Well, the pictographs are not exactly a secret, especially after I write this article, they are not well known, however, and can become a fun day of exploring with the family. You are a trusted visitor and please do not damage or deface these or any other historic prehistoric art. It is not only disrespectful, but it is against the law.
In 1881, a narrow-gauge railroad was planned and construction started for a route between Green River and Cleveland, Utah. The railroad grade was laid out and abandoned before tracks could be laid due to faulty engineering. In several places, the road grade was too steep for the steam locomotives of the era. This destination discussion covers that portion of the Old Railroad Grade north of the Buckhorn Flats Road and under the cliffs of Cedar Mountain. Several rock art sites are along this road, such as the Silent Sentinel, Daisy Chain, 45⁰ Rock, and Railroad Rock. This is an interesting area to explore and the first half is accessible by automobile.
From Price, go south on Utah Highway 10 until just before you get to the town of Castle Dale, you will find a turn off to your left (west) accessing the San Rafael Swell destination. The landmark for the turnoff is an old and photogenic corral complex. This is the beginning of the Buckhorn Flat Road, zero your odometer as a reference point. It is about 12.3 miles to a four-way intersection, and the BLM Buckhorn Information Center, which also provides a vault toilet.
Turn left or northbound onto the Buckhorn Reservoir Road and zero your odometer. Travel about 2.9 miles, where you will cross a cattle guard. Immediately turn right and drive along the fence line. Zero your odometer. In less than 0.1 miles turn right at another cattle guard and shortly thereafter is a gate. Leave the gate the way you found it, open or closed. You are now southeast bound onto a graded road. This road follows the general route of the old railroad grade. There are several side roads to campsites and stock ponds, but the main points of interest start at about 2.7 miles. A summary of the rock art and early inscriptions are listed below and a more detailed description follows. 2.7 miles Silent Sentinel Pictograph and others 3.2 miles Daisy Chain Pictograph and others 3.5 miles 45⁰ Rock Pictographs 4.2 miles Railroad Rock
At about 2.7 miles the road crosses a small wash that comes down from a cove at the base of Cedar Mountain. You can drive up this wash about 0.2 miles, but four-wheel drive may be required. The road stops at a log barrier and about 200 feet up a footpath you will see two small rock art panels, including one known as the Silent Sentinel. This pictograph is above a slightly angled rock ledge and the boulder the artwork is on is darker in color and slants outward from the top. As you are walking up to this rock look to your right for a very busy flat-faced boulder with a very busy display of Fremont culture rock art. Return to the old railroad grade and at about 3.2 miles there are some boulders a short distance off the road that are the next point of interest. Several boulders have inscriptions of railroad workers and one Fremont culture petroglyph of three humans holding hands called the “The Daisy Chain.” Just a short distance up the road, at about 3.5 miles is a road spur north for slightly over 0.1 miles to some boulders. One of these is known as the “45 Degree Rock” and has pictographs on the north side of it. One of these looks like the Kokopelli image. Continuing east about 4.2 miles is another spur road that goes north for about 0.2 miles to a group of boulders. Here you will find “Railroad Rock” with historic inscriptions from the workers in 1881. There are also some Indian pictographs on some of these boulders. You will come to a three-way road junction at about 4.5 miles and ahead of you is a fence and livestock pond. A right or southbound turn here will connect you with the Green River Cutoff Road in about 1.5 miles and then turn right to connect with the Buckhorn Flat Road that you came in on. It looks like a minor trail, however, it has been suitable for automobile traffic in the past. Keep in mind, that erosion from one storm can totally change the character of the roads in this area. If you are driving an automobile your best choice might be to turn around and backtrack the way you came in. The road straight ahead at this intersection requires a high clearance 4X4 and is a moderately rough road that connects with the Green River Cutoff in approximately 4.7 miles. A right turn on the Green River Cutoff will take you back to Utah 10 and a left turn will take you to US 6 about 17 miles north of I-70.
This trail is one of 42 in a trail guide titled San Rafael Swell Off Road that is available at the Art City Coffee Shop in Springville and Dickerson Automotive in Spanish Fork, or you can contact the author at [email protected]
Pictographs at mile 2.7 along the old railroad grade road.