Barrier Canyon Holy Man

Barrier Canyon Art


Ned Eddins

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Anasazi        Fremont Indians         Southwest Indian Rock Art        

Cedar Mesa-Grand Gulch      Hovenweep      Betatakin-Kiet Siel     

Barrier (Horseshoe) Canyon          Monument Valley      Mesa Verde 

Meso-American Indians         Paleo-Indians

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Indian Alcohol        Trail of Tears          Trade Beads  

Internal Page Links:

 Buckhorn Wash                Sego Canyon

The Barrier Canyon article discusses three of the best rock art panels in Utah. There is a rough dirt road to Barrier Canyon from the town of Green River, Utah, and another road across from Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. The other two sites Buckhorn Wash and Sego Canyon can be reached by car with little difficulty.

A group of Indians in Utah’s Maize District of Canyonlands National Park are classified as Barrier Canyon Indians (Barrier Canyon is shown as Horseshoe Canyon on recent maps). Barrier Canyon Indians are dated from the mid-Archaic Period (~4000 B.C. to 2000 B.C.). Classification is based on pictographs and clay figurines. The clay figures were excavated from Cowboy Cave by Dr. Jesse Jennings of the University of Utah. Cowboy Cave is eight miles beyond the Great Gallery in Barrier Canyon. The clay figurines found in Cowboy Cave match the style of some Barrier Canyon pictographs. Barrier Canyon style rock art is found on the canyon walls of the northern Colorado Plateau in southeastern Utah, western Colorado, and northern Arizona.

Southern Utah Sites
Southern Utah Indian Sites

Barrier Canyon:

From a parking lot with no facilities except a portable outhouse, the trail descends a 750 foot switchback trail to the Barrier Canyon streambed. The approximately 6.5 mile round trip trail is well marked and maintained.

Trail with 600 feet drop in elevation
Barrier Canyon (Horseshoe Canyon) Trail head
Horseshoe Canyon Trail
Trail into Barrier Canyon
Dinoseur track on trail into Barrier Canyon
Three Toed Dinosaur Track
Rain along the Barrier Canyon wash
Barrier Canyon April Showers

The Barrier Canyon style pictograph rock art consists of larger-than-life-size anthropomorphic (manlike) forms. The identifying characteristics are vacant looking or missing eyes, the frequent absence of arms and legs, and the presence of vertical body markings. Unique to the Southwest, the Barrier Canyon pictographs are regarded by many as the finest rock art in the United States. Barrier Canyon’s Great Gallery is over three-hundred feet long with over sixty figures.

Horseshoe Canyon 2000 to 4000 B.C. Petroglyph Gallery
Barrier Canyon Great Gallery

Archaeologists speculate the life-sized human-like figures were painted by different individuals between 4000 and 2000 B.C.. Despite this several thousand year period, there are very few occurrences of images being painted over by other Indians…this indicates the spiritual, or mystical, significance of the Prehistoric Indian pictographs to the Anasazi, Fremont, and historic Indians. Anyone visiting these sites cannot help but feel an aura of mystery.

Barrier Canyon Holy Man
Barrier Canyon Holy Ghost
Barrier Canyon animals possibly added later
Barrier Canyon Animals
Barrier-Horseshoe Shelter
Barrier Canyon Horseshoe Gallery – Fremont

Mountain sheep and deer with the hunters carrying spears on the left end of the Great Gallery site are a later date than the typical Barrier anthropomorphic figures.The Great Gallery area has several distinct panels, and not all of the art panels are from the same time period (Jacobs). Horseshoe Shelter contains a mixture of Barrier, Anasazi, and Fremont pictographs and petroglyphs. The Horseshoe shelter is under a huge rock alcove. Based on the rock art and other artifacts, this site was used as a shelter for thousands of years.

Buckhorn Wash:

Late Barrier Canyon style rock art pictographs and Fremont petroglyphs panels are found in Buckhorn Wash east of Huntington, Utah.

Buckhorn Wash and the San Rafael River
Buckhorn Wash

Several panels in Buckhorn Wash have been covered with bullet holes and initials. Emory County and the BLM restored this panel in 1996.

Buckhorn Wash Vandelism
Vandalized Panel


Buckhorn Panel Restoration by Emory County
Buckhorn Panel Restoration by Emory County

The most famous pictograph is the Buckhorn Wash Angels.

Buckhorn Wash Angles Petroglyph
Buckhorn Wash Angle
Buckhorn Wash – San Rafael River

As the Barrier Canyon people passed through Buckhorn Wash, they painted colorful images on the rock faces. The Buckhorn Wash Angle is regarded as the best panel. Some of the panels in Buckhorn Wash are thought to be about 4,000-6,000 years old.  Other groups of prehistoric Indians have created panels as well.

Sego Canyon:

The Sego Canyon rock art site is at the end of an oiled road north of Thompson, Utah. This is an excellent site to see Barrier, Fremont, and historic Indian panels.

Sego Canyon Pictograph
Barrier Canyon Style Petroglyphs

Fremont petroglyphs imposed on older Barrier Canyon pictographs.

Fremont petroglyphs mixed with older petroglyphson
Fremont – Barrier Canyon Style Petroglyphs
Sego Canyon Historic Panel
Shoshone or Paiute Panel

Horses were brought to Mexico by Cortez in 1519, and onto the Great Plains by Coronado in 1540. It is doubtful if horses reached the Canyonlands area before the late 1700’s. The first known horses to reach this area were horses with the Dominguez Escalante Expedition in 1776.

The Barrier Canyon article was written by Ned Eddins of Afton, Wyoming.

Permission is given for material from this site to be used for school research papers.

Citation: Eddins, Ned. (article name) Afton, Wyoming. 2002.

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There have been many requests for copies of pictures from the website. The best website pictures, and others from Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, and Star Valley, Wyoming, have been put on a CD. The pictures make beautiful screensavers, or can be used as a slide show in Windows XP. When ordering Mountains of Stone, request the CD and I will send it free with the book. The Winds of Change CD contains different pictures than those on the Mountains of Stone CD. To view a representative sample of the pictures click on the CD picture.

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Paleo-Indians                       Fremont                       Southwest Rock Art  

Anasazi               Mesa Verde               Cedar Mesa              Hovenweep 

Monument Valley           Betatakin-Kiet Siel  


 Barnes, F. A and Pendleton, Michaelene. Canyon country prehistoric rock art: An illustrated guide to viewing, understanding and appreciating the rock art of the prehistoric Indian cultures of Utah, the Great Basin and the general Four Corners region. Wasatch Publishers, Salt Lake City, Utah. 1989.

Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The fates of Human Societies. W.W. Norton, New York, N.Y. 1996.

Dillehay, Thomas D. The Settlement of the Americas. Basic Books, New York, NY. 2000.

Koppel, Tom. Did They Come By Sea? American Archeology Magazine, Spring. 2002.

Lekson, Stephen. A History of the Ancient Southwest. School for Advanced Research Press. Sante Fe, New Mexico. 2011.

Madsen, David B.. Exploring the Fremont. Utah Museum of Natural History/University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. 1989.

Schaafsma, Polly. The Rock Art of Utah. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, Utah. 2004.

Stone, Tammy. The Prehistory of Colorado and Adjacent Areas. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, Utah. 1999.

Taylor, Allan. American Colonies: The settling of North America. Penguin Books. New York, NY. 2002.  

 Internet Sources:

Archeology of Horseshoe Canyon

Barrier Canyon Rock Art

Jacobs, James Q

McConkie Ranch