looking for the secret society of pictographs .....


Jan 24, 2014
This is more of a rant than a question: I love hiking and once in a while seeing Indians pictographs (love the barrier canyon style). I was recently at Sego Canyon and Salt Creek (All American Man and Four Faces). Now, I'm trying to figure out how to gain membership into the Secret Society of the Protectors of Indian Art. Yes, those people who post beautiful Indian pictographs here, in Facebook, Instagram or Flickr, but will refuse to provide locations. Is there a something like "TSA Pre Check program" where I can prove that I'm not a vandal that defaces pictographs??

Actually, I'm serious, what could someone like me do to prove to be a good steward of nature and be privileged to see Indian art in person, instead of pictures ??? A vague location description (that i sometimes get) is useless when I'm hiking in places where a small step will hide a panel from view.

Ok, end of rant.
I am not the most qualified person to answer this post. There are others here who have seen and know much more than me. Many of their images, I want to know of but do not. I have made many discoveries on my own however and am very hesitant to divulge locations. Therefore I will not ask about theirs. The lesser known and unpublished rock art locations should not be divulged in public forums since it invites eventual compromise. I searched for the organization you name and did not find any reference online.

These methods should help achieve your goals:

01) Go into the country often and look. The more you go, the farther you go, the more you will eventually see.
02) Research. Look at all resources available to find what you are looking for. University libraries are excellent resources, NAU in particular. Be creative and relentless. I find that talking to locals is a great way to get access to sites. It can be frustrating and fruitful.
03) Create associations with individuals who share your interest. Demonstrate your sincerity and interest.

In closing I would say to make it important. The more it is to you, the more you will find.
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Homework. Most of the info is out there but there's increasing reason to limit its spread on open forums. Stinks but you just can't trust people coming in off google searches to treat the resources appropriately.
It has less to do with you personally being a good steward. One reason you'll not find easy acceptance into "the Society" is because many of us would rather not see unpublished sites suddenly become public on the interballs 'cause someone let slip to owners of such websites as Climb Utah or Road Trip Ryan. Once I tell someone the location of some rock art, that's just one more possible avenue for it to eventually wind up on the web or in a guide book. It'll all eventually end up there anyway, but I'd prefer that to happen later rather than sooner.
Also get some of Mike Kelsey's books, he spills a lot of beans. Even if nobody tells you anything else you're not going to run out of stuff to see in any small number of years.
I try to refrain from even putting too much or any horizon in my pictures of the good ones I've found on my own with lots of hard exploration. There are those who who possess the ability to find them with a few clues like that. I don't want to see my obscure finds published by someone who didn't even do the long days of poking around on their own.

There are plenty of good and well documented pieces of rock art and other stunning artifacts, but if you do find a good panel or site on your own, you feel like a Victorian age explorer but it is just plain cheating if someone leads you there. :lol: However some friends will do come quid pro quo at times but you have to implicitly trust that person and nothing is free out there...have them sign a legal NDA I say! LOL
I'm not an art hunter, personally I'm more interested in geology. When some good art, or ruins are there, for me it's a huge bonus.

With that being said, and I'll echo what most have already said; if they were to give you every gpx waypoint, YOU would be the one missing out. Much of what is fun is the process of looking for this stuff. The exploration is much more fun than the small reward of seeing the art.

Hike most canyons with water, and you'll see art, know where to look. South facing alcoves, forks in canyons systems, black patina'd rock are all places that hide stuff. Hell, maybe you'll find something no one else has.
don't get me wrong, I fully understand and support people not divulging locations. I do a couple of hiking trips a year and last week I was hiking in Canyonlands and managed to get to Salt Creek Canyon. I saw All American Man and the Four Faces pictographs and I am mesmerized by them. On top of that I drove to Sego Canyon and those barrier canyon style pictographs are the best. If you are a local of the area, yes its fun exploring and investigating new place, but us that get to be in places like Utah a few days a year can only try to do research on the internet, get on boards like this and get clues (still very vague ..... I failed to find another pictograph because the clue was vague and looking for a pictographs within a 10 square mile area does take time).
Anyway, good conversation.
My feelings are a lot like Dan's. First and foremost I just like to wander around, mostly looking at geology and natural features. But any other discoveries are indeed wondrous. On one trip we were dazzled by the incredible geology in the San Raphael Swell (the Reef area), wondered all around various levels, could not go in any direction more than 10' without a turn or some ups and downs. We did "discover" an amazing Barrier style panel, one we did not know was there ahead of time but is known to some extent though the first reference I every saw of it afterwards was in a big book, buried in it with many, many others. Then a member here posted it years afterward. I was not surprised that others knew about it but it was nice that there were no other footprints there when we "found" it.

But more important were the Dinosaur tracks we found on that same long day of hiking through that amazing area. There were three of them in a row, the only ones I've ever found and recognized. I don't go out of my way to look at the ones that are well known and documented on the internet though. I really like just coming across things and there were many little things out there.
I have to echo much of what has already been said above. With the amount of panels that have been used for firearms target practice, be it the distant past or in recent history, and given the incidents of other types of vandalism to various well-known panels, even as recently as this last year (i.e. Wolfman), it's no wonder why those who have found their way and/or discovered lesser-known panels and archeological sites would keep it close to their chest. There's no guarantee that what's left of the undisturbed panels that are out there would remain that way if anyone ever made their whereabouts publicly known on the social interwebs. It's just the unfortunate fact of life that there are some out there who don't reverence such spots with the respect and awe that people like us have for them. I've seen some argue that if carving, painting, and/or writing on rock walls is vandalism now, it was vandalism then and that they have every right to express themselves and leave their mark as those in the distant past then. And to such folks, I always argue back that those in the distant past did not have paper, canvas, film, cameras, the Internet, and the other modern mediums we now have for documenting stories. That makes a big difference in my mind.

Anyway, some good tips on where to go about exploring have already been given above. In fact, I would dare say that just in the Bears Ears/Cedar Mesa region alone, almost every mile or two of every canyon that cuts through that area will offer up a ruin, archeological artifact, and/or art panel of some kind and if you're only able to make it out there for a short trip once or twice a year for the rest of your life, you'd only scratch the surface in all that can be seen and discovered down there.

There are plenty of well-known panels throughout the southwest and beyond that could keep one occupied with a trip or two out there every year. Many of the others whose whereabouts are lesser known can take some extensive scrambling and remote navigation. I've had the good fortune of finding the location of a few such spots after some extensive detective work myself using a combination of both online resources, library books, and other resources and then privately reached out to some others who I knew had been there asking them to confirm if I was right with my location and route findings. So I will agree that doing a lot of that detective work beforehand, in addition to simply stumbling into other spots unknown to me while out exploring has often proven to be far more rewarding than some of the sites I have visited where there location and route details have been served up on a silver platter for the whole word to have.

I think in addition to doing your own detective work and personal exploring, focusing your efforts in areas with geological characteristics as described further above in this thread; it also comes down to just building up relationships of trust, if only virtual, through a number of interactions with those who have gone before and then conveying reverence and respect for such sites through reports of the sites that you are able to find whether it be via information you find available online or elsewhere. I have found that once someone can truly sense you share the same passion and respect for such sites that they do, they are usually more likely to privately share some details, or at least give you some clues or confirm any detective work you've done yourself for the location of any particular spot that is of interest to you. They also have have to trust that if you find it, that you'll in turn keep its location close to your chest and not publicly reveal it or disclose any major clues to anyone else that doesn't surely hold these pristine archeological resources with the same high regard. And that's all a network of trust that has to happen organically.
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Another tid bit of information about pictographs and art in general. This applies more to the national parks, but there are essentially three types of rock art designations, if you want to call it that.
1) Public knowledge and printed in guidebooks, maps etc. The Newspaper rock panel, Buckhorn Wash panel are examples of a level 1.
2) Not published in guide books, maps, etc, but if you ask a ranger about them specifically and can name the panel and general area they would give you details on the area to look. There is a really cool panel in Capitol Reef that fits this level.
3) Secret panels that will not be disclosed if you ask about them. Totally up to you discovering them on your own.
You ask a fair question, Carlos. I haven't posted here much so there isn't a lot to share from my trip reports here. But I tend to be more generous with approximate locations in personal emails if you share with me how you demonstrate etiquette around sites. I get tips on sites sometimes, and do internet sleuthing, which takes time. However, my favorite sites are the ones I simply found when walking slow and using binocs frequently. I don't use GPS so approx location is the best I can give anyway. Plus, when near a significant site i.e. Four Faces, look all around (while not busting any crust and even leaving few footprints in sand so others don't follow) because there is likely to be much more nearby. Salt Creek is so dense, for example, I see something new everytime I am there. Even the small finds mean more to me in that circumstance because I didn't know what to expect. Once in that mindframe, the side canyon exploration that yields little is still special for all its other wonderful values.
Ok, start with Grand Gulch, Arch Canyon, Comb Ridge, Butler Wash, Slickhorn Canyon, Lookout Canyon, Road Canyon, Owl & Fish Creek, Canyonlands. Most depend on your hiking ability.

People don't have to be so secretive..... there is a lot well known out there... Google is your friend.
There are very few panels that are"impossible" to locate without the "secret handshake". Maybe 10-20 out of the 10's of thousands that can be found with just a small amount of detective work on the internet.

That's half the fun of finally seeing them in person !

There's no way to even scratch the surface, in a lifetime of hunting, what can be dug up with just a few hours of internet search per general area.

( There are however, 3 panels, out of everything I've seen posted on the web that I can't find, but would love to see , even if I had to sell a body part or grandchild for the info)
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