Canyonlands National Park Cultural History

Horseshoe Canyon

Detail from the Great Gallery rock art panel The archeology of Horseshoe Canyon spans thousands of years of human history. Artifacts recovered from sites in this area date back as early as 9000-7000 BC, when Paleoindians hunted megafauna like mastodons and mammoths across the southwest.

Native American rock art found in Horseshoe Canyon is most commonly painted in a style known as and#147;Barrier Canyonand#148; (shown at right). This style is believed to date to the Late Archaic period, from 2000 BC to AD 500. During this time, nomadic groups of hunter-gatherers continued to make Horseshoe Canyon their seasonal home. During later periods, the Fremont and ancestral Puebloan cultures left their own distinctive rock art in the canyon, but their presence was brief in comparison and final abandonment had occurred by AD 1300.

The Great Gallery is the best known and most spectacular of the Horseshoe Canyon panels. This well-preserved site includes both pictographs (painted figures) and petroglyphs (figures etched in the rock with a sharp stone). The tapered, life-size figures, lacking arms and legs and frequently containing intricate designs, are characteristic of the Barrier Canyon style. Though Horseshoe Canyon is most famous for its rock art, the canyon's history has many chapters. Hundreds of years after the prehistoric artists left the area, Europeans arrived. Outlaws like Butch Cassidy made use of Horseshoe Canyon in the late 1800's, taking refuge in the confusing network of canyons, especially those around Robbers Roost to the southwest.

Later, in the early 1900's, ranchers built several stock trails into Horseshoe so cows and sheep could reach water and feed in the canyon bottom. Eventually, the ranchers constructed a pumping operation to fill water tanks on the canyon rim. Many of these modifications are still visible today. Prospectors explored the area in the mid-1900's, improving many stock trails to accommodate vehicles and drill rigs. Though they searched the rock layers for oil and other minerals, no successful wells or mines were ever established around Horseshoe Canyon.

After being added to Canyonlands in 1971, grazing and mineral exploration were discontinued. Today, park visitors descend the old stock trail and marvel at the history of this magnificent canyon.

$999.95
Light on weight and heavy on freeride performance, the Lupo Factory Ski Boot is Dalbello's masterpiece for backcountry...
Price subject to change | Available through Backcountry.com
Featured Park
Two deserts, two large ecosystems whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation, come together at Joshua Tree National Park. The Colorado Desert encompasses the eastern part of the park and features natural gardens of creosote bush...
Featured Wildlife
Maine ocean islands provide the only nesting sites for Atlantic puffins in the United States. Eastern Egg Rock in the midcoast region, Seal Island and Matinicus Rock at the mouth of Penobscot Bay, and Machias Seal Island and Petit Manan Island off the downeast coast provide habitat for more than 4,000 puffins each summer.