Dino Tracks & Rock Art
Peek into the past at one (or several) of Moab’s dinosaur tracks and rock art sites. Learn more about these wonders of history – and how you can help preserve them.
Dinosaur Trails & Tracksites
Paleontologists have found a treasure trove of dinosaur remains in the rock formations of the Moab area. The record of dinosaurs and other ancient animals in the Moab area is one of the best in the country. Tracks of dinosaurs of Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous age occur all around the area, in addition to many tracks of many non-dinosaurs.
Rock Art Auto Tours
The Moab area has some spectacular Indian rock art to explore and enjoy. With rock art scattered throughout Moab’s unforgettable scenery, the journey to rock art sites is sure to make for memorable adventures. All sites described in this guide are accessible with a passenger car and a short walk!
There are two types of rock art: petroglyphs (motifs that are ground, pecked, incised or scratched into the rock surface) and pictographs (which are painted or drawn in one or more colors using mineral pigments and plat dyes on the rock surface). Although many images were created using both techniques, most now appear only as a petroglyph because the paint material has faded or washed away over many years. Fortunately, there are both types of rock art to be found in the sites described in this guide. Each site is unique. The patterns and motifs may be similar, but never quite the same. Styles will vary from place to place and from people to people. Remember to never touch rock art or surfaces around it. The oils in your skin may cause permanent damage.
Rock art was produced by a number of prehistoric and historic peoples over thousands of years. Their histories in the area are very complex. A big game hunting people, known as Paleo-Indians, are considered to be the first human users in the area. Their game included now extinct Pleistocene fauna such as mammoths and mastodons. A later culture called Archaic, probably used central base camps during their seasonal round of activities based on harvesting wild plants and animals. They did not build permanent habitation structures, but lived in caves and in small brush shelters built in the open.
The Ancestral Puebloan whose culture centered south of Moab in the Four Corners area, concentrated much of their subsistence efforts on the cultivation of corn, beans and squash. These sedentary people also harvested a wide variety of wild resources, such as pinion nuts and grasses, and hunted bighorn sheep and deer. The Fremont, who were contemporary with the Ancestral Puebloan people, also grew corn, and were apparently more dependent on hunting and gathering wild resources than were the Ancestral Puebloan. Their territory was mainly north of the Colorado River, but overlapped with the Ancestral Puebloan at Moab. Both cultures had a complex social structure, and were highly adaptive to the extremes of the environment. The Ancestral Puebloan and Fremont are classified by scientists as “Formative” cultures.
The most recent inhabitants, the Utes, have been in southeast Utah since the 1200’s. They were a very mobile hunting and gathering people who moved in from the Great Basin. They used the bow and arrow, made baskets and brownware pottery, and lived in brush wickiups and tipis. The Notah (Ute people) lived freely throughout western Colorado and eastern Utah until about 1880, when they were forced onto reservations.
Dating the Rock Art
Although it is difficult to establish an exact age of rock art, some dating clues are easily identified. For example, whenever a horse and rider is depicted, we know the date to be after A.D. 1540 when the Spaniards reintroduced the horse to the New World. The presence of bows and arrows is presumed to indicate a date after A.D. 500, the generally accepted time period for their appearance in this region. For purposes of this guide, time periods are broken into generalized categories relating to the people believed to have made them.
Don’t touch, in any way, the rock art or surfaces around it. The oils in your skin may cause damage to rock art. Don’t apply any substance to the rock art surface, including water or any other fluids. Don’t trace images with sticks, stones, chalk, or other substances.
Don’t attempt to remove graffiti, chalking, lichen, bird droppings, or anything else from rock art.
Don’t collect or disturb artifacts or features at a rock art site. It is acceptable to pick up surface artifacts, examine and enjoy them, or make sketches or take photos of them, as long as they’re returned to the place where found, and no damage is done to the artifact.
Don’t remove soil to expose subsurface rock art or archeology.
Minimize the number of vehicles going to a site. Stay on existing roads and trails. Do not “pioneer” vehicle trails or parking areas. By disturbing rocks, vegetation, or biological soil crusts you may cause unknowing damage to fragile archaeological sites.” Don’t camp or build fires within 1/4 mile of a rock art site, even if the landowner or public land manager permits camping.
Don’t allow children, pets, or inattentive people to behave carelessly around rock art sites. Kicking up dust or dislodging rocks can cause damage to the site.
Graffiti, which has become a serious problem across public lands, is not only socially unacceptable, but is illegal.
Please remember that many living people consider these sites sacred.
Speak out when needed to prevent damage to rock art. Report new rock art destruction, charcoal near the site, or site vandalism to the Archaeological Resources Protection Act hot-line @ 1-800-227-7286.