Looking for the Procession Panel: Treasure Hunt in Canyon Country

Campsite at Butler Wash. Near Bluff, Utah, October, 2011

I’m sure you can go on-line and find some pretty precise directions to the Anasazi petroglyphs called the Procession Panel, but we’re part of the group of stubborn hikers who like to pretend that we’ve found these cool ancient sites all on our own.  Not sure what that’s about, really, except that I guess we all make up our own rules for our individual treasure hunts.    So, according to our rules, it’s fine to look up the starting point for a site, but beyond that, we’re generally on our own.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that neither of us are particularly chatty when we’re out on the trail, so we’re not tempted to seek out hints from the occasional hiker we meet when we’re out searching.

The Procession Panel was only discovered by hikers about 30 years ago, and it is a beautifully preserved example of Ancestral Pueblan rock art.    I’d read about the large panel that shows a procession of people and animals that stream from both sides of the rock face toward a large incised circle, and we wanted to find it.

We found the trailhead,  about 14 miles north on the pretty rough Butler Wash road.    Butler Wash is a tributary of the San Juan River, and was clearly quite populated a thousand years ago; there are ruins and rock art all along the Butler Wash road between Bluff, Utah and Highway 95 near Blanding, Utah.

We knew that the panel was near the top Comb Ridge, a long monocline that runs the length of Butler Wash.    Here’s a view of Comb Ridge from the steep western side:

Butler Wash is located on the other side of the Ridge: the eastern side

The biggest obstacle to climbing Comb Ridge from the east is crossing Butler Wash, which has steep 20 foot banks on each side, and is choked with tamarisk.  If the weather had been wet it would have been rough going, but we were able to beat our way through with no difficulty.  Once we emerged from the wash, we could see that we had a choice of two drainages we could follow to get to the top.  We chose the southern one.    We were following cairns most of the way, so were pretty confidant that we were on the right trail.

getting close to the top of the ridge

Along the way we scrambled up to the base of the cliffs, looking for the panel.   We found some old, faint petroglyphs that were very cool,

but no Procession Panel.    Once at the top of the Ridge, though, the view was a huge reward.

top of the Comb, looking south

looking southwest

Stunning views, but we were pretty worried that we would have to go down without finding the Procession Panel.   After lunch I scoped around with the binoculars, and managed to find the panel that way!  It was one drainage over (we chose the wrong one down at the bottom), and we’d have to go about halfway down and then climb up again, but we were pretty darned pleased with ourselves.  We packed up our lunch, and headed down and across, and this time we found it.  And I’m so glad that we did.  It is one of the best rock art panels I’ve seen.    And, I’ve got to say, it was actually more rewarding to kind of discover it for ourselves than it would have been if we’d walked right to it.

Here it is!

see the people and animals heading to the circle from each side?

Panel details:

love the waving guys


See the fellow with the backpack walking on top of the smaller figures? And do you think this deer is pooping?

The procession comes out of a crack in the wall and heads around the corner. How cool is that?

About westerner54

Hello. I'm Cindy, and I love to hike, bike and explore the outdoors - particularly the western U.S.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Camping, Hiking, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Southwest hikes, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Looking for the Procession Panel: Treasure Hunt in Canyon Country

  1. I was interested to read this because in 1996 I went on a National Parks touring holiday and at some point was relatively close by. We had visited Arches NP, stayed at Cortez and seen Mese Verde, Four Corners and Monument Valley and then took a light aircraft over the area and landed at Grand Canyon. It was quite a trip! I’d like to do it again some day but in a rental car rather than on a coach trip. http://apetcher.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/monument-valley-and-the-grand-canyon/

  2. westerner54 says:

    Thanks for the comment. I’d definitely recommend a return trip; it really is an amazing part of the world!

  3. Fergiemoto says:

    Petroglyphs intrigue me. Nice photos!

  4. Jim says:

    This is pretty cool. Hope you need company one day..

  5. Mark Capurso says:

    Great story and photos. Looks like I’m going to have to visit this place!

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