Exploring the Earth and Sky of the West

Posts tagged “Red Tank Draw

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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