The Parowan Gap Petroglyphs are just a short drive from Cedar City, Utah so Tom and I stopped by there after spending the night in Cedar City. The Gap is a natural formation originally created by a creek that dried. Once the creek dried, wind continued to carve an opening in the red hills. Today a paved road lies in the Gap, which makes it easy to see the petroglyphs.
The Parowan Gap Petroglyphs are one of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in the United States. There are hundreds of figures along this short gap in the hills. The petroglyphs were etched in the desert varnish on the rocks by many individuals over centuries. First the Fremont people, and then the southern Paiute used these figures to tell a story to others who came after them.
We can’t be sure what all the figures mean. One of the collections of figures seems to be a story about a great journey taken by a leader of the southern Paiutes. Another collection of figures might be related to astronomy. Some of the carvings are more modern. You can see initials from the earliest Mormon pioneers in the area. And, of course, there are the requisite teenage love inscriptions that might have been etched last week. When is an inscription historic and when is it vandalism?
We studied the rock walls for quite a while. As the sun moved and shadows shifted, we could see figures that we couldn’t see in the sun’s glare. Some figures stood out sharply. Others were more subtle. Some were at eye level while other figures were hidden high on the gap.
We enjoyed seeing the Parowan Gap Petroglyphs and making up stories about the figures. I’m sure that our meanings are different from the meanings of the ancient ones. But the petroglyphs continue to tell stories to all the visitors who see them.