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Sedona Petroglyphs: Rock Art at Red Tank Draw Near Sedona Arizona

The panel of petroglyphs is hidden from view, a large juniper obscuring the boulder located just before a narrow one-lane bridge that crosses Red Tank Draw. The petroglyphs are shallow and difficult to make out or distinguish from naturally occurring markings on the lichen-covered rock. But a few moments of patient study pays off and the figures and symbols emerge.

Often referred to as “rock art,” there are two categories of application: petroglyphs and pictographs. Petroglyphs, also commonly shortened to “glyphs,” are pecked or chiseled into the rock; pictographs are painted onto the rock. Both types of rock art have lasted centuries after their application.

Rock petroglyphs at Red Tank Draw near Sedona, ArizonaThe glyphs at the bridge include two distinctive human-like forms and vertical wavy lines. While from a strictly scientific point of view, interpretation of petroglyphs and pictographs is speculation at best (and therefore, not scientific), modern Puebloan cultures such as the Hopi and Zuni believe the symbols were left behind by ancestral tribes and clans and the meaning of the symbols passed down through oral tradition.

Pool At Red Tank Draw Near Sedona ArizonaTheories about the meaning, age, and styles of rock art found throughout the Southwest abound. At times interpretation of the symbols can be logically explained, as with the calendar panel found at the V-Bar-V Heritage Site located further down the road. Other times, the rock art defies explanation and remains a desert mystery.

Above: Red Tank Draw

LichenCoveredBouldar 250wRed Tank Draw is a narrow canyon located north of the bridge; additional petroglyphs can be found further upstream. The panel at the bridge is located approximately 12 miles from Sedona. Take Hwy. 179 to I-17 and continue under the freeway on Route 618. The panel is just shy of one mile from the 4-way stop sign.

A turnout is located on the right side of the road and an unmarked path leads to the boulder. It is important not to touch the petroglyphs, as oils on fingers and hands are considered damaging to the glyphs.

Article and photographs by Terree Duncan.


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