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Backpacker Magazine – May 2008

Land of the Lost: Native American Artifacts in Utah's Range Creek

Utah's Range Creek hides the most intact Native American artifacts in the United States. Get there now–while you can still play archaeologist.

by: Dan White, Photos by Adam Clark

Range Creek Pictographs
Range Creek Pictographs
Foundation of a Fremont dwelling
Foundation of a Fremont dwelling
Mark Connolly (Right) and a fellow ranger
Mark Connolly (Right) and a fellow ranger
Trailside petroglyph
Trailside petroglyph
Rugged terrain surrounding Range Creek
Rugged terrain surrounding Range Creek
Head ranger Mark Connolly
Head ranger Mark Connolly

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Nelson is the most spectacular gallery in Range Creek. I spy a sun-disk petroglyph with 13 spokes, and two figures that look like warriors, with a lightning bolt passing between their heads. Maybe it means they're empaths, able to feel each other's pain. Maybe it's a warning sign for intruders. In another, a ram leaps up a wall, exposing his fat belly to a hunter's bow. Is this a prayer for food, or a prehistoric hunter's way of showing off? Either way, the artist clearly likes to kill things. Then I come upon the Falling Man. He has a triangular head, his arms splayed out, legs pointed skyward like a tuning fork. Someone etched this figure at the bottom of a nasty drop just below a granary. Had someone shoved a corn burglar off the cliff face? I want to make sense of all these images, but I'm on my own.

Later, I call a few archaeologists, who each tell me something very cool: They have no answers. My hunches are as good as any. All theories are plausible in Range Creek–even the wild ones. In one last effort to figure these images out, I call Waldo. After all, the rancher has looked at them more than anybody.

"What do they mean?" he repeats. "Well, it all depends on how much imagination you got. I could tell you them people got off flying saucers, or that they got off of Noah's Ark, and nobody could say that I'm wrong."




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READERS COMMENTS

A.C. Harmon
Jul 22, 2010

I find Wilcox's comment about "hippies" looting his grave commical, considering that most of the prosecuted arc site looters in this region have been good-ol'-boy "rednecks", more akin to Wilcox himself than any "hippie".

Amanda Wilson
Jul 13, 2010

Range Creek is no managed by the Utah Museum of Natural History, or the University of Utah. A land transfer took place last fall. There are a few commercial companies that have permits to lead tours to Range Creek. One is Canyonlands Field Institute. www.cfimoab.org. Another is Carbon Rec, www.carbonrec.com.

norman vw
Oct 27, 2009

Anyone interested in this area should notice
Woodside, utah on highway 6 about 30 miles south of Rangecreek. Lots of history there in the 100 years ago neighborhood with Price river running through.

Frank Merwin
Oct 10, 2009

Um -- actually, there ARE archeologists working in the area on a regular basis. And the article does not include a map for looters. Also -- if a looter would be "drawn to the site,'' he or she would be disappointed. Nothing to steal -- unless you know how to scale vertical cliffs unsupported like Spiderman and try to wrench an extremely heavy granary off a cliff. Pretty unlikely -- considering the things haven't been opened ever in a thousand years.

Red Woods
Jul 09, 2008

It was a great article about a rare place that may be remote enough the tramping public stay away. I certainly don't see any Indiana Jones mentality or even a hint of one.It looks like the property has many good hikes for those willing to make a more than normal effort. It is a good thing the use is limited so officers can keep items from being damaged or removed.

Red Woods
Jul 09, 2008

It was a great article about a rare place that may be remote enough the tramping public stay away. I certainly don't see any Indiana Jones mentality or even a hint of one.It looks like the property has many good hikes for those willing to make a more than normal effort. It is a good thing the use is limited so officers can keep items from being damaged or removed.

Dana Evans
Jun 20, 2008

Thanks for this article. It's very well written and informative. Thanks for letting me know how to reach a place that should be open and available to the public!

Mark Heslop
Jun 11, 2008

I just returned from hiking Range Creek. If anyone thinks that they can waltz in and see the sites they will be disipointed. They are almost impossilbe to find with the untrained eye. My buddy and I hiked over 12 miles with only fair sucess. Towards the end of our hike Officer Mark Connolly tracked us down. He was aware of us the whole time, yet we never saw him. He was kind enough to show us the granaries high on the cliffs that we walked right past. He is very careful not to disclose any sesitive sites and was responsible for preventing the gps information for the archeological sites being printed. I think it is very important for everyone to experience Range Creek. It is impotant what the archaeologist are learning there. The real danger for the future of Range Creek is going to come not from the public but from Chevron who owns 2 well sites on the property. The BLM is leaning to allowing the to go ahead with their exploitation. If you want to know what impact that will have, go visit Nine Mile Canyon.

Chloris Lowe
Jun 10, 2008

I am extremely disappointed in the content of this article as it relates to the "Indiana Jones" mentality exhibited by the writer. You are a better magazine than this...I certainly expect more responsibility from "Backpacker" than this! SHAME ON YOU!

Kate
Jun 06, 2008

The illegal profits of archeological resource crime rival the international drug trade. While looters and "collectors" exchange billions of dollars, archeological sites around the world suffer unmeasurable and irreparable losses. You have drawn a map for looters to this site. How irresponsible.

Travis
Jun 05, 2008

You don't "play archaeologist." Why are Wildllife Officers conduting tours of archaeological sites....are there no archaeologists working in this area? This article seems to promote looting and illegal collecting. Very unprofessional.

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