Thompson Springs Travel Guide

  • Thompson Springs
    by goodfish
  • Thompson Springs
    by goodfish
  • Thompson Springs
    by goodfish

Thompson Springs Things to Do

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    Barrier-style Pictographs 4 more images

    by goodfish Updated Dec 13, 2011

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    This is what you leave the interstate for (see previous tip)...

    At the mouth of Sego Canyon (in the Book Cliffs area) are three panels of archaic images done over a span of thousands of years. The oldest are rare, Barrier-style pictographs that are between 3000-7000 years old. "Barrier" comes from the name of the canyon - a detached unit of Canyonlands National Park - where paintings of this type were first studied. Believed to be shamanist in purpose, they are also the most haunting of the multiple, cultural types of imagery found brushed or etched into rock surfaces throughout the Southwest. Pictographs - which are painted versus carved - were usually created in sheltered alcoves such as the one you see here to protect them from the elements. You can read more about how to see the most stunning and well-preserved of this type in my Horseshoe/Barrier Canyon review in my Canyonlands National Park pages.

    The next panel has petroglyphs from the Fremont period (600 - 1250 AD) and displays etched anthropomorphs (human figures) with characteristically trapezoidal bodies and heads.

    The third is Ute Culture and much more recent: figures carved between 1300 - 1880 AD. Notice the tiny rider on horseback? Horses are not indigenous to the U.S. and didn't arrive until Spanish explorers introduced them around the mid-1500's. Bows and arrows weren't common until after 500 AD. These types of facts, plus dating of desert-varnished rock surfaces and the presence of newer figures superimposed over older ones, give archeologists a rough idea of the time period in which they were created.

    All three sites have been badly vandalized and are best photographed in shade. Oils from curious fingers can damage both etchings and paintings so look but please don't touch? Some exploring around the walls of the canyon will turn up unmarked examples of both types of "rock art."

    See my previous tip on how to get here.

    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • Archeology
    • Historical Travel

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    by goodfish Written Nov 20, 2011

    Another mile down the road and you'll see what's left of Sego. Originally called Ballard after the rancher who discovered coal on the site in the late 1800's, and then Neslin for the manager of the company who purchased the property in 1911, the third and final name was applied in 1916 by one of its investors. The mines operated under different hands until the mid 1950's, when they were finally closed for good and some of the structures relocated to Moab. Others of the remaining buildings were destroyed by vandals and artifact hunters but you can still see skeletons of the company store, trestles, shafts, storage buildings and few other odds and ends.

    The site is heavily overgrown and littered with refuse both old and no-so so pick your way cautiously - rattlesnakes are common in this part of the country - and avoid entering or crawling on unstable areas. The link below provides a nice overview of Sego's history (thanks to Legends of America) to read before you go.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Budget Travel
    • Road Trip

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    by goodfish Written Nov 20, 2011

    Through the cattleguard and about 1/2 mile up the dirt road from the pictographs is the old pioneer cemetery of the bygone settlement of Sego. One or two engraved slabs, a ragged fence here and a broken bit of stone there are bleak memorials to men who came to work the mines and ended up below this dusty scrap of ground. There may also be wives lost to childbirth or exhaustion, and children taken by diseases that plagued the young decades ago. It's an appropriate reflection of hard life in a harsh environment: poignant in its loneliness and nameless heaps of dirt and rubble.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Budget Travel
    • Road Trip

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