Summary: One of the finest examples of easily accessible Anasazi rock art, the Sand Island Petroglyphs panel in Utah contains Native Indian rock art which ranges from 300 to 3,000 years old.

The signposted Sand Island Petroglyphs Panel has Native Indian rock art which spans centuries of inhabitation – nearly the entire time that humans were known to inhabit the Four Corners area. The petroglyphs range from 300 to 3,000 years old, with markings from the early Basketmaker period through to the Pueblo III period (AD 1150 to 1350), and, more recently the Ute and Navajo people. There are hundreds of petroglyphs over the 100-yard (90m) long panel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is considerd to be one of the finest examples of easily accessible Anasazi rock art.

Archeologists believe this place along the river held special significance for ancient peoples by the amount of petroglyphs and the time span of the rock art: the area may have been a meeting place. The motifs include human figures, hunters, many types of animals, geometric patterns, hand prints, scalp figures, and numerous Kokopelli figures (including one with a very oversized phallus, which can be seen in the centre of the photo below).

The Sand Island Petroglyphs Panel has five kokopelli – a fertility deity (usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player and often with feathers or antenna-like protrusions on his head) who represents story, growth, joy, and more to the people native to the Four Corners area.  The figures with twin heads and twin lobes are found in Native creation stories.

A figure with a headdress and splayed hands are known as San Juan Anthropomorphs, and are unique to this area.

Another figure has an ornate head-dress.

The more angular or linear figures are are in a style known as Glen Canyon Linear, and are among the oldest petroglyphs on the Sand Island Petroglyphs panel. This style is characterised by ovoid human or ovoid-square zoomorphic figures, usually with little to no interior decoration.

A Basketmaker Culture petroglyph in the Sand Island Panel representing a female anthropomorphic figure.

Many sheep and other horned animals are depicted on the panel.

Getting to the Sand Island Petroglyphs

Located four miles from Bluff in Utah, the Sand Island Petroglyphs panel is near the Sand Island Campground (which has restrooms, camping, a seasonal ranger station, a boat launch and seasonal drinking water). At mile post 22.1, turn south into the signposted Sand Island Recreation Area, and follow the signs to the panel which is along the cliffs on the north side of the camp ground.

More information

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hiking the World, and receive notifications of new posts by email. (A hike is added every 1-2 weeks, on average.)

Join 1,205 other subscribers


Leave a Reply

Aboriginal Sites by National Park

A review of different techniques for photographing Aboriginal rock art. This includdes oblique flash, chain and planar mosaic imaging which combines hundreds of overlapping photos.
Yengo National Park was an important spiritual and cultural place for the Darkinjung and Wonnarua People for thousands of years, and 640 Aboriginal cultural sites are recorded in the park and nearby areas.
The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area protects over 3,000 known Aboriginal heritage sites, and many more which are yet to be recorded. This area includes the Blue Mountains National Park, Gardens of Stone, Wollemi National Park and Yengo National Park.
Over a hundred Aboriginal sites have been recorded in the Hornsby region, with many of these in the Berowra Valley National Park and around the suburb of Berowra.
Over 40 sites have been recorded within the park; many were located along the river bank and were flooded by the building of the weir in 1938.