Skip to main content

Comb Ridge Exploring the Ancients in Southeast Utah

02/24/2013 16:23, Published by Christina Freeman, Categories: In Print, Community


An in tact kiva in Southeast Utah.



Photography and Story by Tim Stone

Utah’s Comb Wash and San Juan River Valley are filled with public lands, dramatic vistas, temperate weather, ancient ruins and amazing petroglyphs. All of it is seldom visited – and these are lesser known destinations that Steamboat Springs residents might consider moving to the top of their spring getaway lists. When mud season strikes the ‘Boat, warm days and cool nights are the daily forecast in the southeastern corner of Utah.

For its infrequent visitors, the BLM still maintains several trailheads near the most important ruins, with various sidetracks leading to other places. Speculation remains that ancient Anasazi sites are left to be discovered, since they could be hidden in the 50 or so canyons along Comb Ridge. The surrounding area is public land and free camping is permitted anywhere in the vicinity. It is illegal to disturb ruins and campers are reminded to leave no trace in this delicate desert environment.

The drive from Steamboat to Comb Ridge takes about six hours and takes travelers past Arches National Park, through Moab and near the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The region is so scenic, yet so under-explored, that we almost hesitate to share its secrets.

“Dubbed by some ‘the eagles nest,’ this ruin is very hard to find and even more difficult to access. It sits nearly 300 feet up a very steep slab that is unclimbable, and 100 feet down from the rim. To get this shot I had to negotiate some nearly-missing Moki steps from the top -- and even those are one tooth over on Comb Ridge, which is testament to how hard it is to find.” — Tim Stone

A well-preserved pictograph of a pair of hands: The carbon used by this artist has weathered well, compared to other pigments used in this area to create pictographs.

One of the hundreds of perfect granaries that can be found in the Comb Ridge/ Butler Wash area, many of them still sporting the handprints of the mason who laid the stones in the mud. Here, the door plug is sitting right next to the opening. These plugs were custom-fitted and affixed with mud grout to keep the rodents out of the corn supply.

“This is the only intact kiva I have ever seen, let alone been inside. The original mud still coats the interior and the ceremonial niches and the firepit are still intact as well. The fire would be lit in the opening that can be seen just behind the ladder and the smoke would escape via a chimney on the the other side of this wall. We set out looking for this ruin and were not disappointed. It is a perfect example of the incredibly preserved ruins that can be found in the Comb Ridge area.” —Tim Stone

“The Wolfman panel is one of the most artistic sets of petroglyphs I have seen. The designs seems to have been done with a little more thought, detail and effort. Perhaps it is the reflection of one particular artist at the time? Unfortunately some of the work has been shot up or used for target practice in more recent times.” — Tim Stone

“I am carefully climbing out of the perfect kiva. You have to be extremely careful not to touch anything. While most kiva ruins look more like holes in the ground, the deep undercut at this ruin has preserved even corncobs that have been laying around for millenia.” — Tim Stone

Tim Stone is a local architect and photographer in Steamboat Springs. He can be found wandering in places like Butler Wash, Grand Gulch, or floating the Grand Canyon in mud season.



Steamboat Steamboat Magazine Steamboat Springs travel adventure comb wash sand juan river valley petroglyphs southeastern utah moki steps butler wash kiva wolfman panel the eagles nest


  • Back for its fourth year Tri The Boat is better than ever with some great course changes includin...


  • Amazing Race

    06/24/2017
    09:00AM — 01:00PM

    Join Partners in Routt County for their signature fundraising event, a community-wide Amazing Rac...


  • Yoga and Classical Music

    06/24/2017
    09:00AM

    Speakers in the Strings Park will broadcast the classical rehearsals going on inside the Pavilion...


  • Reds, Whites & Brews in the Boat

    06/24/2017
    12:00PM — 05:00PM

    Join us this summer in Steamboat for Reds Whites & Brews, a beer and wine tasting event that brin...


  • Junior Cycling Camp

    06/24/2017
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    Introducing a road cycling camp designed specifically for youth, including welcome reception, gro...


  • Opening Night Orchestra

    06/24/2017
    07:00PM

    The Strings 30th Anniversary Festival season opens with a night of Baroque favorites by Handel an...


  • Tri the Boat Half Iron

    06/25/2017
    07:30AM

    Back for its fourth year Tri The Boat is better than ever with some great course changes includin...


  • Holy Eucharist

    06/25/2017
    08:00AM — 09:00AM

    All are welcome at this Episcopal communion service


  • Holy Eucharist

    06/25/2017
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    All are welcome at this Episcopal communion service.


  • Junior Cycling Camp

    06/25/2017
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    Introducing a road cycling camp designed specifically for youth, including welcome reception, gro...


  • Prince Fearless Trio

    06/26/2017
    04:00PM

    Guitar and ukulele playin' Princess Fearless, along with whimsical musical pals, serves up an int...


  • Prince Fearless Trio

    06/27/2017
    11:00AM

    Guitar and ukulele playin' Princess Fearless, along with whimsical musical pals, serves up an int...


  • Musical Talk with Mark Gould

    06/29/2017
    07:00PM

    Meet 2017 Strings Music Festival conductor Mark Gould, one of the best known trumpeters of his ge...


  • Junior Cycling Camp

    06/23/2017
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    Introducing a road cycling camp designed specifically for youth, including welcome reception, gro...


  • Vocalist Morgan James

    06/23/2017
    08:00PM

    One voice is all it takes. The right vocalist can make you fall in love at first listen, elicit t...


  • Back for its fourth year Tri The Boat is better than ever with some great course changes includin...


  • Amazing Race

    06/24/2017
    09:00AM — 01:00PM

    Join Partners in Routt County for their signature fundraising event, a community-wide Amazing Rac...


  • Yoga and Classical Music

    06/24/2017
    09:00AM

    Speakers in the Strings Park will broadcast the classical rehearsals going on inside the Pavilion...


  • Reds, Whites & Brews in the Boat

    06/24/2017
    12:00PM — 05:00PM

    Join us this summer in Steamboat for Reds Whites & Brews, a beer and wine tasting event that brin...


  • Junior Cycling Camp

    06/24/2017
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    Introducing a road cycling camp designed specifically for youth, including welcome reception, gro...


  • Opening Night Orchestra

    06/24/2017
    07:00PM

    The Strings 30th Anniversary Festival season opens with a night of Baroque favorites by Handel an...


  • Tri the Boat Half Iron

    06/25/2017
    07:30AM

    Back for its fourth year Tri The Boat is better than ever with some great course changes includin...


  • Holy Eucharist

    06/25/2017
    08:00AM — 09:00AM

    All are welcome at this Episcopal communion service


  • Holy Eucharist

    06/25/2017
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    All are welcome at this Episcopal communion service.


  • Junior Cycling Camp

    06/25/2017
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    Introducing a road cycling camp designed specifically for youth, including welcome reception, gro...


  • Prince Fearless Trio

    06/26/2017
    04:00PM

    Guitar and ukulele playin' Princess Fearless, along with whimsical musical pals, serves up an int...


  • Prince Fearless Trio

    06/27/2017
    11:00AM

    Guitar and ukulele playin' Princess Fearless, along with whimsical musical pals, serves up an int...


  • Yoga and Classical Music

    06/28/2017
    09:00AM

    Speakers in the Strings Park will broadcast the classical rehearsals going on inside the Pavilion...


  • A Night in Prague

    06/28/2017
    07:00PM

    Czech chamber music


  • Musical Talk with Mark Gould

    06/29/2017
    07:00PM

    Meet 2017 Strings Music Festival conductor Mark Gould, one of the best known trumpeters of his ge...


  • Art on the Mountain

    06/30/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Local and visiting artisans bring a great variety of their work to display and sell in Gondola Sq...


  • Go behind-the-scenes with our Curator to see the thousands of artifacts being preserved in our on...


  • Colorado Nature Photography Exhibit

    06/30/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    The Steamboat Art Museum (SAM) is pleased to announce that an exhibition of photographs showcasin...


  • Art on the Mountain

    07/01/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Local and visiting artisans bring a great variety of their work to display and sell in Gondola Sq...


  • Colorado Nature Photography Exhibit

    07/01/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    The Steamboat Art Museum (SAM) is pleased to announce that an exhibition of photographs showcasin...


  • Holy Eucharist

    07/02/2017
    08:00AM — 09:00AM

    All are welcome at this Episcopal communion service


  • Art on the Mountain

    07/02/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Local and visiting artisans bring a great variety of their work to display and sell in Gondola Sq...


  • Holy Eucharist

    07/02/2017
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    All are welcome at this Episcopal communion service.


  • Colorado Nature Photography Exhibit

    07/02/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    The Steamboat Art Museum (SAM) is pleased to announce that an exhibition of photographs showcasin...


  • Art on the Mountain

    07/03/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Local and visiting artisans bring a great variety of their work to display and sell in Gondola Sq...


  • Colorado Nature Photography Exhibit

    07/03/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    The Steamboat Art Museum (SAM) is pleased to announce that an exhibition of photographs showcasin...


  • Driftwood Live at Schmiggity's

    07/03/2017
    10:00PM

    When most people think of upstate New York, they either imagine bucolic landscapes or working-cla...


  • Colorado Nature Photography Exhibit

    07/04/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    The Steamboat Art Museum (SAM) is pleased to announce that an exhibition of photographs showcasin...


  • Colorado Nature Photography Exhibit

    07/05/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    The Steamboat Art Museum (SAM) is pleased to announce that an exhibition of photographs showcasin...


  • Colorado Nature Photography Exhibit

    07/06/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    The Steamboat Art Museum (SAM) is pleased to announce that an exhibition of photographs showcasin...


  • Colorado Nature Photography Exhibit

    07/07/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    The Steamboat Art Museum (SAM) is pleased to announce that an exhibition of photographs showcasin...