Cryptobiotic soil crusts are an important part of arid and semi-arid ecosystems throughout the world, including those in Canyonlands, NP. Crypto means hidden, while biota means life. Hence these crusts are composed primarily of very small organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Well-developed cryptobiotic soil crust is often much darker (black) than the soil it is on top of. The extent of crust development depends on soil structure, texture, and chemistry as well as elevation and microclimate.
Petroglyphs are fragile, non-renewable cultural resources that, once damaged, can never be repaired nor replaced. We ask for your assistance in preserving this rich cultural landscape for future generations.
By remembering and following the rules listed here, you can help preserve these unique and fragile cultural resources that are part of our nation’s heritage.
Avoid Touching the Petroglyphs
Look and observe, but DO NOT TOUCH! Preserve petroglyphs by not touching them in any way. Even a small amount of the oils from our hands can darken petroglyphs making them impossible to see.
Stay on the Trails
For your own safety and the preservation of the petroglyphs, stay on designated trails at all times. Climbing on the boulders can dislodge loose stones causing damage to the petroglyph boulders. Falling rocks can hurt people, or may scratch the carved and pecked images causing unintentional damage. Do not re-arrange the rocks or move/remove artifacts from where you find them. The petroglyphs are important individually and in relation to each other. For someone to fully appreciate a site, the petroglyphs and their surroundings should be left undisturbed.
Photography and Sketching is Allowed
Do not introduce any foreign substance to enhance the carved and pecked images for photographic or drawing purposes. Altering, defacing, or damaging the petroglyphs is against the law — even if the damage is unintentional.
Re-pecking or re-painting does not restore a petroglyph or pictograph, it destroys the original. DO NOT add your own marks to the images. The introduction of graffiti destroys the petroglyphs and is disrespectful to contemporary Native Americans and their ancestors.
Where dogs are allowed, keep them on a leash and clean up after them. Animals may damage archeological sites (including petroglyph sites) by digging, urinating and defecating on them. Animals can destroy fragile cultural resources.
If you happen to come across sherds (broken pottery) or lithics (flakes of stone tools), leave them where you see them. Once they are moved or removed, a piece of the past is forever lost.
All archaeological and historic Petroglyph sites are protected by a number of laws and regulations including the Antiquities Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. These and other laws prohibit digging, removing artifacts, damaging and defacing archaeological resources in national parks, and provide felony and/or misdemeanor prosecution with imprisonment up to ten years and fines up to $100,000.
If you see people vandalizing or disturbing archeological sites or petroglyphs, please report it as soon as possible by informing us at the Needles Outpost Store and calling BLM Law Enforcement at 435-259-2131 or 800-722-3998.