Cold Spring Cave (Comb Ridge)

The hike to the Cold Springs Cave is short, less than a mile in each direction. Like a majority of the Comb Ridge hikes the trail begins along the banks of Butler Wash, and crosses a small stretch of the valley before entering a canyon along the ridge.

Cold Springs Cave is very similar to many of the Anasazi ruins along Comb Ridge, a structure in distress, much of it toppled over, and looted.

 

Cold Spring Cave

Cold Spring Cave

 

Some of the ruins at Cold Spring Cave.

Some of the ruins at Cold Spring Cave.

 

A lot of hand print pictographs.

A lot of hand print pictographs.

 

The cave was discovered in 1892 by the American Exploring Expedition. Their account of finding the cave is as follows:

“In the immense sandstone spur outcropping between Butler’s Wash and Comb Wash, about ten miles north of the San Juan River, we noticed a large cave in one of the deep canyons in the ledge, and, examining it with our field glasses we thought we could distinguish ruins near the opening. Four of us started to investigate and found it a cavern of great dimensions, with the whole floor under the overhanging ledge studded with ruins. The canyon in which this picturesque cave town is situated is wild and beautiful, shut in on all sides by high sandstone cliffs, and having only one narrow entrance. The foliage is almost tropical in its luxuriousness. We found cactus plants of gigantic size, and grass and flowering plants over a foot in height, while the bare rocky ledges were studded with cedars, cottonwood and pinions. This luxurious growth of cactus and of other plants which were stunted upon mesas is probably caused by the heat being retained in the bare, rocky ledges, thus producing the forcing effect of a green house. We have named the place Cold Spring Cave, on account of the fine spring of cold, clear water away in the back interior of the cave. it flows out from under the heavy sandstone ledge into a round, clear pool, and, after passing through a short outlet, sinks into the ground and disappears, not half a dozen feet from where it started.”

The spring described by A.E.E. is still there today, but now more of a seep than a full-blown spring. The rear of the cave is damp with a significant amount of moss growing, but there are no clear pools of water. Nearby is a rock  inscribed by the expedition crew, “1892 – Cold Springs Cave – I.A.E.E.”

 

The Cold Spring Cave inscription rock.

The Cold Spring Cave inscription rock.

 

Cold Spring.

Cold Spring.

 

Fortress like walls.

Fortress like walls.

 

As for the “rock art,” there is indeed a good amount of both petroglyphs and pictographs, all of it being similar to designs found at other locations along Comb Ridge. The majority of the pictographs consist of hand prints in orange, yellow, white, and green.

Ancient corn cobs, scattered pottery sherds, and metates are also in abundance.

 

Hand prints are a reoccurring theme at just about every site along Comb Ridge.

Hand prints are a reoccurring theme at just about every site along Comb Ridge.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.

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