Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ismay Petroglyph Trail and Lower Yellowjacket Canyon

From the old Ismay Trading Post, along the south edge of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado, the dirt Yellow Jacket Canyon Road turns north. This site is west of Cortez, CO about 26 miles along County Road G.

Only about 0.2 miles north of the old trading post, a large boulder is the foundation of a ruins site, and has an extensive petroglyph panel.

Around the left side of the boulder are some small wall sections and petroglyphs are visible on the side and back of a piece broken off the main rock.

The inside of the boulder has the most works of rock art. The ages probably vary as there are some horse figures and some English letters, but also many drawings of sheep and geometric figures.

It is easy to climb up on the broken piece and get a good look at the figures inside. Around the boulder there is a lot of rubble scattered and some intact wall sections. There is a probable kiva on the back side of the boulder.

Not all the rock art is ancient. The JW initials look like the work of John Wetherill, one of the famous brothers associated with Mesa Verde and other Four Corners ruins sites.

This site is at the junction of McElmo and Yellowjacket Canyons, both having water for most of the year. The area is otherwise very dry with very few trees growing except along the streams.

The top of the large boulder has some ruined wall sections also. It seems to be common in this area to build on the tops of boulders.

The Yellowjacket Canyon dirt road continues north for about 1.5 miles along the wide canyon mouth. Just before reaching the small farm area, there is an elevated rocky area that looks like a possible ruins area.

There are a number of large boulders and flat areas overlooking the farming area and many rock surfaces that looked like good places for petroglyphs, but I didn't see anything that I was sure was a ruins.

There was a locked gate in the farm area and it didn't appear that any road or trail continued further up the canyons. This area is near the junction of Yellow Jacket Canyon coming from the east and Hovenweep Canyon from the north.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is a large area with a high concentration of Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites but it doesn't have many official trails and there aren't very many easy to find access points. It is a discover things on your own park.

The wash in the center of the canyon is deep and wide and probably has year round water. The Yellow Jacket Canyon is a favorite among birders for the lush riparian habitat it provides. They have been having luck spotting Lucy's Warbler, a rare sighting in this area. Visiting the Isamy Petroglyphs and continuing up Yellow Jacket Canyon provides about 2:00 hours of hiking and maybe more if you linger.

(On a later visit I noticed a cow trail that leads to the top of Cannonball Mesa about 1.4 miles northeast along the rough dirt road. Following the cow trail, there are good hikes up above that I call Cannonball Cliffs and Cannonball Point. There are at least four other ruins sites to find in this immediate area. There is also a small site on the west side of the Yellow Jacket Creek. Use the labels for more on these hikes.)


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I will be visiting the area this summer and I am always looking for new rock art panels and ruins. I really appreciate the orientation pictures as it will help me find the area much quicker. I hear the shop keeper at the trading post is not very forthcoming when asked about the trail. I would love to see something on the Sand Canyon trail as I plan to visit that as well.