Dominguez Canyon

I haven’t taken a long hike in a while, just an hour or so along my favorite well-beaten paths most days when the weather’s good. The friend I visited on this Colorado road trip reminded me to pack my hiking gear.

The Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area covers a broad area along the Gunnison River, including Dominguez Canyon Wilderness, once home to the ancestral Ute and other Native tribes. It’s managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management’s National Conservation Lands. On the way to the trailhead, we crossed the Old Spanish Trail, stopping to read Fremont’s quote on their terrifying winter crossing of the Colorado River. The “Dobies,” adobe-colored hills, covered an area leading up to Dominguez, like the foothills standing before the Rockies.

The start of the trail revealed a red rock canyon along the Gunnison River. We followed the train tracks until a rail crossing appeared. The trail then continued past a private bridge, then a more inviting foot bridge spanning the Gunnison. My friend signed into the registry.

We followed the Big Dominguez trail that follows Big Dominguez Creek, a tributary to the Gunnison River, through the desert canyon for about six miles round trip under bright blue skies with wispy clouds, not steep but a slow rise. Our footsteps passed sagebrush, dry grasses, occasional yellow flowers, green cactus against the red earth, glimpses of the mostly brown water with a rocky tumble now and then, the reds and browns of the rock surfaces, so many different shades of red. For much of the hike, the only sound was our footsteps and, when nearby, the gurgle of the creek. A friend spotted a lizard, but I turned too late to catch him scurrying by.

The greatest rock containing the first and most plentiful petroglyphs was well marked with warnings not to rub, touch, or otherwise damage these fragile cultural resources. More images could be found on rocks further along the trail. We wondered over how long a period of time these petroglyphs were created, who the artists may have been, and what stories they might have told.

Much later images on horseback. What is that creature?

Western Slope road trip: Grand Junction sculpture, Dominguez Canyon, Fruitgrowers Reservoir, Western Slope towns, Colorado National Monument

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Published by rkrontheroad

Writer, photographer, traveler

37 thoughts on “Dominguez Canyon

  1. So many petroglyphs on the first rock. I wonder why it was so popular, or is it more protected from the elements so the images haven’t worn away. What a great hike to let youbget so close to them. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a special place and I imagine there were many people living in the area way back when. Sad when people deface these. I saw a few small museums or displays in local towns with framed rubbings.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Unfortunately I’ll have to imagine the scenery as weak wifi here in Cambodia means your photographs aren’t loading. But your words are so evocative that I can easily picture it all, I can almost hear the dry scrub crunching beneath my footsteps.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The large rock with the smaller base in the wash reminds me of Balanced Rock in Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, though Balanced Rock was “repaired” at least once to maintain its unique look. The power of water erosion is a wonder.

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    1. This one was a surprise… it’s not “named” or otherwise noted. I haven’t been to GOG since the 70s when I first came to Colorado. Interesting that they are repairing the natural formations.

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  4. Lovely atmosphere to the Southwest US! I see those petroglyphs again: they look especially abundant and very detailed! Despite traveling around the Southwest, I never got the chance to really find petroglyphs, but one of these days, I’ll have to! Looks like you had a great time exploring Dominguez Canyon!

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  5. What an amazing hike! those petroglyphs are amazing and the landscape is so interesting – there’s nowhere in England you could find wild cactuses (cacti?) so I love seeing them in their natural habitat.

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  6. This looks like a wonderful hike – through a powerful land that you’ve captured though your lens, and all alone. I would have loved it I think.
    Petroglyphs always remind me how alike we all are – in every continent they are always so much the same – animals, hand prints, people. I’ve seen similar in Jordan. And Australia. I think I see a scorpion in that last image, and my first thought was that the large creature is a turtle, but I guess that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

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  7. It looks like such a nice hiking trail. I like the rock formations (that one rock standing on its own is lovely). And it’s always great to come across petroglyphs on a trail. I also thought the last creature looked like a turtle, but I doubt it is … one can only wonder, right.

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    1. I knew our destination was to the petroglyphs, but I have never seen so many together before. There must have been a gathering place over many years in that area. Thanks for your comments!

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