Paddle and Hike to Petroglyphs in Quail Creek State Park
Near St. George, Utah, there isn’t a lot of water, but there is the Quail Creek State Park and it’s the perfect lake for recreation and history.
I went to the park for a 3-hour tour paddleboard tour culminating with a hike to some nearby ancient petroglyphs.
Dig Paddlesports, who rents watersports equipment at the park, hosted the tour.
I met my guides and group at 8 am at the lake to get an early start on the day and avoid the 100+ degree temperatures. There, we received our gear and a thoughtful introduction to the area's geography from our guides Bill and Pat.
Quail Creek State Park is a 600-acre reservoir diverting water from the Virgin River. Two dams form the reservoir, one of earth and on the other side, concrete. Glowing red sandstone mesas surround the lake in the middle of the Virgin Anticline formation.
Our group of nine paddled in the middle of the unique geology about 40 minutes over to a gypsum shoreline. It’s been a few years since I paddle boarded and my sea legs aren’t what they used to be. Luckily I was hot and happy to get wet from my frequent falls into the water.
We beached our watercraft on a rocky shore and took a short hike around the sandstone cliff to see the ancient rock art carved into the limestone shale. Along the hike, Bill stopped and pointed out many different types of flora and fauna and further explained the history of the area and the surrounding mountain landscape. In the distance, we could even seek the high cliffs of Zion National Park.
Along the backside of the mesa that we hiked, we saw the blackened limestone rockface where ancient people carved the petroglyphs. Bill and Pat led us up a reasonably tricky ascent up the rockface, careful to avoid the areas with petroglyphs.
They were very knowledgeable about petroglyphs and what they commonly represent. Though nobody knows what petroglyphs mean or how to translate them, but there are some common symbols whose meaning we can agree on.
For example, there are depictions of high waters flooding onto land and we know that the area suffered catastrophic flooding in the distant past.
We hiked up the rock, examining the petroglyphs up close until we reached the top of the mesa. The hike was steep and intense, but we walked slowly and carefully, which made it manageable.
After we hiked back to our board and paddled along the shoreline of the reservoir, there, I fell in a few more times, happily, and enjoyed the turquoise blue waters amid the red and white layered rocky shoreline.
The only downside to the experience was that I lost my beloved sunglasses. The lake claimed them at the end of the tour on my final fall into the water. Rest in peace, sunglasses.
Book a trip with Dig Paddlesports at www.digpaddlesports.com.
Find Quail Creek State Park south of I-15, about 13 miles NE of St. George at
472 N 5300 W Hurricane, UT 84737. The park charges a $20 entry fee for out-of-state visitors and $15 for residents.