Mysterious Stories Engraved in the Earth: Newspaper Rock

Newspaper Rock, Utah
Newspaper Rock, Utah Nick Taylor
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Extra, extra, read all about it! You can see all the news you can’t actually read at one of the West’s most famous rock art sites. Native Americans have been engraving and drawing on Newspaper Rock for more than 2,000 years. Their markings tell the stories, hunting patterns, crop cycles, and mythologies of their lives. But what exactly they were communicating, we’ll never know, for there is no actual translation available.

Newspaper Rock is located 15 miles west of US 191 along the Indian Creek Scenic Byway. The rock is called Tse' Hane in Navajo, or “rock that tells a story.” There are hundreds of petroglyphs here that feature a mixture of forms, including pictures resembling humans, animals, tools, and more esoteric, abstract things. The 200-square-foot rock is a part of the cliffs all along the upper end of Indian Creek Canyon.

Indian Creek Canyon is a popular destination for rock climbers who flock to the Wingate sandstone for its pristine cracks, which are scaled with traditional climbing aids. However, the common nature lover will still get much out of the scenic drive.

What Makes It Great

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As one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in the country, Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument is like a living museum. However, thankfully, you don’t have to peer at the pristine rock art through glass.

Peoples from the Fremont, Ute, and Anasazi Native American tribes etched their markings here. It’s surmised that the perennial natural spring attracted ancients to this distinct area. There are over 650 rock art designs and include animals, human figures, and various symbols, some thought to be religious in nature. These petroglyphs were produced by pecking through the black desert varnish found on the rock to the lighter rock beneath.

After enjoying the rock art, get back in the car and check out the rest of the Indian Creek Scenic Byway. Driving westward, the sharp sandstone cliff walls are mesmerizing. Approximately 12 miles from the red rock canyon of Indian Creek, you’ll venture into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

What You’ll Remember

Jirka Matousek

Standing at the base of the 200-square-foot rock and trying to decipher what the ancients were trying to communicate; craning your neck to count all of the artwork; sketching and replicating some of the petroglyphs in your own notepad; losing count when you try to see who can count the most antelope; driving the awe-inspiring byway and looking at all of the massive, perfectly-red Wingate sandstone cliffs.

Who is Going to Love It

News junkies; historians; petroglyph pundits; art lovers; nature-aholics; seekers of scenery; families working on their bucket lists.

GPS Coordinates, Parking, and Regulations

Mike Fisher

GPS Coordinates:
(37.988325, -109.518501)

There are no fees or permits required to visit Newspaper Rock or to drive the Indian Creek Scenic Byway. Just across the highway from the petroglyphs there is a picnic area and campground, which is free and is first-come, first-serve.

The area is open year-round, and the best times to visit are March through late-May and September through October. Feel free to bring your dog, but most places require furry friends to remain on-leash.

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