Share:

Sego Canyon

Thompson Springs

Moab, Arches + La Sal Mountains, Utah

Start Exploring
Sego Canyon

Share:

Advertisement
  • The parking lot of the main rock art section.- Sego Canyon
  • Interpretive signs explaining the different styles found here. This is the Ute area. - Sego Canyon
  • Ute petroglyphs.- Sego Canyon
  • The Fremont petroglyphs.- Sego Canyon
  • Fremont detail.- Sego Canyon
  • Fremont carvings on the left and Barrier Style on the right. What made people decorate this specific rock so heavily thousands of years apart?- Sego Canyon
  • The Barrier Style and its anthropomorphic figures.- Sego Canyon
  • The full Barrier panel.- Sego Canyon
  • Strange, eerie characters at Sego Canyon.- Sego Canyon
  • Sego Canyon rock art.- Sego Canyon
  • Larger than life representations- Sego Canyon
  • Sego Canyon pictographs.- Sego Canyon
  • Sego Canyon pictographs.- Sego Canyon
  • Sego Canyon pictographs.- Sego Canyon
  • Sego Canyon pictographs.- Sego Canyon
  • Sego Canyon pictographs.- Sego Canyon
  • Petroglyphs at Sego Canyon.- Sego Canyon
  • These are located across the road from the main area but are privately gated off.- Sego Canyon
  • Looking south out of Sego Canyon toward Thompson Springs and Moab.- Sego Canyon
  • An abandoned earth structure in Sego Canyon.- Sego Canyon
  • One of the old cabins in Sego Canyon.- Sego Canyon
  • Inside one of the old cabins in Sego Canyon.- Sego Canyon
  • An old brick oven.- Sego Canyon
  • Detail of the wood used to build the cabin.- Sego Canyon
  • A framed window.- Sego Canyon
  • An old cabin in Sego Canyon.- Sego Canyon
  • - Sego Canyon
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
World-class rock art. Pioneer remnants. Lots of history. Easy access.
Cons: 
Not much else to do nearby.
Advertisement
Region:
Moab, Arches + La Sal Mountains, UT
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Fall
Current Local Weather:
Advertisement
Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

Sego Canyon is not much to look at in terms of natural beauty, especially when compared to the sights you find in nearby Moab, Utah. What it does offer, however, is a fascinating combination of three distinct eras of Native American rock art as well as old pioneer remnants within the same small stretch. Located just north of the small town of Thompson Springs, it's an easy and short trip off of I-70. Once there you will get a chance to see a famous Barrier Canyon Style rock art panel along with several Ute and Fremont panels that basically appear on one large outcropping. One must wonder if this place had some sort of significance to be decorated by successive generations separated by thousands of years. The most recent remains are a large number of pioneer and coal mining structures that remain from the late 1800s into the early 20th century.

Barrier Canyon Style, signified by the use of natural paints to make pictographs, is the most ancient of the art here, and in many ways it is also the most unusual. The style incorporates a strange mix of anthropomorphic figures that leave people wildly speculating at their meaning and origins. The artwork has remained on the walls over the last 4,000 years, and it is made with natural pigments such as charcoal, blood, iron oxide, powdered minerals, mud, and potentially countless organic and inorganic substances. It is unknown what the artists used as a bonding agent, or even what these ancient people were called, but whatever they concocted has really stood the test of time. The figures here are strange and otherworldly...they are even used in the opening montage of the television show Ancient Aliens. Whether the figures represent spirits, animal-human hybrids, shamans, invaders, or just characters from ancient tales is unknown, but they will no doubt inspire some great conversations among anyone who sees them.  

Potentially thousands of years later their descendants, who we call the Ute, Fremont and Ancestral Puebloan, decided to add some of their own pieces onto nearby walls. Unlike painted pictographs they instead chipped, chiseled, or scratched the rock away to form petroglyphs using shapes, symbols, and figures that are very different from that of their predecessors. These date to as recently as 700 years ago, but they will most likely remain much longer than the pictographs since they cannot be washed away. The figures you find here seem to be more practical, represent the daily life of the people such as hunting, and are much less abstract than the Barrier Canyon Style.

Throughout the canyon are broken down homes and other structures that were first built by Mormon pioneers before the turn of the century. Later a small coal mining operation popped up, and there are leftover railroad tresses, a cemetery, brick ovens, many homes, and a collapsed general store. There are not too many other places in America where so many periods of our past are on display in such a small area. There are two forks of the canyon to explore, but the main set of rock art is located just before the split. The area offers many dirt roads and offshoots to explore.

Rock art is notoriously hard to accurately date, but some new techniques have been developed that are leading to some rethinking regarding the timeframe for this rock art. The pictographs in the Barrier Canyon Style seem more modern, abstract, and advanced than the carved petroglyphs, and they have a shorter presumed lifespan, so it can be surprising to hear they supposedly predate their neighbors. This article makes the case that contradicts the normal story, and it suggests that the Barrier Canyon Style pictographs may be hundreds or even thousands of years younger than previously thought. 

Sego Canyon is worth checking out at least once while you are making a trip to Moab or Green River in Utah or Grand Junction in Colorado and is not far off the beaten path. It is very unique in terms of its historic variety and a great free place to bring the family.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide

Field Guide

Download
Advertisement
Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(2 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(31 within a 30 mile radius)

Advertisement
Related Content

Related Content

Adventure Community

Adventure Community

Who Wants To Do It
10 Members
Who's Done It
4 Members
Submission by
Pro Contributor
296 Adventures Explored
284 Adventures Published

Newsletter Signup

Join the Outdoor Project Community

Get access to essential planning materials and information for your next adventure. Take a few seconds to join the community. It’s FREE!

Free Field Guides + Maps

Post Updates, Tips + Comments

Organize + Track Your Adventures

Insider Detailed Info, News + Benefits

Custom Driving Directions

Recommended Campsites, Photos + Reservation Info