Sixteen Room Ruin and Lower Butler Wash

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Stephanie B

Steph and Blake
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February 27, 2019 :

Day Two of our SE Utah trip started off with a visit to Sixteen Room Ruin (aka Seventeen Room, Echo Mesa Ruin, and Casa del Eco as well as a few other names). The easy drive out afforded views of Monument Valley, the San Juans, the Abajos, Comb Ridge, and occasional glimpses of Sleeping Ute. "Discovered" by folks of the 1896 Hayden expedition, this north-facing ruin has a commanding view of the San Juan river valley:

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The rooms on the left were once two stories tall and appeared to be built in phases. Note how the lower half is reddish, while the upper half is tan in color:


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There were dozens of reverse handprints and painted indentations on the back wall:

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Blake standing near the only section through which you can (responsibly) enter the rooms. Would probably be a little tricky to get into alone:

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This was the only surviving wood we saw at the site:

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There were a few signatures from the late 1800's:

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Me standing in one of the one story rooms:

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Overall it was a good site worthy of a visit.
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Next on the agenda was River House Ruin on the other side of the San Juan. But, as the day before, we were thwarted by deep mud and had to abandon that idea. This photo was taken while we were airing-down and before we got into the really nasty stuff. We had no interest in having to use the winch or traction mats!

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So, changed gears and hopped on over to the other side of the Comb and made our way to the Lower Butler Wash trailhead. For the life of us, we couldn't figure out why in the world prior folks had built a wagon road down into Butler Wash when there's far easier access to the river over by Sand Island. Any clue?? I mean, really, sections of that old road would present some challenge even for a modern-day, 4WD, high clearance vehicle!

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The hike itself was easy, but still provided a bit of a workout given the copious amounts of mud that clung to our boots. We took our time, constantly scanning for rock art and ruins:
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And eventually we made our way to the main Lower Butler Wash panel. Here are our faves:

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You could spend days and days here and still probably not see every figure and shape. Images were super-imposed over previously made ones, some were very faint, some way up high on the wall. I don't think we've ever seen such a dense collection of rock art before.

One thing that really confounded us were grinding grooves on the vertical surface of the panel. Wouldn't whatever you're grinding just fall to the floor??

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On our way out we spotted more rock art on the west side of Butler Wash near the confluence with the San Juan. My camera doesn't have great zoom, so here's the best I could get:

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This is a hike we'd do again, probably allowing more time to explore every alcove and suspected site of "interesting things".
 

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IntrepidXJ

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For the life of us, we couldn't figure out why in the world prior folks had built a wagon road down into Butler Wash when there's far easier access to the river over by Sand Island. Any clue?? I mean, really, sections of that old road would present some challenge even for a modern-day, 4WD, high clearance vehicle!
The river goes right up to the vertical cliffs of the canyon in a few places before reaching Sand Island.
 

Titans

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Very nice! Great to see some recent photos from the area, thanks so much for sharing.
Are those bullet holes in the panel with the man and the animal to the left?
 

Stephanie B

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The river goes right up to the vertical cliffs of the canyon in a few places before reaching Sand Island.
Agree about the vertical cliffs, but why not gain access to the river by going (as the crow flies) 3.5 miles upstream to the Sand Island campground area??
 

Stephanie B

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Very nice! Great to see some recent photos from the area, thanks so much for sharing.
Are those bullet holes in the panel with the man and the animal to the left?
I can't really tell from the photo, but it is likely that they're bullet holes.
 

IntrepidXJ

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Agree about the vertical cliffs, but why not gain access to the river by going (as the crow flies) 3.5 miles upstream to the Sand Island campground area??
Because they would have to cross the river a few times to go upstream from Butler Wash to Sand Island.

If you haven't already, make sure to read about the Hole in the Rock Expedition that came through the area.
 

Stephanie B

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Because they would have to cross the river a few times to go upstream from Butler Wash to Sand Island.

If you haven't already, make sure to read about the Hole in the Rock Expedition that came through the area.
Oh, so you think that wagon road going down into Lower Butler was built by the Hole in the Rock folks?
 

IntrepidXJ

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Oh, so you think that wagon road going down into Lower Butler was built by the Hole in the Rock folks?
I don't think it was them since they went up and over Comb Ridge, but this later wagon road followed near their original route through the area.
 
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Nick

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Very cool. And I really like your FJ. You guys bringing that to Backcountry Fest?
 

WasatchWill

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Sixteen/Seventeen Room Ruin (seems to get called either) was a long drive out of the way to get up close to it. It's pretty cool, and unique in being north facing. I had a very young son with me when I paid it a visit and the long drive out of Bluff put him to sleep. So when we got there, I just left him in the car to continue his nap while I ran up the sandy hill to take it in a for a few moments and snap a few pics. I think if I ever want to show it off to any of my other family members while down there, I'll just pull over on the highway out of Bluff and let them look at it from across the river with binocs. :)

Nice TR! Bummer you couldn't make it to River House. That one is really neat and the drive to that with 4WD is quite fun climbing up the rock ramp en route to it. I've also spotted a granary sitting in a small alcove almost right across the river from ruin there with Google Earth. I'd love to go back and wade or float across the river when it's at a low flow to check it out some time and see if there's any nice rock art by it too.
 

Stephanie B

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Thanks, Will. Yeah, I was bummed about not making it to River House. We were near it this past August. But, as we were in the F250 we didn't feel comfortable going up the "rock ramp" and instead just drove on down to the river to check out some glyphs. We've since put a lift kit on the Ford in hopes that we won't be as easily deterred in the future.
 

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