Edge of the Cedars Museum & Sand Island Petroglyphs

The landscape I drove through in southern Utah.

On day two of my road trip, I pushed farther than expected, which gave me some extra time on day three. That meant I could make two stops that had seemed interesting when I looked at the map while planning the trip: Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum, and the Sand Island Petroglyphs.

Standing outside of Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum. In the foreground is a Chacoan Great House, with the museum in the background. You can see the round walls of the observation room in the museum.

The first stop was in Blanding, Utah, As I walked up to the museum, I heard a turkey gobbling. Sure enough, this handsome boy spotted me and displayed his fabulous feathers and gobbling even more. An employee was there and encouraged me to feed him while she got a photo. The turkey changed his colours while I stood there, hoping to get even more adoration. It worked.

I’m feeding corn to the turkey.

The woman with the turkey explained that the indigenous people who lived here in the past thousand years or so raised turkeys for their feathers. Not for meat, as I had guessed. She said that it was too expensive to feed and raise a turkey to adulthood (since food was scarce), to simply kill it and eat it. They kept them alive as long as possible, and used their down to make clothes and bedding to keep warm in the very cold high desert. They also used the large feathers for adornment. Their pottery and petroglyphs include images of turkeys and turkey tracks, revealing just how important turkeys were to them. I had no idea and found all of this quite interesting.

The small, unassuming but very high quality museum was an unexpectedly great stop. It was $5 to enter and stay as long as I liked. They told me that it is not only a museum to highlight their particular area, but also a repository for ancient artifacts from all over Utah.

Images of petroglyphs
Artifacts. There was too much in here to show photos of it all. Apparently its the largest display of Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) pottery in the region.
I liked these sandals woven from juniper bark and yucca leaves.
They called this “visible storage,” and I think it’s a good idea at a museum.
The museum has an observation room for viewing the ruins of a Chacoan house. They encouraged me to go outside and get a closer look.

When I paid my entrance fee, the staff member at the museum’s entrance told me they had an actual kiva on site, and I was excited to see it. A kiva is a gathering place used when communities reunite to perform rituals and ceremonies among the Ancestral Puebloan peoples. I had heard about them and had seen photos, but had never seen one up close. I was astonished and thrilled to see signs encouraging me to climb inside and explore this one.

From here I spotted the entrance to the kiva, but did not yet know that there is a sign mounted on the edge of the entrance that says, “Proceed with caution.”
Inside a kiva for the first time. This one is in the common round design, and quite small.
I was intrigued by the construction of the roof. I walked on top of this part to get to the entrance.

Down the hill from the great house and kiva is an art installation that I found remarkable.

At first, the shape and setting are what catch your attention.
On further inspection, I saw the shadows cast, and marveled at this Solar Marker, created by artist Joe Pachak.

I had spent enough time at the museum and it was time to go. I drove till I arrived at an interesting little exhibit called Bluff Fort in the tiny town of Bluff where a Mormon Elder told me how to find the Sand Island petroglyphs. Oh, I have neglected to mention that this is Mormon country, and they are everywhere. Also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I used to be one, through much of my childhood, but no more. It is a dominant religion from southern Idaho stretching south through Arizona.

A beautiful home with an inspiring backdrop in Bluff, Utah.

The folks at the museum told me these petroglyphs existed and with help from the folks at Bluff Fort I found them without any trouble.

The beautiful (though sketchy) red dirt road to the petroglyphs, which were all over the rock wall at the right.
Wall with petroglyphs. You may be able to pick out two women walking the trail, who were visiting at the same time as I was.
The walls were simply covered in artwork and messages.

Like the Modoc wall of petroglyphs Pedro and I had visited about a year earlier, these were protected by a fence that kept all visitors well away from the wall. I admired them for some time.

Close-up shot of a section from the panel above.
This being had “three hats” my brother called it. There was another one with three hats, one I found with only one hat, and one with no hat. (But obviously I cannot say what the things on top are supposed to be)
Deer, sheep, and antelope maybe. Check out the one on the right, looking back at them.

The elder at Bluff Fort told me that if I explored in the opposite direction, I would find more. I turned around and looked behind me.

It was beautiful, but I couldn’t see a place to find petroglyphs and that bluff in the distance is on the other side of a river. So…no.

I decided what he must have meant was that the red dirt road I had come down had been to the right of the paved road, and the other petroglyphs were probably to the left of the paved road. I drove that way and looked all around but found nothing. No worries, I had seen plenty and was happy. It was time to hit the road once more.

I was very close to the Arizona border, so I hopped back in the Jeep and headed for my next stop: Petrified Forest National Park.

10 thoughts on “Edge of the Cedars Museum & Sand Island Petroglyphs

  1. The petroglyphs look truly amazing and they are such powerful cultural symbols 🥰 I don’t even think I’ve seen any 😊 thanks for sharing and have a good day ☺️ Aiva

    1. Oh, I’m so glad you enjoyed these Aiva. I find them fascinating, and stop to look every time I hear there are some nearby. If you click the link where it says “Modoc wall of petroglyphs,” there are photos from a place I visited last year in Northern California from a different group of indigenous people, so the images are different. I think the symbols are intriguing, don’t you? I can’t help but try and guess what they are, according to my life experience. But one of my Cherokee elders told me I am not supposed to guess, because the message isn’t for me, but I am just supposed to appreciate them. It’s hard though. 🙂

  2. You are so kind to journal about your travel while still on it. In this way we can travel along. I love it how you go about it. By following the (visible and invisible) signs, you get to just the right places. (Such as Italy and Slovenia, among others!) That turkey though!! Hihihh!

    1. I had such an enjoyable trip. I love road trips, as I told you before, and while I miss Pedro, I so enjoyed being on a road trip all by myself. That’s the only way I traveled for most of my life, and I grew to appreciate it. I can debate with myself, and get lost, and make wrong turns, and say something accidentally ridiculous to a stranger, and no one witnesses any of it! ha ha! I think a single traveler is sometimes more approachable than a couple engrossed with each other, and that opens more exploration doors to me. The turkey was a wonderful surprise.

    1. I looked carefully for a depiction of turkeys or tracks on the actual pottery I saw, but couldn’t find any. The woman with the turkey had shown me photos. The closest I came were these wonderful vessels for liquid in the shape of turkeys, with handles, and one would pour out the head. Quite creative when I would have assumed people were only focused on practicality at that time.

  3. Loved following you to all these places. The turkey is my favorite. Who knew. I remember seeing wild turkeys on the reservation behind us here. I would never go near one but now I might think about it. You are correct. This is Mormon country. Mostly very nice people. You have a great talent for learning about places and getting people to inform you about them. Just glad I know you are home safe after seeing that road.

    1. Ooh, I hadn’t thought of it as a skill or a talent, but I think you are right! I do learn a lot when I explore. I think it’s because I have so many questions, and I often don’t hesitate to walk right up to a stranger and ask. It’s fun having you along with me. 🙂

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