40 Stories in 40 Weeks: The Shavano Valley Rock Art Site

By Alecia Phillips, Former BCRLT ED

Earlier in 2014, Black Canyon Regional Land Trust partnered with The Archeological Conservancy (TAC) to place the Shavano Valley Rock Art Site into conservation – an important step in the perpetual protection and management of this superb cultural site west of Montrose.

The 42-acre parcel contains extensive Archaic through historic Ute period (1000 BC – 1900 AD) petroglyphs, and has been at the center of western Colorado rock art research since the early 20th century. TAC expands on the significance of the site with the following description:

“The Shavano Valley Rock Art Site has been used to define rock art traditions and styles, and to interpret cultural continuity and change in the region. Twenty-six petroglyph panels have been identified across the lower portion of the site, including representations of the Bear Dance ceremony, the cosmic tree, and other religious iconography that continue to hold significance for Ute peoples today.

The upper mesa portion of the site contains numerous artifact concentrations that represent resource processing and stone tool-making localities. A well-worn access point through the cliff rim connects the lower and upper site portions, allowing passage from Shavano Valley up to Spring Creek Mesa since ancient times.

Together these localities indicate intensive use of the area over a long period of time by Archaic, proto-historic, and historic Ute peoples.”

The property was previously owned and managed by the Montrose Community Foundation, who created an interpretive trail and trail guide at the site. Wanting to ensure the site’s educational, research and traditional ceremonial potential was fully utilized, the property was sold to the Archeological Conservancy with grant assistance from the Colorado Historical Fund. A condition of the grant was to place the property in a conservation easement, thereby eliminating the risk of development or major disturbance to the land by any future owner of the property. Black Canyon Regional Land Trust was approached to hold the conservation easement, and is proud to be a partner in this collaborative community endeavor.

While TAC will retain much of the responsibility for stewarding the Shavano Rock Art Site, BCRLT will visit the property every year to make sure the terms of the conservation easement are upheld in perpetuity.

2020 Update: Colorado West Land Trust Program Manager, Julie Barger, has the opportunity to walk the site each spring for the annual monitoring visit. The Shavano Rock Art site is not open to the public, however, private tours can be arranged through the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose or by joining Colorado West Land Trust on one of the group tours each fall. This premier rock art site will remain in a natural state for generations to come, thanks to the conservation easement in place on the property.