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Rock art in Picketwire Canyon

­by Susan Simons

PICKETWIRE- This past weekend, the Colorado Rock Art Association (CRAA) completed Picketwire Monitoring Project #6 in Picketwire Canyon on the southeast side of the Purgatory River.  Fifteen CRAA members volunteered to monitor a site recorded in 1994 by the Forest Service. The crew digitally photographed 53 previously recorded rock art panels and recorded 12 new panels overlooked in the original survey.  Participants also noted damage to panels from erosion or vandalism.

    It was a warm, windy day in the canyon. The crew worked their way back and forth over a rocky hillside beside the Purgatory River all day Saturday and through most of Sunday. Three teams were at work, each with a photographer, a recorder, and one or more scouts. Session #6 was a record-breaking session for largest number of panels at a site, greatest number of new panels found on a site, identification of a new site extension,  two flat tires, no rattlesnakes, and two-thirds of crew first-timers. Session #7 will be scheduled in fall 2008.

    The Picketwire sites are treasures which are part of every American’s non-renewable cultural heritage. They are documented and protected by the U. S. Forest Service.  The canyon, located south of La Junta in the Comanche National Grasslands, is open to folks who travel by foot,  bicycle, or  horseback.  Many people do make the long hike in to to enjoy the beauty of the canyon, the extensive dinosaur tracks, and the rock art.  It is also possible to arrange guided four-wheel-drive auto tours on Saturdays in May, June, September and October through the USDA Forest Service at 719-384-2181.

    CRAA will be holding their annual Symposium May 2-4, 2008 in La Junta at the Koshare Kiva and Museum.  Planned activities include talks by Dr. Larry Loendorf, archaeologist of record for a CRAA grant-funded project on private land in the area, and Dr. Linea Sundstrom, a renowned Plains Indian archaeologist from the University of Wisconsin.  Field trips are scheduled for Sunday, May 4 to sites in Picture Canyon, Picketwire Canyon, Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, and more.  To learn more about the organization and the symposium, explore the CRAA website at

    Ranchers/landowners in southeastern Colorado who believe they have archaeological sites on their property can contact CRAA to request an archaeological survey of their land. The contact person is Anne Whitfield, Project Chair of CRAA.  She can be contacted at or 719-485-3314.