Comb Ridge is a long (almost 50 miles), high rock ridge running in a north – south direction just west of Bluff. The ridge makes a physical barrier for travel from east to west in this part of Utah. The west side of the ridge is a vertical wall hundreds of feet high. But the east side of the ridge is less steep and full of deep canyons. Local people say that you can hike into almost any of these canyons and locate the remains of Ancient Puebloan people. Butler Wash Road is a well-maintained dirt road that runs along the east side of the ridge providing access to many of the canyons. One day this week we drove up Butler Wash Road to hike into three of the canyons with known ruins.
DOUBLE STACK RUINS (3.9 miles north up Butler Wash Road/ 1.5 mile round trip hike)
The first is a ruin called Double Stack. The ruins are named that because there are two sets of ruins; one set on a ridge high on the side of the rock wall and the other set on a lower ridge directly below the first set. There is no way to get to the high ruins but a trail leads right into the lower ones.
From what we could see, the high ruins looked in excellent shape while the low ruins were showing signs of decay. This is most likely due to the higher ruins being more under cover than those below.
Metates (indentations in the stone made by grinding grain) provided evidence of life in the canyon.
It appears that these were very early Puebloans as their building skills were a bit crude compared to many ruins we have visited.
MONARCH CAVE RUINS (7 miles up the Butler Wash Road/3 mile hike round trip)
We returned to the Jeep and drove a few miles to the north for a visit to the Monarch Cave Ruins. These ruins are tucked in the rocks at the end of a canyon. Just south of the ruins there appears to be what would be a pretty decent waterfall during heavy rains. At the bottom of the canyon below the ruins is a fairly consistently running spring.
Apparently a few years ago you could climb into the main ruins in the above photo, but today there is a chain blocking the way with a sign that says part of the ruins has become unstable.
Along the ledge running east from the ruins is extensive evidence of life. Large boulders along the ledge are filled with metates.
Many examples of pictographs are on the walls along the ledge.
Some of the drawings are very high up on the walls, leading us to conclude that there must have been structures here allowing access so high up. In the photo below there is a drawing up high over Pam’s head.
Below is a close-up of the rather elaborate pictograph.
SPLIT LEVEL RUINS (9.6 miles up the Butler Wash Road/3 mile round trip hike)
The third site we visited was the Split Level Ruins (also called Long Hands or Long Fingers Ruins). This site was a bit tricky to find as the trail splits a few times and recent rains have obscured some of the trail.
But we managed to keep on the correct path following our written directions and photo clues and after about a mile and a half came to the ruins.
The structures here are similar to those found in the other ruins. But there are some great examples of metates (grinding areas) and art work.
In the photo below are some more grinding areas with some figures etched into the rock. Our speculation is that the etched figures were made by a child to keep him/herself busy while Mom worked on the grinding chore.
There were many slits in the rocks believed to be made in the process of forming tools from animal bones.
The photo below shows why some call this the Long Hands/Long Fingers Ruins. The extended fingers show some creativity on the part of the “artist.”
It is really interesting to visit these small ruins hidden deep in the canyons of Comb Ridge and imagine all the activity that took place a 1000 years ago. There are many more we would like to visit, but they will have to wait for another time. Now it’s time to head north to Moab.
More on that later . . .