Monday, March 21, 2011

The Petroglyphs of Stansbury Island

I first heard of the Stansbury Island Petroglyphs after a failed chukar hunt on the Island. I just happened to notice some pictures of them at Applebee’s in Tooele. I then forgot about them. It wasn’t anything that was high on my list of things to go see. That is until I stopped at the Freemont Indian Museum by Richfield on my way to visit with the wonderful folks of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Richfield. Something about the petroglyphs there ignited a bug in me. Since then I have been stopping wherever I hear there might be some examples of this art. I find them truly fascinating.
I was reminded of the petroglyphs on Stansbury Island a few weeks ago when I was killing some time with John. We stopped out there to find ooids, a sand formation as peculiar as its name. We stopped to help some people with a flat tire, and they told us they were looking for the Petroglyphs. The treasure hunt was on.
I looked online to find what information I could. All it said was that they were out there. There was no indication of where. It took three attempts to find that information. Laura and I spent one afternoon Jeeping and glassing the hills for any indication of them. John and I spent an afternoon hiking. On our way back we stopped and asked a man who was camping and he knew where they were and gave us directions. We had to comeback to make the attempt though as we were both too tired, and almost late for supper.
We found them yesterday. They are incredible. I do think we only scratched the surface of what is out there. We will be returning again. In all honesty, I do think there should be a museum or something showcasing these cultural treasures. Perhaps I have developed such an affinity from them because they are in my backyard, but I do believe they are incredible specimens of the art.
Getting there is a bit difficult though. Just as well I suppose. You don’t exactly need a truck or Jeep, but it helps as the roads to the “trail head” are not what one considers to be improved. One could make it there in a car though, It just requires driving very slow.
Basically, you take the second exit for Grantsville as you are coming from Salt Lake, the first if you are coming from Wendover for some reason. But rather than heading for Grantsville you go north by northwest over the railroad tracks and take the causeway out to Stansbury Island. As you get on to the Island you will come to a sign explaining all the rules of BLM land etc. It gives no information. The road forks there, take the right fork. The road is horrible. Take the first left that crosses the manmade creek. You want to be on the north side of that creek. Then take another right. Just keep making your way east until your way is blocked by boulders and a gate. Get out and walk.
The gate marks the “trail head”. Duck under it and follow either of the two old roads that make the path, either one will do. The one to the right follows the ditch to the other side of the canyon mouth, where it forks and goes north. In the canyon, you see a sub canyon, so there are three points. You really want to go to the one in the middle. There is the point at the trail head, this one in the middle, and then the one at the other end that reaches down for the creek. When the trail that follows the creek forks you want to follow it north. You will see a cave, start looking at the rocks below the cave. They are covered in Petroglyphs. It is incredible how many there are there. You can take the other way back to your vehicle if you like.
I think this would make a fun family outing for anyone really. The hike is a mile or so, maybe less. The terrain is fairly flat, and it took John and I less than 20 minutes walking to get there. Some have carved initials and dates in the rocks. Don’t do that. You are an idiot if you have to be told. Thankfully, I didn’t see any of that which actually vandalized one of these ancient artifacts. Be mindful of where you step too.
At the far end of the Island there is an interpretive trail that marks all the different levels of Lake Bonneville. That too makes for an interesting family outing.


  1. Looks like you were just out there. I want to get out there sometime soon to check them out.

  2. I was Ben, It was a great time. A nice walk.

  3. Went out there today using your directions - drove and walked straight to them. Thanks

    GPS is

    40 47.350N
    112 28.796W

  4. Thanks for this post. We're taking a group of scouts out camping at Stansbury this weekend and were looking for interesting hikes. I think they'll enjoy seeing these. :)

  5. We ran into a less than friendly ranch hand at the gate who stated very emphatically that anything beyond the gate was private property and that no one was allowed in. He also stated that the owner never gives permission to go into this area.

    Having said all that, after he calmed down, he did say that some *(^*&*(s had taken a sledge hammer to the petroglyphs in the past in an attempt to remove them and take them home, so perhaps it is a good thing that the glyphs are on restricted access property...

  6. We followed your directions perfectly to the petroglyphs this afternoon. Thank you so much for sharing. I have yet to find any other place that lists how to find the different petroglyphs on Stansbury Island. So thank you!!!!

  7. Just visited the petroglyphs today & it was awesome. The directions were great, and the gps coordinates saved the day! Awesome hike, thank you!

  8. About how far is the hike. I will be in that area for a couple days. thanks.