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Friday, May 14, 2010

The Three Kings of Dry Fork Canyon

As a hobby, I seek out and photograph ancient Native American rock art. I've collected hundreds of images over the years. I enjoy the glimpses they provide into the lives of the people who made them, sometimes many thousands of years ago.

Often I hike to find rock art. I enjoy traveling into remote areas and hiking, searching, following the clues to discover new images.

Last weekend I visited an amazing panel of figures, located along a paved road near Vernal in eastern Utah. Called the 3 Kings Panel, the images are beautiful, sophisticated and highly unusual. The images obviously tell a great story, but we don't understand many of the details. Who were these kings, so proud and elegant? Why are they watching over this pastoral valley?

Many rock art images are simple stick figures, vaguely resembling humans or animals or fanciful creatures. Others are incredibly detailed, intricate representations of animals, men, gods and demons. Sometimes we aren't sure which are which. Are the 3 Kings mortals or some kind of deity?

Ongoing research will reveal more about the figures, and the culture that created them. The images provide important clues to help us understand human history, to help us understand ourselves.

The images are on private property but are open to the public for viewing. So far the public has shown respect and restraint, for both the images and the rancher's property. Hopefully, that will continue and the area will stay open to the public.

On my list, the 3 Kings rank among the top 10 rock art panels in the US. They are treasures.

To see them, travel to the town of Vernal and then get onto 500 North Street. Follow that street west to 3500 West Street. Turn north and follow 3500 West to the McConkie Ranch Road. It is about 6.4 miles from the 500 N/3500 W intersection to the ranch road turnoff. As you follow 3500 West it becomes the Dry Fork Canyon Road. It is also known as the Red Cloud Loop Road.

A sign clearly marks the turnoff to McConkie Ranch. Follow the McConkie Ranch Road for about 1/2 mile to the signed parking area. All these roads are paved.

- Dave Webb

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