McDonald Creek Cultural Resource Management Area and Rock Art
McDonald Creek Cultural Resource Management Area is located within the Rabbit Valley portion of the NCA. The special “Cultural Reosurce Management Area” designation was applied to protect the fragile prehistoric archaeological sites found here. You will not find trails or signs pointing you to the locations of the rock art; instead, we invite you to explore the area with an attitude of reverence and respect for this special place, and for the people who lived here and the traditions they lived by.
The Fremont Indians chose McDonald Creek because it provided them with everything they needed. The cliffs provided shelter and the creek provided water. Look around you and you'll find a Fremont banquet table. An abundance of berries are available from the fragrant barberry, serviceberry and skunkberry bushes. Pigweed, the first plant to green in the spring, provides seeds that may have been used for flours or in soups. Other favorites include pinyon nuts, yucca, and prickly pear cactus. The variety of plants were attractive to mice, rabbit, deer, and desert bighorn sheep that were also part of the Fremont diet.
The first rock art panel is about 100 yards down the stream bed from the parking area on the west facing canyon wall. Throughout the rest of McDonald Canyon, experience the canyon as an explorer. Imagine where you might have found shelter from the elements if you were a Fremont Indian 1,000 years ago. Those places, such as cliff or rock overhangs, are the best places to look for traces of rock art.
These special sites offer unique opportunities to reflect on the relationship of people to the land, and your own connections to this special landscape today. All of the sites within this area are very fragile. Use your binoculars to closely examine rock art, rather than walking to it. Resist the temptation to touch them; introduction of even very minor substances such as the oil on your hands can degrade these ancient images. Some of the panels have been irreparably damaged with modern-day etchings and graffiti; each time the surface is changed, it influences the way water flows down the surface, affecting the erosion rates of the rock “canvas” upon which these images are painted or etched. Please be a good steward of this important part of human history by leaving these images as you found them.
Hiking in McDonald Creek Cultural Resource Management Area
ELEVATION CHANGE: 0 overall, with some undulations (4,500')
LOCATION: 33 miles west of Grand Junction
LENGTH: 3 miles round trip
APPROXIMATE TIME TO COMPLETE: 3 hours
SEASON: March - November
DRINKING WATER: None. Pack in 1 gallon per person, per day.
RESTRICTIONS: To protect these fragile resources, camping, fires, motorized vehicles, and bikes are not allowed within the McDonald Creek Cultural Resource Area
DIRECTIONS: A high-clearance vehicle is recommended to get to the trailhead. From Grand Junction, follow I-70 west about 30 miles to the Rabbit Valley exit (Exit #2). Turn left (south) at the stop sign, cross over the freeway and a cattle guard. Stay on the main road going straight (southwest) for about 2.5 miles. Drive with caution, the road is very narrow in several places and has a couple of blind corners. The turn into the canyon is marked by a very large rock which looks like a gumdrop. When you reach this rock, you'll turn left (east) onto another two-track road which follows the stream bed for about 0.3 miles to a parking area.