Buckhorn Wash Art Panels |

San Rafael Swell

Roadside Attraction Buckhorn Wash Art Panels - San Rafael Swell Roadside Attraction Buckhorn Wash Art Panels
San Rafael Swell

Overview | Getting There | Route | Photos | Maps | Comments

Overview

RATING: Easy Walking
LENGTH: 1+ hours.
MAPS: BOTTLENECK PEAK, UT; BUCKHORN RESERVOIR, UT; BOB HILL KNOLL, UT

Mon

41 | 27

Tue

38 | 21

Wed

39 | 22

Thu

40 | 21

Fri

42 | 23

View Full Weather Details
SEASON: Any

Mon

41 | 27

Tue

38 | 21

Wed

39 | 22

Thu

40 | 21

Fri

42 | 23

View Full Weather Details
Buckhorn Wash Panel

Buckhorn Wash Panel

Buckhorn Wash has some phenomenal petroglyphs and pictographs and is one of the most popular roadside attractions in the San Rafael Swell. All panels have easy access, and should be accessible to most. Visiting Buckhorn Wash is a great family outing most any time of the year, and one I highly recommend. In addition, the towering walls and vibrant colors that make up the walls of Buckhorn Wash are stunning and worth visiting in their own right.

Note: There are many great primitive campsites in Buckhorn Wash, and the San Rafael Campground is at the south end of the wash. The campground does not offer water, but does have picnic tables, fire pits, and pit toilets.
Buckhorn Wash Panel

Buckhorn Wash Panel

Getting There

You can access Buckhorn Wash from either the north or south. Either route is passable by car under most conditions.

  • From the North
  • Just before the town of Castle Dale, at milepost 39.4, go east on the signed San Rafael Swell Access road. Reset your odometer as you turn off the highway onto the dirt road. ( 12S 500218mE 4341289mN / N39° 13' 15" W110° 59' 51" )
  • Continue on this road, passing a cattle guard after 12 miles, and reaching a 4 way junction at 12.7 miles. ( 12S 518059mE 4336281mN / N39° 10' 32" W110° 47' 27" )
  • Continue east at this 4 way junction for 2.4 miles to the signed Buckhorn Wash road. Turn right to go down Buckhorn Wash. ( 12S 521483mE 4335782mN / N39° 10' 16" W110° 45' 05" )
  • From the South
  • Take I-70 west from Green River about 30 miles, to exit 131. Take the exit, turning right. This road goes east, paralleling the freeway for a couple of miles before turning north. ( 12S 529541mE 4303709mN / N38° 52' 54" W110° 39' 34" )
  • Follow this road 19 miles to where the San Rafael campground is, and the bridge over the river. The cattle guard marks the lower end of Buckhorn Wash. ( 12S 529065mE 4326048mN / N39° 04' 59" W110° 39' 50" )
Buckhorn Wash Panel

Buckhorn Wash Panel

Route

Rock Art and Historic Site Etiquette
Rock art and historic sites are fragile, non-renewable cultural resources that, once damaged, can never be replaced. To ensure they are protected, please:
  • Avoid Touching the Petroglyphs: Look and observe, BUT DO NOT TOUCH!
  • Stay on the Trails: Stay on the most used trails when visiting sites, and don't create new trails or trample vegetation.
  • Photography and Sketching is Allowed: Do not introduce any foreign substance to enhance the carved and pecked images for photographic or drawing purposes. Altering, defacing, or damaging the petroglyphs is against the law -- even if the damage is unintentional.
  • Pets: Keep pets on a leash and clean up after them.
  • Artifacts: If you happen to come across sherds (broken pottery) or lithics (flakes of stone tools), leave them where you see them. Once they are moved or removed, a piece of the past is forever lost.

There are many great attractions in Buckhorn Wash. Below is the mileage either from the top of Buckhorn Wash (northern approach) and the bottom of Buckhorn Wash (southern approach).

0.0 From the South / 9.6 From the North
Cattle guard.

3.8 From the South / 5.8 From the North
Buckhorn Wash main panel. This area has information signs, a pit toilet and is an excellent place for a picnic lunch. The panel used to be heavily vandalized but has been restored in recent years. Please treat the area with respect, and do not touch the rock art.

4.7 From the South / 4.9 From the North
A pullout and side road on the right. This area has several campsites and a deep alcove/cave you can see from the road. The cave is very soot-covered, but there are no pictographs/petroglyphs around it. The smoke may be from recent campers setting fires in it.

5.3 From the South / 4.3 From the North
Matt Warner inscription on the right high on the cliff. Matt Warner was one of the bandits that roamed the area back in the old days.

7.2 From the South / 2.4 From the North
There used to be a cattle guard here; now there is a signed pullout on the right for a short hike to a fantastic panel. Keeping with history, I'll call it the cattle guard panel. The short walk is accessible to most and recommended.

7.48 From the South / 2.1 From the North
A large angled boulder is easily visible on the west side of the road. Behind this boulder and up the slope is a black rock with several pictographs on it. I have heard there are not authentic, but are a short minute walk from the road to check out either way.

7.52 From the South / 2.05 From the North
A side road on the east side goes down to a camping area. Across Buckhorn Wash from the camping area, near the initials, TKG that were created with gunfire is a petroglyph panel. The panel is a minute walk almost directly across from the camping area.

8.05 From the South / 1.51 From the North
A pullout just up canyon from a bend leads to a trail that ascends a short distance above the road on the east. There is a dinosaur track here on the slickrock floor if you look carefully.

8.54 From the South / 1.03 From the North
Large pullout on the west side of the road with a large informational sign about MKT. This pullout is also the Ruin Arch trailhead

Morrison Knudsen Tunnels
In 1947, the Department of Defense started a project to construct deep tunnels in the Navajo Sandstone formation in Buckhorn Wash. The company contracted to do the work was the Morrison Knudsen Corporation. It took the company four years, with a sizeable local labor force to construct 4 tunnels in upper Buckhorn Wash.

After completion, the tunnels were detonated with 320,000 pounds of explosives. The ultimate purpose of the project has not been revealed to the public. Given the Cold War era, and fact similar tunnels and testing took place in other areas of the west, it seems safe the assume the DOD was trying to determine the best geology for underground military facilities such as Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado that was built in the late 1950s.

The short hike visits the now gated tunnel that is visible from the parking area.

Ruin Arch
Hidden from all but the very observant, there is an arch and petroglyphs high above Buckhorn Wash near the Morrison Knudsen Tunnels. From the tunnel trailhead, follow the trail across the wash. Where it begins climbing up to the mine, go left, down Buckhorn Wash. Keep on eye out on the right for the first place a dirt slope goes up to what appears to be an alcove.

There is a well worn social trail here, follow it as it climbs the dirt slope, and then slickrock to the arch. There are petroglyphs near the arch, as well as a small wall that I would bet was done more recently. The arch has excellent views of Upper Buckhorn Wash and is very photogenic.

9.6 From the South / 0.0 From the North
Top of Buckhorn Wash.


Maps

Printable Maps:
Top of Buckhorn Wash

12S 521492mE 4335775mN

N39° 10' 15" W110° 45' 04"

MKT Trailhead

12S 522865mE 4335176mN

N39° 09' 56" W110° 44' 07"

MKT Tunnel

12S 522801mE 4335018mN

N39° 09' 51" W110° 44' 10"

Ruin Arch

12S 523021mE 4334860mN

N39° 09' 46" W110° 44' 01"

Dino Print

12S 523394mE 4334621mN

N39° 09' 38" W110° 43' 45"

TKG Panel

12S 524071mE 4334209mN

N39° 09' 24" W110° 43' 17"

Black Rock Panel

12S 523876mE 4334200mN

N39° 09' 24" W110° 43' 25"

Black Rock TH

12S 523908mE 4334176mN

N39° 09' 23" W110° 43' 24"

Cattle Guard Panel

12S 524183mE 4334103mN

N39° 09' 21" W110° 43' 12"

Cattle Guard Panel Trailhead

12S 524135mE 4333983mN

N39° 09' 17" W110° 43' 14"

Matt Warner Inscription View

12S 525632mE 4332043mN

N39° 08' 14" W110° 42' 12"

Cave

12S 526160mE 4331642mN

N39° 08' 01" W110° 41' 50"

Cave and Camping Area

12S 525970mE 4331530mN

N39° 07' 57" W110° 41' 58"

Buckhorn Main Panel

12S 526451mE 4330522mN

N39° 07' 24" W110° 41' 38"

Cattle Guard

12S 529066mE 4326049mN

N39° 04' 59" W110° 39' 50"

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