Canyon Pintado

Rio Blanco County, Colorado



Canyon Pintado, Spanish for painted canyon, is a National Historic District in the Douglas Creek drainage, located approximately 12 miles south of Rangely, in Rio Blanco County, northwestern Colorado. Administered by the Bureau of Land Management, the district protects and interprets more than 100 archaeological sites situated in 16,040 acres along 15 miles of Colorado Highway 139. The canyon was named for the many large rock images along that stretch of Douglas Creek. The canyon was first seen in 1776 by Franciscan friars Dominguez and Escalante, who could see the painted rock images from the trail as they were led by Ute guides on their search for a route to connect the Spanish colony of Santa Fe with colonial outposts in California.


The rock art was created by people belonging to the Fremont, Ute, Spanish colonial, and Euroamerican cultures, dating from about 450–the late 1800s CE. The Fremont may have been an amalgam of ancestral Pueblo peoples and indigenous hunter-gatherers. The rock art occurs as stand-alone sites or in association with habitations and granaries. The styles are abstract and representational—with the representational art depicting animals, plants, humans, and astronomical events.


Colorado Highway 139 follows the Douglas Creek canyon through the National Historic District on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. BLM has created and manages turn-outs and self-guided interpretive trails throughout Highway 139’s traverse through the NHD.


Photos generously provided by Dominguez Archaeological Research Group.