Celebrate the summer solstice at Parowan Gap

Photo courtesy of Cedar City Brian Head Tourism Bureau, St. George News

PAROWAN — Surrounded by an ancient gallery of American Indian art, watching the sun set during the summer solstice at Parowan Gap is a magical experience, one that can be enjoyed through a number of events offered Saturday.

About Parowan Gap

Parowan Gap, a natural passageway, is home to one of the largest collections of petroglyphs, or rock writings, in the West.

The Zipper Glyph panel at Parowan Gap, undated | Photo courtesy of Nancy Dalton, Parowan Heritage Foundation, St. George News

Researchers have identified what they believe to be solar and lunar calendars. The glyphs are believed to have provided early civilizations with a calendaring system; various solar events are marked by shadows cast by the natural rock formations. The sun, moon and planets rise and set in specific notches in the Gap as indicated by petroglyphs.

Read more: Petroglyph day; interpretations and mysteries of Parowan Gap

“The largest petroglyph, the Zipper Glyph, can be interpreted as a map of travel or as a solar calendar,” Nancy Dalton, event organizer with the Parowan Heritage Foundation said. “It is amazing to see how precise these ancient civilizations were in setting up observation cairns and identifying specific outcroppings as a calendar system. Their tools were their eyes and oral history knowledge, whereas today, we use the latest GPS technology.”

During the 1960s, LaVan Martineau extensively studied petroglyphs at Parowan Gap. He concluded the rock writing was based on a universal sign language; believing the petroglyphs are historical accounts of actual events and even the surface of the sandstone has special significance to the story.

In 1990, archaeoastronomy researcher, solar engineer and rock art specialist Nowell L. “Nal” Morris and archeologist Garth Norman began a 10-year study of the Parowan Gap petroglyphs. Their findings concluded that some of the Gap petroglyphs are solar and lunar calendars.

While the theories are very compelling, they are still under review by scientific and American Indian communities. It is important to remember that there is no one right translation; the petroglyphs are interpreted differently depending on the culture, time period and background of each interpreter.

Event details

The Parowan Heritage Foundation has organized a slate of activities for Saturday, celebrating the solstice and ending as the Parowan Gap’s solar calendar system comes to life with the sun setting through the Gap Saturday.

Hands-on workshop with Nal Morris | 10 a.m.- noon. 

Hands-On Workshop with Morris. Learn how the natural layout and features of the Gap align with the earth’s rotation around the sun and how the lunar and planet rotations line up with various observation points inside the Gap. This workshop is limited to 20 people. Tickets are required to attend the workshop, are $15 per person and will include water and snacks.

Tickets are available at the Cedar City Visitor Center, 581 N. Main St., Cedar City; at the Parowan City Library, 16 S. Main St., Parowan; or by calling Nancy Dalton at telephone 435- 463-3735.

Archaeology presentation with Garth Norman | 3 p.m.

Norman will present a free presentation on his archaeology findings, including a slide show presentation, at the Parowan Visitor Center.

Pork Belly’s barbecue dinner | 6:30-7:30 p.m. 

A barbecue dinner catered by Pork Belly’s Eatery & Catering will be held in the evening at Parowan Gap. Tickets for the dinner are $20 per person.

Tickets are available at the Cedar City Visitor Center, 581 N. Main St., Cedar City; at the Parowan City Library, 16 S. Main St., Parowan; or by calling Nancy Dalton at telephone 435- 463-3735.

Solstice sunset program along with a great horned owl release | 8:15 p.m.

At 8:15 p.m. Martin Tyner, CEO and director of wildlife services for the Southwest Wildlife Foundation, will give a presentation about the great horned owl before it is released back into the wild by a representative from the Cedar City Family Support Center.

At 8:30 p.m. the group will walk a 3/4 mile along the paved road to the backup summer solstice cairns to watch the sun set through the Gap.

The solstice sunset program is free. Those attending are asked to bring chairs, drinking water and wear good walking shoes.

Yearly events and interpretive programs

Throughout the year, several interpretive programs and solar observation events take place at Parowan Gap.

These events happen in conjunction with the summer solstices and spring and fall equinoxes and can be found at Visit Cedar City’s calendar of events online.

For more information contact the Cedar City – Brian Head Tourism Bureau at telephone 435-586-5124, online or stop by the Cedar City Visitor Center, 581 N. Main St., Cedar City.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

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