Here Kitty, Kitty: Lyman State Park, AZ… The Backroad Series— Highway 191

Here kitty, kitty, kitty. I was amused by this petroglyph of what appears to be a cougar running at Lyman State Park in Arizona. Other petroglyphs of cougars that Peggy and I have seen in the Southwest often have their tails over their backs.

We had started our backroad exploration of Highway 191 at Arches National Park in Utah and would wrap it up at Lyman State Park in Arizona. The two parks made nice bookends. I’d been by the park twice and considered stopping both times but thoughts of the Rocky Mountains looming ahead had kept me moving. The first time I was on my bicycle and planned to do a hundred mile trip across the range the next day. This time it was getting late and Peggy and I were tired from a long day of driving. We were lucky to get a space.

We went out for a walk as the sun was setting. The comic-appearing rock face on the left caught my attention. The nose was hard to ignore!

Our evening walk had taken us past a sign announcing a petroglyph trail, a happy surprise. Peggy and I have visited a number of petroglyph sites throughout the Southwest, many of which I have blogged about. We hadn’t realized that Lyman State Park also features the ancient rock art. We made a quick trip up the trail and vowed to return in the morning. Both the Anasazi and the Hopi had made their homes along the Little Colorado River, which was now damned up forming Lyman Lake. The petroglyphs were found in the rocks above the river. The Hopi believe they entered this world from another world near where the Little Colorado enters the Colorado River.

A sign placed by the park interpreted this rock art. The wiggly line represents the Water Serpent the Hopi would ask for water when water was scarce. Obviously they found it in the Little Colorado, which meant they could settle in the area. The guy on the right is jumping up and down holding corn they were able to grow. Or maybe he’s excited about his companion having a baby. You can see it hanging down. The umbilical cord hasn’t been cut yet. I’d be jumping up and down too. The wildlife looking on may symbolize the availability of game for hunting.
Behold the turtle who only makes progress when it sticks its neck out. At least, I think it’s a turtle. I also admired the lichen on the right.
A pair of very long snakes? Or at least their trail. Have you ever seen a snake trail crossing a dirt road?
There was also an interpretation sign for this. The thick line in the middle was apparently a migration route. Off to the left are snakes. The guy on the right may be dead since that is how death is sometimes shown in petroglyphs. I wonder if the snakes got him. Or Kitty, which was just to the left.
Land use planning? A sign suggested that this was a map that showed the various farms or settlements along the Little Colorado.
Another example of a petroglyph map.
Who knows?
My interpretation here is of a bear print with lots of sharp claws…

There’s much more to Lyman State Park than petroglyphs. For one, the lake is apparently a popular boating lake. None were there at the time, which pleased us given the likely noise. We wandered around and took in the sights

What the…? How’d you like to come home to this?
Hungry swallow chicks. 🙂
Who lives here? It’s a spider. I didn’t shove my finger down the hole.
Peggy made her way along the Petroglyph Trail.
Which overlooked the lake.
And featured this tree…
And more rocks.
I’ll conclude with this attractive peninsula jutting out onto the lake.


Blog-a-Book Monday: It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me… I conclude the Sierra Trek story with the greatest surprise of all.

Blog-a-Book Wednesday: The Bush Devil Ate Sam… I contemplate the wandering ways of my ancestors as a factor in my decision to join the Peace Corps. I’ve often been jealous of these early mountain men who travelled with the likes of Daniel Boone. But not Uncle Bill. He had his head cut off by a tomahawk and rolled down a hill…

19 thoughts on “Here Kitty, Kitty: Lyman State Park, AZ… The Backroad Series— Highway 191

  1. Have I ever seen a snake crossing a dirt road? I sure have. The first one I saw was a python, in Liberia. We were on the way to ZorZor, up on the Guinea border, and that snake was long enough that its head was on one side of the road and its tail on the other. Our driver refused to go on until the snake had passed because, as you know, a python can wrap itself around a vehicle and throw it in the bush. Truth.

    • For true? As my kids used to say. 🙂 They drained the lake next to our house trying to get the python that lived in it! Unsuccessfully. I never saw a python, but I certainly saw plenty of other snakes! “All very poisonous,” according to the Liberians. I took their word for it. –Curt

    • Absolutely, Ingrid. It is one of the best campgrounds we have found in Arizona. It was quiet when we were there. It might get noisy when there is enough water in the lake for power boats. –Curt

    • It’s so hard to break free from the present when it is screaming at you, Andrew. But I find I can almost do it when I am out wandering around among petroglyphs, or nature, or another culture. While interpreting rock art is fraught with challenges, it is hard not to note the humanity behind what created it. Good comment. Thanks. –Curt

    • A long time for some of them I’m sure, Gerard. And a good observation about people expressing their feelings, and in trying to get a handle on the magic that they assumed controlled their lives. –Curt

  2. I agree with you on the bear’s paw and the turtle. Those seem clear. I am dubious about all the identical-seeming squiggle lines that apparently have myriad meanings. Snakes, migration paths, maps, crop rows, rays of the sun, creeks, walking sticks, ripples in sand, or the hair of a goddess – I think it’s all speculation. But it’s irresistible to keep from guessing what is being portrayed. I talked on Saturday with a Cherokee friend of mine who does professional work with pictographs. There are some near here with people apparently running, above parallel squiggle lines. It is my friend’s thought that the lines may represent an earthquake.

    • Always open to interpretation, Crystal. I have several books at home that provide some insight, but insight is usually, the most you can hope for without the help of Native Americans who have historical or cultural knowledge. And from what I’ve read, much of it is beyond even that access. Hard to tell what someone was thinking of 3000 years ago. 🙂 There seems to be some agreement about the mapping of farmlands and villages. Or, at least, I have seen that suggested at a number of sites. Anyway, I would love to be able to get into the minds of early peoples to see what they were thinking. The cougar really did look like a cougar running to me. I looked at photos of a Cheetah running the other day and the leg movement was the same, for whatever that proves. My experience with snake petroglyphs is that they usually have a head. 🙂 I’ve seen discussions lately that take umbrage at the words “rock art.” with the emphasis being on the petroglyphs being sacred and not art. What’s your take on that? –Curt

      • I think that may be an overly sensitive reaction. The word “art” is respectfully applied to cases in which the work was done fully in a spiritual sense. Some artists of faith today believe that they do their work as a form of worship and honoring their god. It must be much the same, yes?

      • I think so, Crystal. I also think of the great art of the Middle Ages and renaissance that was inspired by religion. It certainly meets all of the requirements of being art while at the same time being primarily inspired (and paid for) by religion.

  3. what wonderful petroglyphs Curt! I think your guesss are pretty good on what you found.
    What a gem Lyman State Park is with such beautiful vistas and rocks. You got some great shots.
    You sure didn’t disappoint your family with your trave; bug and I’m sure have made them proud and I imagaine on pins and needles sometimes. Rich experiences!!!! 💖. So much in our own backyard! 💖

    • Thanks, Cindy! I am absolutely fascinated with petroglyphs and wish I could time travel back to when they were made so I could really understand the message they were trying to get across.
      My bother was just like me when it came to wandering, only more so. He liked to describe himself as a homeless man with a pickup truck and a bank account.
      My sister is 100% stay at home. She was on pins and needles a lot. Our kids are proud of us. –Curt

      • They are so fascinating and their stories so rich. I too would love to know. It’s such a gift that they are still inscribed in those rocks with some secrets know. And others imagined. Oh your poor parents and sister.. 😂 Double trouble. Your brothers version makes a lot of sense with a bank a account handy.
        I bet your kids are proud and now they can give you the hair raising. 😂

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