Nine Mile Canyon
It is about 74 miles from Spanish Fork down US Highway 6 and over Soldier Summit to Price and on to the small town of Wellington to start your exploration of Nine Mile Canyon. Nine Mile Canyon has been called “the world’s longest art gallery” because the canyon is almost 40 miles long. There are an estimated 1,000 rock art sites in the canyon with an estimated 10,000 individual images. Between 950 and 1250 AD, the canyon was occupied by the Fremont Indian Culture. In the 16th century, the ancestral Utes started occupying the canyon. In the 19th century, pioneer trappers and ranchers started moving into the canyon. A family drive through Nine Mile Canyon is a unique exploration of history.
At the east side of the parking lot at Miller’s Wellington Chevron is a kiosk that provides information about visiting Nine Mile Canyon. This is also a good place to top off your vehicle fuel tank, pick up a few snacks, lunch, and most importantly drinking water. Reset your odometer to zero, as this will help you find some reference points as you drive through the canyon.
The road has been paved to prevent dust from having an adverse effect on the ancient pictographs. The first 12.5 miles cross high desert plateau country, and this time of year wildflowers will add some color to the trip. At about 20.5 miles you cross Minnie Maude Creek and shortly after that, you will find a BLM sign stating that you are entering Nine Mile Canyon and giving you some history of the canyon. In another of couple miles, you will come across the evidence of an old homestead. This area is private property, and you are asked to respect it. Down the road a little further you will find the Nine Mile Ranch which has campsites and a store.
The first notable pictographs to look for are at about 25.8 miles where you will find a pull-out on the right side of the road, and the rock wall on the opposite side of the road has numerous rock art along the lower wall. At about 26.8 miles is the Cottonwood Picnic Area with restrooms. As you continue to drive the canyon, pull-out areas indicate nearby rock art features. Most notable is a balanced rock on the cliff above the road with a number of interesting drawings.
There are so many rock wall drawings in this canyon that they can’t all be listed here. You just have to drive slow, get out of your car and walk around exploring the canyon walls. A parking area or pull-out is an indication of rock art nearby. You will find a fork in the road at about 38 miles, and you will want to take the right-hand fork into Cottonwood Canyon. In approximately 8 miles, or 46 miles from where you zeroed your odometer at Wellington, you will be at the parking area for the Big Buffalo Panel. This interesting artwork is located across the canyon on the east wall. Just 0.2 miles down the road on the right is the parking area and kiosk for the famous “Great Hunt Panel” which is one of the finest examples of ancient rock art that you can find any place. This is a spectacular reward for your day's drive into Nine Mile Canyon.
Next Month In Your Back Yard will explore Eureka and the Tintic Mining District.
The Great Hunt Panel in Nine Mile Canyon. Photo: Ed Helmick