The Petroglyphs of Nevada’s Grapevine Canyon


The Petroglyphs of Nevada’s Grapevine Canyon

By Burt Carey

Too hot to visit in summer, the cooler weather of fall and winter are perfectly suited for a trip to Grapevine Canyon, a Mojave Desert gem listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places because of its petroglyphs.

Nevada, historic places, petroglyphs, Grapevine Canyon, Mojave Desert, Spirit MountainGrapevine Canyon receives relatively few visitors each year due to its remote location in Clark County at the edge of the Bridge Canyon Wilderness Area near Laughlin, Nev. The canyon and its 700 petroglyphs begin at the 2,395-foot level on the south side of Spirit Mountain, so named because Native American tribes that once used the area believed it to be their spiritual birthplace.

No one knows who drew the petroglyphs in Grapevine Canyon, or exactly when they were drawn, but researchers believe Native Americans carved symbols of their lives and lifestyles into the rock faces beginning about 800 years ago.

What is known is that Native American tribes were drawn to the area because of its freshwater spring that still flows in non-drought years. Plants and animals thrive on the water, and apparently native peoples did too. Several cave-like shelters can be seen along the canyon’s walls. Lush plant growth in the canyon includes cottonwoods, arrowweed, canyon grape (hence the name Grapevine Canyon), rushes and cattails, all of which contrasts sharply with surrounding hillsides.

Bighorn sheep and other wildlife are known to use the area. In fact, many of the petroglyphs depict animals bearing a striking resemblance to bighorns.

While the canyon and Spirit Mountain are within the designated wilderness area, a parking lot is conveniently situated just one-quarter mile from the canyon’s entrance. It’s an easy walk. Visitors will start to see petroglyphs on the rock cliffs at either side of the canyon’s opening. Hiking into the canyon itself is moderate, requiring some climbing over large boulders.

Nevada, historic places, petroglyphs, Grapevine Canyon, Mojave Desert, Spirit Mountain

Spirit Mountain and the surrounding canyons are sacred grounds for the Yuman-speaking tribes of the lower Colorado River, including the Mohave, Hualapi, Yavapai, Havasupai, Quechan, Pai pai and Maricopa tribes. The mountain plays a prominent role in the religion and mythology of these peoples. The Mohave call the mountain Avikwame, while the Hualapis refer to it as Wikame.

According to the National Park Service, which oversees the canyon as part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the Native Americans’ creation story goes like this: At one time all people belonged to one tribe, but they began to quarrel. The Creator, Mutavela, settled the dispute by dividing the great land into four sections, the North peoples, the South peoples, the East peoples and the West peoples. The Mohave were the west people and occupied the land along the Colorado River from what is now Black Canyon to the Bill Williams River. The other groups moved north, south and east.

Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle

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