Kiabab Forest Petroglyphs
Kiabab National Forest

Williams, Arizona

April 14th, 2001

In our travels, in addition to finding those famous stories that everyone is interested in, we sometimes come upon a trivial point of history which perks our curiosity. Such was the case in Williams, Arizona. We were there to do a story on the "great Grand Canyon Train" which is next weeks entry. In talking with some locals, we heard about a seldom visited point out in the Kiabab National Forest not far away. We were told of a small horseshoe canyon a mile or so back in the woods where one could find petroglyphs that dated back thousands of years. "No one goes there much any more" the old timer had told us, as he explained how his grandfather would take him out there and tell him the old Indian stories. The next warm sunny day, armed with detailed instructions as to how to find the trail head, we headed out. Soon enough we found ourselves wandering down a country lane along the side of rolling hills. At the point designated by our newly found friend, we found a small parking lot and a lone sign in standard Federal brown color telling us that we had found the trail head. There was not another car to be found in the lot or on the road. Packed with water, snacks, and cameras, we started our trek back through the woods, following a not so warn path in the general direction that our advisor had suggested. The woods were predominantly tall pines with little or no underbrush. Although dense in places, often we could see for several hundred yards along the sides of cliffs and over hills. The trail meandered, twisting this way and that as it yielded to the lay of the land. There was no one around but us. From time to time a forest creature could be spotted lounging in the sun or darting for cover to avoid some perceived danger. Periodically the pines would give way to groves of white birch which grew around standing pools in the otherwise babbling brook that was following our same course. Sometimes we just sat for a while and absorbed the serenity of the forest. How quiet and still life was without the human influence. In time we came upon the only other man made object encountered, another brown federal sign announcing our arrival at the canyon. The Keyhole Sink, as it's called was created when an ancient lava flow deposited the rocks of this box canyon. Over time, water carved through the rock, creating the keyhole-shaped canyon that we saw today. A pool of water trapped at the cliff bottom supported a variety of plants and attracted wildlife. It was this structure and the available water that attracted a yet unidentified Indian tribe to take up stationary hunting along the cliff walls. About a thousand years ago prehistoric Indians left their mark on these rock walls. Petroglyphs (carved drawings) suggest that hunting was important. One dramatic drawing shows a deer herd entering the Canyon. We entered the canyon and wandered around for an hour or so without finding any of the mysterious carvings. Moving slowly from one side to the other we checked under rocks, in crevasses, and behind boulders, still nothing. We finally stood in the middle looking over the small pond and there in plain sight, on the far wall were the historical marks we had been seeking. They were not much in the art department, only a few lines and circles, yet they had been made by idle Indians waiting for the arrival of deer over a thousand years ago. Could one consider it a form of ancient graffiti? I don't know. We walked back to a setting sun with long shadows playing dancing games with the leaves, as they cast their frolicking shapes along the path. It was a wonderfully quite peaceful walk, and one I will take often in my mind, in the still of the night after a hectic day of sightseeing.

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