Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument ~ Indian Creek
Just north of Monticello, Utah is a road that easily qualifies as one of the most scenic drives of them all. Utah State Road 211 runs west from Highway 191 through the northern edge of Bears Ears National Monument, the BLM Indian Creek Recreation Area and the Canyonlands National Park-Needles District. SR 211 dead ends at Canyonlands and the entire round trip on SR 211 is about 80 miles, which is perfect for a leisurely afternoon cruise in this picturesque place!
All along State Road 211 are plenty of things to see and do. Visitors can explore ancient native heritage sites, do some camping, hiking and take on the challenge of world class rock climbing at designated recreational areas along this road. State Road 211 is also a photographer’s paradise, especially at the Twin Six Shooter Peaks overlooks in Bears Ears near Canyonlands. Wildlife can be spotted all along the Indian Creek basin where the desert floor is lush and green even during the peak of summer
One of the main attractions that can be found a short distance from the roadside at the Indian Creek Recreation Area is the Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument. Newspaper Rock is one of the very few ancient petroglyph panels in the Bears Ears region that are located close to the road, so this sacred place is accessible to nearly all that stop by to take a look. Newspaper Rock also happens to be one of the largest petroglyph panels in the region, so hours can be spent interpreting the old news from ancient times.
Archeology buffs will get a thrill out of viewing the carved tribal messages on Newspaper Rock. In ancient times, carving symbols and depictions of events on a large rock wall was a form of communication that can be compared to a modern newspaper or a visitors guide. Some of the locations of petroglyph panels were located near long standing communities or near places that are considered to be sacred to this day. Some newspaper panels were located near hunting grounds or food gathering areas and they sometimes provided information about seasonal harvesting. Other petroglyph panels are located way out in the middle of nowhere and the reason they are in such a location is unknown. Basically, it is the symbols or caricatures that provide clues as to why a petroglyph panel location was chosen. The symbols often identify ancient tribal clans too, which helps to track the movement of groups that traveled throughout the region long ago.
The location of some newspaper rock panels were well known in ancient times and every culture that occupied the area left their mark. Over the course of a few thousand years, an old petroglyph panel could build up a collection of a vast amount of information that describes events over a very long timeline. In such an example, an old petroglyph panel can be read like a history book.
The Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument petroglyph panel is very old. The first carvings on Newspaper Rock are estimated to be well over 2,000 years old and some of the most recent carvings depict men on horseback, so this rock panel has a very long timeline. Depictions of landscapes, celestial events, hunting grounds, neighboring cultures, directions and sacred symbols all add up to one heck of a great newspaper to read! The ancient petroglyphs are so interesting that a visitor can literally stand there for hours interpreting vast amount of ancient information at Newspaper Rock and still ponder over the view for many years to come!
The roadside signage for the Newspaper Rock site is easy to spot and the parking is adequate. The short hiking trail to Newspaper Rock is less than 100 yards long and the path is well maintained, so those who have mobility issues can experience this spectacular petroglyph panel.
Like many petroglyph panels in the west, there is a fence that protects the wall and visitors are forbidden from touching the panel. Just the oil from fingertips can cause discoloration of the desert varnish coating on the rock surface. Vandalism and graffiti are another problem that the ancient petroglyph panels are subject to and the federal penalties for such a criminal act are very severe. In this age of powerful satellite camera monitoring systems, it is guaranteed that petroglyph vandals will be tracked down, but the best criminal protection is eye witness accounts. Reporting vandalism of native sacred places is required by federal law, so be sure to report any suspicious activity immediately. Acting responsibly will help to keep the ancient petroglyphs intact for future generations.
In recent years rampant political corruption has threatened the public lands in the Bears Ears Region. Abolishing the Antiquities Act is part of the corrupt agenda, because this legal document protects national treasures, like the Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument from destructib=ve gas fracking and mining operations. Bears Ears National Monument is located just across the street from the Newspaper Rock Historic Monument and there are over 100,000 ancient archaeological sites in Bears Ears alone. Supporting the cause to save the Bears Ears National Monument region is more important now than ever and the tourism dollar certainly plays a part protecting the ancient sacred places.
A visit to an ancient petroglyph panel in the west can reward onlookers with a wealth of information that waits to be interpreted. The learning experience is good for children and adults of all ages, because it helps to promote understanding of local native culture from an age before the Europeans arrived. As mentioned many time before, a visitor can simply spend hours looking at the petroglyphs carved on Newspaper Rock. Inklings of wisdom and deeper meaning do appear out of thin air, as the voices of the past come to life in the form of ancient petroglyphs on the solid rock wall!