock walls and then adheres. There it can also crack the rock when it freezes in cold weather. Moreover, magnesium chloride will corrode the rock panels over time, accelerating its loss. Trying to clean the dust off the rock may damage it even more. Because rock art surfaces are predominantly sandstone, with the potential gain of natural gas comes the risk of an enormous loss of prehistoric and historic picture representations that can never be replaced.

Remember. . .

And this incessant traffic of 18-wheelers is plainly destroying hundreds of these archeological treasures. . .

Let's put our heads together and come up with the only solution there really is: Keep the trucks out of Nine Mile Canyon!

Directions: The principle access route from the south is 8 miles (12.8 km) east of Price; from the north it's Vernal or Duchesne, and one 1 mile (1.6 km) west of Myton. The canyon is just to the north of the Books Cliffs, and south and east of Ashley National Forest. The full 78-mile (126 km) canyon route, through Gate Canyon, connects the towns of Wellington and Myton.

If the DKos community is behind me given the import of this diary, please see what you can do to help preserve this invaluable archeological resource and its setting. Here's a place to start:

Nine Mile Canyon Coalition Board Chair, P. O. Box 402, Price UT 84501 Email: pam.miller@ceu.edu (to help preserve Nine Mile Canyon's precious artifacts from ruination caused by mining and excessive traffic. According to her latest post she makes this statement: Rich––we are still fighting the noble fight although the parameters have changed a little. Bill Barrett Corporation has idled its drilling program for the West Tavaputs and we don't know when or if that will begin again. Ergo, let's keep up the pressure, folks. We can't afford to lose this rich repository of glyphs.
Visitor's Contact Information: BLM Price Field Office, 125 South 600, West Price UT 84501. Phone: 435- 636.3600; Fax 636.3658 Email: utpmail@blm.gov

And so, DKos community, we come to the end of another trail, another armchair tour. There will be other scenic places to tour and more supplemental topics to read and think about, so stay tuned for a continuation in this series.

As always, your thoughtful commentaries are welcomed.


FYI: For a list of all diaries posted to date, please see the growing inventory by clicking on my profile or by dialing in this URL: http://www.dailykos.com/...

Also, if commenting on an older diary, please send me an email to my profile account. That way I am sure to notice it and respond. Gracias.

Originally posted to richholtzin on Fri Mar 15, 2013 at 08:05 AM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, and Community Spotlight.

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