The morning dawned beautiful and clear, just right for a trek to see the wonders of our area! We left the Zion’s Bank Parking lot with about 25 people to drive to Cedar City, then out the Minersville road to the Parowan Gap turn-off.
The Gap is a natural cut in the mountain and contains petroglyphs from several different tribes of Indians. We were able to examine what ancient people had left behind. We learned of native peoples, Spanish explorers, 19th Century pioneers and learned about the words (petroglyphs)left behind by the natives. The Gap is truly a remarkable place. As we listened to Nancy Dalton tell us about the history of this natural site, where you could see the “journal” of those who had lived here before, is was though we had been transported back in time to learn of the knowledge these ancient people had of times and seasons and life. As described by the literature given us, “the Gap is believed to house one of the most concentrated collections of petroglyphs in the West, with over 90 panels and 1,500 figures, some possible dating back almost 5,000 years. With so many petroglyphs present, the Parowan Gap could be considered one of the world’s largest journals.”
In 1849, when the Parley P. Pratt expedition, explored the area for new settlements, and recorded the Gap in their journals, several members of the party believed the Gap to be the place the Ute leader, Chief Wakara deemed as “God’s Own House,” indicating to Mormon settlers that Parowan Gap was considered an American Indian sacred Site.
According to Arthur Richards, a Paiute Elder, “long ago the Gap was a beautiful place where water ran through it from the mountains. The Indian people, the first settlers, used the Gap as a main thoroughfare as they traveled back and forth from East to West.
“Some of the people stopped and stayed at the Gap for a period of time. As they did, they left writings on the rocks. The area became a sacred site because of the visiting that took place…small lakes with big fish were present in the Gap area.” Richards recounted a legend of two brothers who went swimming, one was eaten by a fish. The other brother took a knife and cut the fish open so his captured brother could get out. He said that “theland was once covered by water. People survived by climbing up the rocks, so “The Creator” turned them into big black ants. Even today the big black ants still get ‘crazy and climb up on the rocks when it rains.'”
Some of the panels we talked about were:
THE ZIPPER: It is the most notable of the geometric forms and generally the first glyph you see along the main panel just west of the parking lot. “In 1940, a Paiute Tribal member told newspaper editor Frank Beckwith that the Zipper petroglyph illustrates a map of travels. Also, local historian Alva Matheson was told that when the Paiute tribe was ready to leave the gap they sent out a scouting party. On their return, the scouts drew a map symbolizing the time taken and their journey path depicted by the Zipper Glyph
More modern understanding of the “Zipper Glyph” is thought to serve as a solar calendar. Researchers Morris and Norman believe that the repetitive elements, or tick marks, represent something else; like a day, or month or even a year.
Early in their research these scientists placed an outline of the zipper glyph on a topographical map. They found that the outline conformed to the contours of the Gap and its surrounding mountain features. Based on this new information and using solar engineering technology, the team discovered a series of cairns (rock monuments) along the valley and foothills on both sides of the Gap opening. Each of these cairns is in direct alignment with the Gap opening.
These researchers believe that, depending on the time of the year, one can observe the rising and setting of the sun through the middle of the Gap opening. The tick marks, which make glyph look like a zipper, could be interpreted as being individual day markers. Like a map, you can follow the count down from summer to harvest time, back through fall, up to winter and on to spring in time for planting.
The two dangling antenna-like lines at the bottom of the Zipper indicate two rock cairns where one can stand to watch the Summer Solstice. The sun gracefully set down in the middle of the Gap opening.”
As you move into the depths of the Gap, turn and face the east, you may notice that the Gap Narrows has an overseer – Tovoots, pronounced (Too-Vuts.) On the southeast side of the Gap, there is an outcropping in the shape of a human profile with his mouth open. While standing inside the Gap it’s possible to watch the morning sun rise over the horizon and move across the sky, enter and pass through the mouth However, only on two days in November will you see the sun enter the mouth and sit still until all of a sudden the profule swallows the sun. This action could be interpreted as a sign to tell people that the summer sun has gone into its winter home and that cold harsh weather is approaching. Then again in March, the profile will spit out the morning sun, indicating that the summer sun has come out of its winter home and warmer weather is coming.
PAROWAN HERITAGE PARK:
There were so many more things we learned, but we must move on. From the Gap we went to the Parowan Heritage Park situated on the South side of town. The city has done a marvelous job seeing that it is well manicured. There are several instructive monuments at the park, one of Parley P. Pratt and another of Paulina Eliza Phelps Lyman. There are two circular monuments that tell with metal and stone the history of the pioneers as they came to Parowan. They also have a monument with a cannon honoring the 1st pioneers to Southern Utah. The pictures of this park and these monuments are below.
PAROWAN ROCK CHURCH & JESSE N. SMITH HOME MUSEUMS:
From the park we split up, and went to the Parowan Rock Church that is now owned by the city, and is an historic museum, and the Jesse Smith Home that is also an historic museum. There is so much history there.
We would like to extend our special thanks to Dan Zaleski who planned and executed this Trek. It was wonderful. We have been to the Gap and Parowan on treks before, but just passing through, and on this trek we learned so much. Thanks also go to Dan’s Brother Tom and his wife, who manage the museum.