SERIES – PHOTOS OF A FAMILY ROAD TRIP ADVENTURE
Oh what a fabulous adventure this family vacation has been! From ancient explorations to challenging back country hikes, ziplining and river rafting too, there was not a dull moment to be found during our time on the road. Sadly though, as all good things come to an end, so does our family road trip. But not before one more adventure!
This final adventure finds us outside Thomson, Utah, exploring Sego Canyon. Once traversed by ancient people as well as late 19th and early 20th century miners, Sego Canyon today is an interesting, fascinating mix of ancient petroglyphs and a more recently abandoned coal mining town. Come along with us as we spend an afternoon walking through centuries of time within the Sego Canyon walls.
Deciphering Sego Canyon’s Ancient Rock Art
Though the footprints of the ancients who passed through Sego Canyon thousands of years ago are long gone, their stories remain upon the canyon walls. Three distinct styles of petroglyphs are found here, representing three different points in time spanning nearly 8,000 years, as well as three distinct, unique ancient cultures.
It doesn’t take long to discover Sego Canyon’s ancient rock art. Visions of ancient Native Americans are chiseled and etched across several sandstone cliffs, and are easy to spot from nearby trails. What do these petroglyphs represent? Are they religious in nature, recordings of life events, or simply figments of their imaginations? A mystery, indeed!
Both Fremont and Ute Indians left behind stories in Sego Canyon. Notice the difference between the older Fremont petroglyphs, with their triangular shaped figures and abstract elements, and the Ute petroglyphs, with more recognizable horses and human shaped figures, and the use of red and white paint in their etchings. Also note the more modern-day additions defacing these ancient etchings. Sad.
Continue further on into the canyon, where the Archaic people also left their mark upon the canyon walls. These are the oldest petroglyphs in the canyon, estimated to date as far back as about 6000 B.C. They are also some of the largest petroglyphs in Sego, with several figures standing as high as nine feet tall!
Compare and contrast the difference in style between the Fremont and Ute petroglyphs, and the much older Archaic people’s rock art. These petroglyphs are dominated by figures with hollow eyes, no arms and no legs. Visions of ancient aliens? Representations of religious significance? Or visions of their imaginations?
The Sego Canyon Petroglyphs are an impressive site of ancient Native American rock art, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They are well worth the detour to witness ancient etchings of life long ago within these canyon walls. Just please do not touch the petroglyphs or otherwise deface them!
Examining an Historic Coal Mining Camp
Even further up in the canyon, beyond the ancient petroglyphs, exists more recent evidence of life lived and left behind within the Sego Canyon walls. It is the remains of a once robust, turn of the century coal mine and mining town, now turned ghost town.
In the early 1900’s, coal was discovered in Sego Canyon. As the coal mining efforts grew, so did the number of miners needed to extract the coal, and the little encampment of Sego grow into a small mining town. At its peak, Sego included a mercantile, hotel, boarding house, and more, in support of the nearby coal mine.
Eventually both the water supply and the demand for coal began to dry up, leading to Sego’s imminent future as a ghost town. By 1947, the mines had closed, and the town was abandoned to the elements, becoming the ghost town it now is.
Today, one can wander through the shell of the mercantile, walk along the perimeter of the collapsed boarding house, wander through midden heaps of refuse left behind in the exodus.
Remnants of life in this rugged back country remain as evidence of the coal miners who eeked out a living here. A clothing pole line still stands tall amidst the sage brush, though strings no longer stretch between the poles, and freshly washed clothes no longer dry here.
The rusted shell of an old vehicle sits forlornly along the dirt path, baking beneath the mid afternoon sun. Shards of pottery can be found strewn beneath the remains of miners’ camps.
Sego Canyon provides a window into what a miner’s life might have been like amidst the sage brush of Utah’s back country, and the struggles of a coal mining operation to keep pace with changing times. As the overall need for coal diminished, so did the usefulness of the Sego Canyon coal mines.
Where Is Sego Canyon, Utah?
Sego Canyon is located in eastern Utah, just beyond the small town of Thomson. To reach the canyon, take Exit 187 off I-70 and continue along State Highway 94 about three miles past Thomson. The petroglyphs are immediately visible once you have entered the canyon. The ghost town is further back about another mile or two along the narrow canyon road.
Plan two to four hours to explore both the petroglyphs and the mining ghost town. Please note that the road to the ghost town passes through private property. And please don’t leave behind anything but footprints nor take away any artifacts while exploring Sego Canyon!
Note: The last stretch to the Sego ghost town is along a narrow, rough dirt road, and a high clearance vehicle is recommended. Also beware of weather conditions as recent rains will turn the road into a muddy mess, making it more challenging to navigate.
Have You Been to Sego Canyon?
Oh what a road trip this has been! Sego Canyon was the last stop on our way back to Denver, and our flight home. It was a perfect ending on a road trip filled with adventure, exploration, and good old-fashioned family fun.
Have you been to Sego Canyon? What did you think? Did you find it worth the detour? Did you drive beyond the petroglyphs to the mining ghost town? Do share!
Catch the rest of the Series – Photos of A Family Road Trip Adventure:
- Road Tripping in Colorado and Utah – Photos of a Family Adventure
- Exploring Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, Colorado.
- A Fascinating Experience at Aztec Ruins National Monument, NM
- Welcome to The Iconic Four Corners Monument, USA!
- Mesa Verde National Park – Snapshots of an Amazing, Enlightening Experience
- Inside The Oak Tree House Cliff Dwelling, Mesa Verde National Park
- Inside Animus Forks – A Colorado Mining Ghost Town Experience
- A Day of Experiences in Canyon of the Ancients and Hovenweep National Monuments
- Hiking Into the Devil’s Garden – Arches National Park Utah
- 5 Favorite Moments – A Photo Journey Through Arches National Park
All photos by C.Biederman