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Crowd views setting sun through Gap
by Ashley Langston
Jun 27, 2012 | 832 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The sun sets down the center of the Parowan Gap just a few days after the Summer Solstice. The sunset was viewed by a crowd after a program. | Photo by Ashley Langston
The sun sets down the center of the Parowan Gap just a few days after the Summer Solstice. The sunset was viewed by a crowd after a program. | Photo by Ashley Langston
IRON COUNTY – A crowd gathered at the Parowan Gap June 23 to hear from Nowell “Nal” Morris, who has extensively studied the Gap for years, and observe the sunset through the formation.

Though the observation took place a few days after the actual Summer Solstice, Morris said the sun moves slowly and there was very little difference in its alignment in the Gap June 20 and June 23.

Nancy Dalton, Parowan Heritage Foundation secretary and interpretive guide, said though they have tried having the event on the actual date of the solstice in the past, they have had much less attendance and have found Saturdays to be very successful.

This year’s observance, as usual, began at the Parowan Gap petroglyphs, where Morris spoke and explained his interpretation of various petroglyphs. The event also included Paiute dances and a Paiute flute performance.

“That was a special treat,” Dalton said.

Despite technical difficulties with the dancers’ music and high winds affecting the crowd’s ability to hear the flute, everyone really seemed to enjoy it and appreciate the performers, Dalton said.

Representatives from the Bureau of Land Management spoke about restoration efforts in the area.

Elizabeth Burghard, a BLM field manager, said there is currently some erosion at the Gap and they are working to stabilize the site, as well as replacing the current chain-link fence with a more visually appealing four-foot-high wrought-iron fence that will make it easier for visitors to view and photograph the petroglyphs. That work is expected to be completed sometime this year.

Additionally, Iron County has been putting in walking paths on either side of the road and has painted crosswalks and erected signs to make it safer for visitors to the Gap, Burghard said. She added that they are trying to get vehicle traffic through the Gap to follow the speed limit.

After the program at the petroglyphs, the group gathered around one set of Summer Solstice cairns to view the sun setting through the Gap. Dalton said cairns, or rock markers at the viewing sites, are hundreds of years old and are set up in key locations to view the sun setting through the center of the Gap on dates including the Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, and Fall Equinox.

After the sunset, Dalton spoke with a man from Manchester, England who was on a trip to the United States. He had stayed in Iron County for a couple more days when he found out about the Summer Solstice observation at the Gap, and had ended up enjoying some time at Groovefest before coming to the Gap event.

Dalton said while extensive research has been done at the site and much has been learned about the ancient Americans’ knowledge of the solar calendar and astronomy, there is still a lot to learn about the people. Petroglyphs are continually being compared to others found in locations across the Western United States and Mexico to determine travel routes and learn about the people who lived in the area.

Dalton called the Gap the “I-15 corridor of the past” and said carbon dating on the petroglyphs has dated them as far back as 5,000 years.

The next event at the Gap will be the Fall Equinox Observation Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. and will include a walking tour of the area, she said.

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