Sego Canyon Fremont Culture Rock Art
One of the most unique and easily accessible locations of ancient rock art in Utah is the Sego Canyon site near Thompson Springs in eastern Utah. Encompassing only three panels of rock art, four successive and distinct periods of human use are illustrated: Archaic, Fremont, Ute, and Anglo-American. Archaic, or Barrier Canyon style. The last of these styles may date as far back as 7000 BC and often features pictographs of large, rounded anthropomorphic figures. Fremont style paintings, dating from 600 AD to around 1250 AD, are pecked into the rock and depict angled anthropomorphic figures and abstract shapes. Ute style dates from 1300 AD to the mid-1800s and depicts animals, war figures, and shields painted in red and white. As American settlers arrived in the late nineteenth century, many sheepherders and cattlemen added their own additions to the artwork.
The site sits halfway between Thompson Springs, a center of ranching and railroading on the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway, and the current ghost town of Sego, built to extract coal from the mines in the Book Cliffs first explored by Henry Ballard in 1881. G.K. Gilbert of the U.S. Geological Survey described the rock art in his 1883 report. In 1911, construction began on a railroad called the Ballard & Thompson Railway, which ran right in front of the largest of the three panels. After decades of vandalism by railroaders, miners, and ranchers, including a period where the cliff face was quarried out for building-stone, the BLM acquired the site in 1988. A restoration effort began in 1993 wherein they removed modern graffiti and patched the bullet holes to make the panels more visible.