LOCATION: 33 miles west of Grand Junction
LENGTH: 3 miles round trip
APPROXIMATE TIME TO COMPLETE: 3 hours
SEASON: March - November
DRINKING WATER: None. Plan to pack in 1 gallon per person, per day.
CAMPING: Camping and fires are prohibited within the McDonald Creek Cultural Resource Area
DIRECTIONS: 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. NOTE: No motorized vehicles or bikes are permitted beyond this point. CAUTION: A high-clearance vehicle is recommended to get to the trailhead.
McDonald Creek Cultural Resource Management Area is part of Rabbit Valley, located in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area (NCA). It was designated by the Bureau of Land Management to protect both the fragile, prehistoric archaeological sites found here and the canyon which is their home. You will not find trails here or signs pointing you to the locations of the rock art. At McDonald Creek, we want you to experience the canyon just as it was when native Americans lived here and to be an explorer feeling the excitement of discovering a remnant of your past. As you travel down the canyon, please walk in the stream bed as much as possible. This will prevent the development of trails and let future visitors feel like the first explorer in the canyon.
The Fremont Indians chose McDonald Creek because it provided them with everything they needed to survive. The cliffs provided shelter and the creek provided water for them and the plants they ate. Look around you and you'll find a Fremont banquet table. An abundance of berries are available from the fragment barberry, serviceberry and skunkberry bushes. Pigweed, the first to green in the spring, provides seeds that may have been used for flours or in soups. Other favorites include pinyon nuts, the yucca, and prickly pear cactus. The variety of plants were attractive to mice, rabbit, deer, and desert bighorn sheep who were also part of the Fremont diet.
CLUES FOR FINDING THE ROCK ART: As you search for sites and rock art, 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. The sites and rock are very fragile. resist the temptation to touch them. The oil in your hands can destroy them or can cause the soft sandstone to crumble. The first rock art panel is about 100 yards down the stream bed from the parking area on the west facing canyon wall. Look up about 15 feet and you will see red painted figures (pictographs). There are a total of four panels from the first one down to the mouth of McDonald Creek (about 1.5 miles). Two of the panels are just below the drop off (about 0.5 miles). On the east side of the canyon is a pecked panel (petroglyphs) and some historic names and dates, and on the west side is a painted panel. The last panel is high on the wall in a large alcove near the mouth of the creek. Do not climb the rock ledge below the panel. It is very unstable and any attempt to climb it could result in damage to you and the rock art.