Paiute Cave


I found it! The Paiute Cave which has a few examples of ancient Indian art painted on the walls. This is actually an ice cave, which is a result of the volcanic activity in the area many, many years ago. Finding this little treasure was another little adventure, but at least I can chalk up completing one of this vacation's endeavors.

Up and at 'em early Sunday morning, 8/19. The closest, open restaurants are in Kanab. The one restaurant in Fredonia is closed Sundays. But having had a huge dinner there Saturday night, I wasn't hungry. I even forwent coffee this morning, as I wanted to head out early to try to find Paiute Cave, supposedly some 30 miles south of Colorado City, AZ.


Colorado City, AZ is about 33 miles west of Fredonia and is the home of that large Mormon polygamist sect. It's obvious there are a lot of very large families there by the size of their HUGE homes. Many of those homes are newer modern places. 


After locating the road I headed out on my quest. No route signs were to be seen, so I just kept headed on the main dirt route. It was dusty, as all of these roads are in the Arizona Strip. None are paved, to the best of my knowledge. At times it was level, well graded gravel, then hard pack sand, looser sand, but not deep, then there were wet places, some bits were rocky. Rain had been forecast, so this early morning drive was a good idea, I reasoned. I drove reasonably slow most of the way, had to make a detour around a still wet area in one place (where others had already broken the trail along side the road through a pasture. Some places showed evidence of water having flowed across the road, but that had not washed away the road. One spot, Clayhole Wash, had water in it, to one side, but the bottom was bedrock, so I was able to slow down and forge through the little bit of mud and up to the other side.


Gerre, in Utah had drawn me a map with landmarks to keep in mind. Free ranging cattle were not on the map, but I kept an eye out for them and slowed down until they moseyed out of the way. When I reached an exceptionally green area with many cattle grazing I was enchanted with the landscape. There were many flat top hills and large volcanic rocks and boulder fields all around, looking as though they had just been thrown helter-skelter. The road, a bit further before, finally displayed a route number…5, so I knew then that I was on the right road. The drawn map informed me to watch for a shack and then right there turn left and go 1.2 miles to the cave.


However, as i saw the shack ahead to the right, there was a huge impassable (in my Santa Fe at least) mud hole in the roadway with standing water. Fortunately, there was a detour to the right that led up over an embankment, around two large water ponds and then back down to the dry roadbed. Obviously this is often a wet spot that has prompted the little detour. On the other side, by the shack, sure enough, there was a two track road. It went up an incline and was composed of a lot of fist sized and larger lava rocks. I very slowly worked my way out into this open pasture land, not a house or person to be seen but cows and calves meandering along, stopping in the roadway to stare at me as I slowly approached them and then high-tailed it when I'd sound the horn. Looking back as I passed they seemed to be thinking, who the heck do you think YOU are? This is MY road!


So 1.2 miles in and I don't see much but lava rocks and boulders, the volcanic, flat top hills, covered in green grasses, and one smaller flat top volcanic hill. I recognized that smaller one from someone else's account of finding Paiute cave. So seeing that little hill, meant I had to be in the very, very near vicinity of the cave. The cave is not in a hill side but rather is a depression in the ground. From ground level the only tell tale signs are large lava boulders that appear as a pile. There were quite a few of those appearing over the vast open landscape. One, however, stood out and I could see there was a depression in the ground by the rocks. I grabbed my camera and tripod and walked to the area. Sure enough, this was the spot and upon even closer approach a cave mouth yawned open to reveal an ancient ice cave left over from the days of volcanic activity in the area.

I had to scramble over the pile of rocks in front of the cave opening and immediately saw several painted drawings above the entrance and, peering into the cave, I saw the images that are posted on the internet. Picking my way carefully over the haphazardly  jumbled rocks, I left the surface above and into the much cooler cave. The artwork was colored and in good shape. From the opening to the back wall is maybe 25-30 feet. As I more closely examined the figures, I had to wonder how they had stood exactly where I was then standing and were applying their masterpieces upon these ancient rock faces. If only we could determine if they were telling a story and what meanings they had. 

After doing my photo shoots, I could see the cave probably went deeper in to the earth. I was not about to go exploring though. That is for experienced spelunkers. 


Once out of the cave and back on higher ground, I saw ominous  black clouds, rumblings of thunder to the south and . It scared me to think I might be stranded on these unpaved backcountry roads, so I made haste and scrambled to get out of the area in case it startled to rain. The chances of that happening seemed very possible. Once over the detour, I sped along and only slowed down when the road way became precarious.  At times I was able to go in excess of 45 MPH. As luck would have it, my guardian angels kept me breezing along with the wind beneath my wings and with no dark clouds following behind me. Matter of fact it remained sunny ahead of me for the much quicker return to the paved highway. I saw the storm was moving in a more northeasterly direction. Once back on AZ 389, I headed East and that started taking me toward the darkening sky. 


I drove through and past my motel and headed the 7 more miles to Kanab to get lunch and talk with Gerre about my attempts to find Shaman's Gallery and the Paiute Cave. Gerre was at the tourist office, and was excited to hear about my adventures. I reviewed my maps with him and updated him on the Shaman's location. Gerre then told me about some other Indian paintings not far from Kanab but nearer to Colorado City, AZ, on the border. He directed me to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and the landmarks to help me find these places. As I left him and headed to find lunch it started to rain, and continued with some drizzle as I made my way to the sand dunes. It cleared up along the way as I then searched for the hidden location Gerre told me about. An old topless windmill sat just over the AZ state line, a fence, as he described and a range of mountains about a half mile in. 

Unfortunately, the search came up empty, though I scouted around and over several ridges in that wilderness. Overhead, thunder had begun to rumble and the dark clouds hung heavily above until they gently released a refreshing drizzle. Now, though getting  wet, I decided to give up the hunt and head to my car. But I could not see my car, from where I had wandered. Instincts told me it had to be in a certain direction, but I had gone much further back in the area than I imagined. Continuing to walk more northward along the slopes I finally saw my car. Walking across the sage brush covered landscape I climbed over the fence and followed a two track trail back to the road and my car. Walking in all the sand there is tiring, but the rain was no hinderance since it was so mild and the sun was starting to shine behind me. A rainbow ahead of me was beautiful to see and a perfect ending to another day's exploring.

IMG_3305 © Donald E. Kline 2012                                         Disqus Comments