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by Janet Lowe

Raven Rock Art Tours:
One Man's Dream Come True!

Hidden deep in the rocky canyons around Moab is ancient and mysterious Native American rock art. These inscriptions may be pecked (petroglyphs) or painted (pictographs) on the wall and may be as old as 9000 years. Craig Barney, owner of Raven Rock Art Tours can take you there.

Craig and his wife, Tammy, moved to Moab from Vernal, Utah, in 1992. They were born and raised in Spanish Fork, Utah, so can claim Utah as native land. During his youth, Craig spent a great deal of time in southern Utah and learned to love the red rock canyons and all their mysteries. He spent many of those early years as a cowboy herding cattle, sheep and chasing wild horses in area deserts and mountains. A career change took him to the oil fields and after 18 years of work in that industry, Craig made the break and moved to Moab. He and his wife purchased and now manage a mobile home park. But the love of rock art has always been in his blood, and he couldn’t shake it. At first opportunity, he took a job driving tours for Lin Ottinger, one Moab’s notorious rock hounds and early tour guides.

“I learned a great deal from Lin,” says Craig. “I guess he got me started.”

In 1998, Craig decided he wanted to move into the world of rock art full time. His primary goal was to help in the process of educating people about the value and importance of Native American inscriptions. What better way, he thought, than to share the rock art with them and explain its place in America’s culture? He ended up forming Raven Rock Art Tours and now combines his livelihood with the education of visitors to the canyonlands area. And all the while, he’s having a ball!

Craig is also President of the Utah Rock Art Research Association, an agency which holds as its mission the “protection, preservation and research” of rock art. Among other things, they work to find grant money to restore sites that have been vandalized and to educate people throughout Utah about the ancient rock art found in the Moab area and throughout the state.

“For me, Raven Rock Art Tours is a dream come true,” says Craig. “I get to make a business out of doing what I love.” It’s also exciting to share his love of rock art with his guests. “I enjoy watching people get excited about what they’re seeing. I can see a change come over them when they view it and I know I’ve been able to make a difference in their perspective on rock art.”

While he has standard sites he visits – and is limited by area land management agencies on what he can share with the general public – Craig does his best to customize his tours.

“I spend some time talking to the people before we decide where we’re going to go. I like to find out how much they already know about rock art and how they feel about it. You can learn a lot about people just by asking a few questions and listening to them,” he explains.

He also takes the time to find out where his guests are in their spiritual journey because the spiritual interpretations of rock art and the telling of Native American legends is part of what he shares on one of his tours. Once Craig gets started talking about these legends and canyon country rock art, guests of Raven Tours are in for a treat. He weaves Hopi and Navajo creation stories into his narrative as he suggests possible explanations of the inscriptions. He emphasizes that we can never really know with certainty what the rock art means or what its significance was to the makers, but we can definitely enjoy the attempt to understand and the plunge into the deep body of knoweldge available trhough scientific and anthropological sources.

“There’s way more we don’t know than we do know. I just want people to understand that once it’s gone, it’s gone and there’s no way to recover the images or to further our knowledge of these fascinating cultures. We should protect it at all costs,” says Craig.

Craig likes to keep his tour size small, preferring an average of six people. He loves to find folks traveling together who share the same interest in Native American culture and rock art. Visits to area ruins are also part of his guided tours and on every step of the journey, Craig is reminding people to walk gently in the footsteps of those who came before.

Craig takes his guests to rock art sites throughout southeastern Utah including areas in the Book Cliffs, San Rafael Swell, Cedar Mesa, Indian Creek, and, of course, the famous sites along Moab’s roadways. He also offers customized fossil and rockhound tours, scenic tours and day hikes. Raven Rock Art Tours specializes in customized expeditions, so folks wanting a personal kind of adventure are in good hands with Craig. As his brochure says, “we will make every effort to adapt the trip to your ability, sense of adventure and heart’s desire.” Well-said, Mr. Barney, a man who has found his own heart’s desire in the canyon country of Moab.

For more information about Raven Rock Art Tours, call 1-888-799-5293 or 1-435-259-4510. Email can be sent to Information can also be found at

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