Driving across the vast upper reaches of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in southeast Utah leaves one to ponder many things.
One of those things is an ancient pictograph that today is called the “Moki (or Moqui) Queen”, a figure painted on the back wall of a sandstone alcove in North Wash, between Hite Crossing and Hanksville, Utah.
How old is she (I mean “it”)? The Barrier Canyon Style is much older than the petroglyphs and pictographs of the Ancestral Puebloans (formerly called Anasazi). The Moki Queen should be at least 1,000 years old. Not bad for not being in a climate controlled museum, huh? Actually, the high desert canyon country of southern Utah is a museum due to its climate. Dry most of the time. Cold winters, too. A north facing stone alcove such as this one has an overhanging cliff that even keeps most of the rain and snow out. And whoever painted this must have know which local pigments would last the longest.
The Moki Queen is actually visible from Highway 95 near Hog Spring Rest Area. I’ve driven by “her” a number of times, and with the springtime leaves coming out I decided it was time to pause once again and pay my regards.
Since the people that painted her had no written language, no one can say for sure what this obviously carefully depicted image meant to them. A revered matriarch of a tribe or clan? A vision of a shaman?
Walking back into that alcove always gives me a sense of reverence. It’s a very isolated place, despite being near a state highway. So far I’ve always had the privilege of being there alone. The noise of other visitors would seem wrong to me. So I pay my respects, notice what I can that I didn’t last time, and wordlessly retreat to my vehicle back out on the highway not that far away.
But not without spending a bit of time in North Wash itself. The little stream still flowing with clear springtime runoff. The cottonwood trees leafing out with their bright green counterpoint to the red rock layers all around.
Photo location: North Wash, southeast Utah south of Hanksville.
© Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg