Exploring the Earth and Sky of the West

Red Tank Draw Petroglyphs

Out of all of the numerous ruin and rock art sites in the Sedona area, Red Tank Draw is one of the least known, most remote, and difficult to find sites.  Red Tank Draw is a tributary canyon of Wet Beaver Creek about a half hour’s drive south of Sedona.   The wash that runs along the bottom of Red Tank Draw, which is bone dry for probably 90% or more out of any given year, today looked like this:

Unseasonably warm temperatures combines with lots of snowpack to the north near Flagstaff meant that the normally dry stream bed was a veritable raging river today.  Given that the petroglyphs are located along both the east and west sides of the draw, the high water level made things difficult to say the least.  Several dirt roads lead right up to the western rim of the draw but we were unable to find a single crossing point along about a 2 mile stretch of the draw. We briefly considered simply wading across the stream but given that the water was moving surprisingly swiftly and any crossing would have involved wading through waist deep water, we decided this was probably a bad idea.

Fortunately for us, the largest and most spectacular panel is located on the side of the creek that was accessible to us.  After several hours of bushwhacking our way in and out of the draw, we came across a finally found a fairly well defined path that led us on a short scramble down into the draw and spit us out right in front of the petroglyphs.  The main panel is located at the base of a large and impressive rockfall.  The rockfall must have occurred relatively recently since many of the petroglyphs are actually located on huge blocks of sandstone that have clearly fallen from the cliffs above.  Several additional Volkswagen sized angular boulders are precariously perched on the cliffs above the petroglyph panel and look as though a strong breeze would send them crashing down as well.

Overall, the petroglyphs are extremely well preserved.  Unfortunately, there have been problem with vandalism at this site in the past, but surprisingly there is actually a Forest Service register at the base of the cliff.  The sheer size of some of the carvings is what impressed me most.  At the upper left of the main panel is an enormous elk petroglyph, more than two feet from tail to antler tip.  Supposedly there are a number of other panels scattered along the draw nearby but we were not able to access any others due to the high water level in the creek.

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5 responses

  1. Thomas Kavenaugh

    Thank you, tracking down and photographing petroglyphs, pictographs and geoglyphs is what we do for fun in our retirement years along with the hiking. From Northern California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico our searches have taken us to beautiful places with incredible artwork. This looks like an excellent site in the new year. Next week though it is the Rock Art Ranch. Feel free to contact us, maybe we know of some places you might be interested in.

    December 5, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    • Thanks for stopping by! Do you know of any good sites in Northern Colorado? That’s where I’m based now…

      December 6, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      • Thomas Kavenaugh

        We’ve been to Mellon or Melon caves a few miles on the west side of Rangely, Colorado, just your side of the border with Ut. A few nice pictographs but some have been chalked. But from Rangely South there are a number of sites along Pintado Canyon, including the largest Kokapell I’ve seen. Northern Colorado is on our periphery I’m afraid. There was a museum in Rangely that had maps of these Pintado sites if I remember correctly. I think you can find both on the internet. The Mellon Caves you kind of have to look for as you are driving, If you try Pintado keep a look out for a couple of mushroom rocks on the west side of the road, we spotted a fence up against the canyon walls that protected pictographs. We’ve gotten pretty good at finding unpublished sites.

        December 6, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      • Great, I’ll have to check it out next time I’m in the area. Thanks for the advice!

        December 7, 2014 at 10:34 am

  2. Lee

    I live just south of Red Tank Wash in the Lake Montezuma area, and I’ve been exploring it quite a bit lately.
    It can be difficult to negotiate with the high water and it does seem remote when you are far from your vehicle, but there are many access points where you can drive close.

    Red Tank Wash drains Rarick Canyon and Mullican Canyon up by the Stoneman Lake Interstate exit. Hence all the water in mid winter and spring from snow melt.
    Blue Grade road parallels Red Tank Wash north, so access from that road is an option.
    I haven’t yet found any rock art south of the FR618 paved road, but I still have not explored the southernmost reaches of the draw, like just north of Montezuma Well and the old Soda Springs Ranch.

    When I go to the parking area above the big “newspaper” panel, I see a few cars parked there, but half of the people I talk to don’t have a clue where to go, or are unwilling to travel down the canyon where there are no trails.
    The beauty and serenity of Red Tank Draw/Wash awe me every time I go.

    February 7, 2023 at 8:15 am

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