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Barrier Canyon Southwest Indians
O. Ned Eddins

 Website Index  

Buckhorn Wash       Sego Canyon

Paleo-Indians     Meso-American Indians      Anasazi       Mesa Verde    Betatakin       Cedar Mesa-Grand Gulch      Fremont Indians     Indian Rock Art      Hovenweep     Monument Valley   

The Barrier Canyon article discuses 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.  

                                                      Southeastern Utah's Four Corners Area Sites

From a parking lot with no facilities except a portable out house, 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.

                                                                  Barrier Canyon (Horseshoe Canyon) Trailhead

                                                                                      Trail into Barrier Canyon

                                                                  Early Visitor - Three Toed Dinosaur

                                                                             April Rains in Barrier Canyon

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 (Horseshoe Canyon Archeology). 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.

                                                                                Barrier Canyon Great Gallery

 Archaeologists speculate the life-sized human-like figures (anthropomorphic images) 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 Animals

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. 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.

Horseshoe shelter was under a huge rock alcove. Based on the rock art and other artifacts, this site was used as a shelter for thousands of years.

                                                                       Horseshoe Shelter - Fremont

Buckhorn Wash

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

                                                                                               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.


The most famous pictograph is the Buckhorn Wash Angels.

                                                                                            Buckhorn Angels

Buckhorn Wash empties into the San Rafael River.

                                                                             Mexican Hat - San Rafael River

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.

                                                                                       Barrier Canyon Style

Fremont petroglyphs imposed on older Barrier Canyon pictographs

                                                                        Sego Canyon Historic - ~ 1800's

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 the horses with the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition in 1776.

The Barrier Canyon article was written by O. 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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Paleo-Indians      Fremont    Anasazi      Mesa Verde      Betatakin     Hohokam      Cedar Mesa      Hovenweep      Monument Valley      References


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.

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 - These are excellent sites. 

Paleo-American Origins
Pennsylvania Archeology