Sand Island Petroglyphs

The roadside Sand Island Petroglyphs Panel is a great stopping point on your way to and from other Bears Ears area destinations. The panel boasts centuries of rock art from 300 to 3,000 years old. The petroglyph panel is on the National Register of Historic Places and now a part of Bears Ears National Monument.

Archeologists believe this place along the river held special significance for ancient peoples by the amount (over 100 yards) and the time span of the rock art. Petroglyphs from the Archaic era, known as Glen Canyon Linear, can also be identified. Archeologists tell us these rock art panels were public and intended to be seen by everyone. Perhaps this area along the river was once a gathering place.

Most of the petroglyphs are from the early Basketmaker through Pueblo III eras, which range in time from 2500 to 800 years old. The panel also has more recent Ute and Navajo rock art, which you can identify by their brighter carvings and location lower on the wall.

Anyone can visit the Sand Island Petroglyphs.  The main petroglyph panel is located near the Sand Island Campground which has restrooms, camping, a seasonal ranger station, a boat launch and seasonal drinking water. Please be prepared to pack in your own water and pack out trash. The panel is of cultural significance to Native Americans.

As with any rock art panel, please Visit With Respect by refraining from touching rock art or adding your own.

General Information

Hours: Open year round

Fees: None

Directions: Head west on Highway 191 south for 4 miles and turn left at the sign for Sand Island. At the bottom of the hill, you will see another sign noting the Sand Island Petroglyph to the right. After turning right, drive 0.2 miles to the parking near a chain link fence. You can walk up a short path to more closely view the rock art panel.

Special Considerations: Please consider the many Native American connections this site holds. Honor past generations and future ones by visiting respectfully.  Please Visit With Respect.  Refrain from touching the rock art or adding your own.

Petroglyph Panel

Here are some of our favorite figures on the panel. How many can you find? What do you think the images represent?

Sand Island Glen Canyon Linear Rock Art

These are among the oldest petroglyphs on the panel and are in a style known as Glen Canyon Linear dating from Archaic times.

Sand Island Petroglyph Sheep Playing Flute

Sheep playing a flute.

Sand Island Petroglyph Figure with Headdress

Figure with a headress.

Sand-Island-Petroglyph San Juan Anthopomorph

Another figure with a headdress. Figures with the splayed hands are figures known as San Juan Anthropomorphs and are unique to the area.

Sand Island Petroglyph Kokopelli

Kokopelli. There are 5 Kokopellis on this panel. Can you find all 5?

Sand Island twin lobes and heads

Twin heads and twin lobes. Stories of twins are found in Native creation stories. Were Native Americans drawn to this area because of Bluff’s Twin Rocks and twin alcoves on the Navajo side of the river?

Sand Island Petroglyph Man on Horse

Man on a horse.

Sand Island Petroglyphs 1

The Spears.

Sand Island Campground

The campground features 23 campsites which are first-come, first-served and self-register at the site. Campsites are $15 per night. Sites accommodate up to eight people and two vehicles and have a picnic table and fire grate. Drinking water is usually available March through October. There are two group sites for large groups, which may be reserved on www.recreation.gov.

Nearby Attractions

While you’re at Sand Island, enjoy a picnic lunch at the nearby picnic areas along the banks of the San Juan River.  The Sand Island Boat Launch is a popular launch spot for rafters floating the San Juan River.

Sand Island is also in Bears Ears National Monument.  Nearby attractions include Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park, and Moki Dugway.

Interested in seeing more sites in Bears Ears?  Check out our Trail of the Ancients Scenic Drive through Bears Ears Country.

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Drive through Bears Ears Map