Archaeology & History of San Rafael Swell and Nine Mile Canyon

Lodge Based Archaeology Tour

Join CFI on this cultural history tour based in Price, Utah. Visit world-famous cultural sites in Nine Mile Canyon and in the newly designated San Rafael Recreation Area with guest archaeologists Ms. Jamie Hollingsworth and Dr. Tim Riley.

This is a lodge-based trip with daily excursions in CFI’s 4-wheel drive vehicles. Our program starts with a special back-room tour at the Prehistoric Museum in Price. Our day outings will visit agency approved sites that feature Barrier Canyon, Fremont Culture and Ute rock imagery and occupational sites.  We will also check out historic inscriptions that tell the stories of early military, miners, and ranchers.

Physical activity is moderately easy, with most sites close to the vehicles. There will be a few mile-long walks up sandy washes. There will be options to view archaeology sites through spotting scopes or scramble up rocky slopes to get a closer look. The program’s itinerary has been recently approved by the Bureau of Land Management.  Visitation to private lands is by permission. 

“I would highly recommend this tour.  The sites we visited were very interesting and the subject matter experts provided a much fuller experience that I could have ever had if I had visited these areas by myself.  I will be attending more tours through CFI in the future.” David, CFI Participant, 2023.

Guest Archaeology Experts

Our network of guest experts are what makes CFI trips stand apart from other outfitters. Jamie Hollingsworth and USU’s Prehistoric Museum Director, Dr. Tim Riley team up to create an unforgettable educational experience. View their biographies below.

Behind the scenes tour

The trip begins with a special tour of at the Prehistoric Museum for valuable background and insights on the history of the area before venturing into the desert the following days. Your Museum entrance fee is included in the seminar cost.

All Inclusive Trip

Let CFI take care of the accommodations, meals, driving, interpretation, and other logistics so you can fully immerse yourself in this unique experience.  Three nights hotel stay and all meals starting with dinner the first evening through lunch the last day are included.

Based in Price, UT
May 16, 2023 through May 19, 2023
Group Size:
Minimum: 6, Maximum: 9
Age Range:
Adults and youth 16+
$1790; Member Price: $1705
Three nights at the Best Western Sure Stay Plus hotel (formerly the Ramada Inn) located at 838 Westwood Blvd, Price, Utah

This is how we rate the challenges you might face on a CFI trip.

Level 1 - Easy

  • Low level of physical activity, minimal movement required
  • 0 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking or walking 0-2 miles per day

Level 2 - Moderate

  • Medium level of physical activity, some movement required
  • 1-4 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking up to 4 miles per day
  • Flatwater or mild whitewater rapids

Level 3 - Active

  • Medium or high level of physical activity
  • 1-5 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking up to 5 miles per day
  • Class I - III whitewater rapids

Level 4 - Challenging

  • High level of physical activity
  • 1-6 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking 5 or more miles per day
  • Class IV whitewater rapids
CFI's Essential Eligibility Criteria outlines specific challenges that you may face on CFI trips. Please consult the EEC for information on responsibilities of participants.
  • A $300 per person deposit is required to reserve your spot. Balance of fees are due 30 days prior.
  • Fees are based on hotel lodging double occupancy. To request single a room, do so via CFI reservations the supplemental fee is $210 for the trip.
  • If you wish to book an additional night pre or post our seminar, contact the hotel local desk phone number is 435-637-8880 and explain you would like to stay in the same room as booked for the CFI group.
  • In addition to expert instruction, lodging and field trip transportation, the fee also includes meals starting with dinner the first evening through lunch the last day, the entrance to the USU Prehistoric Museum and a $100 donation to CFI youth and scholarship programs.
  • There is an option to travel to and from Moab with the CFI crew with advance notice to the CFI office.

See other trips in these categories:

All participants on our adult seminars and on our private trips are required to be fully vaccinated.

Guest Faculty

Jamie Hollingsworth Bio pic

Ms. Jamie Hollingsworth, archaeologist and educator, has sixteen years of experience in cultural resource practices on the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin. Her graduate studies and later work at the University of Utah included assisting with research and field school in Range Creek.  Jamie has worked for the archaeology consulting firm, PaeloWest as an  Project Manager and served as Program Archaeologist for Project Discovery for a number of years. Project Discovery is an outreach program serving high school students and an annual large-scale inter-agency public event, Stewardship Day in Nine Mile Canyon. Jamie also leads the CFI Range Creek Canyon seminar. Jamie currently works in the tech industry and is the mother of active young children.  Ms. Hollingsworth is a registered member of the Navajo Nation and of Dine’, Irish, English and Norwegian descent.


Dr. Tim Riley is the Director and Curator of Archaeology at the Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum, located in Price. In his role as director, he hopes to continue to grow the museum as a community center, tourism hub, and top-notch research institute. Tim was trained as an archaeologist, paleoethnobotanist, and palynologist under Vaughn M. Bryant. His primary research interests focus on how past human populations use the plant communities of the Colorado Plateau for food, medicine, and materials. One of his favorite artifact types is the lowly coprolite or desiccated fecal material. Dr. Riley was raised in Michigan before leaving to get his BA in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Following a several year stint as a “shovelbum”, or archaeologist working on construction projects, he attended Texas A&M University to earn his PhD. He lives in Helper with his family, many musical instruments, and pets.

Karla VanderZanden, CFI Founding Director enjoys working with regional experts to create the adult seminar series.  Karla previously served as Program and then Executive Director, until stepping down from that position in 2020.  She continues to serve as Naturalist and Trip Leader on a few select programs each year and serves as Grant writer and Project Manager for Professor Valley Field Camp improvements.

Trip Narrative

Day 1

The official START of our seminar is at 4:00 p.m. at the USU Prehistoric Museum located at 155 E. Main Street in downtown Price. Note that starting at 3:00 p.m., you may check into our reserved lodging at the Best Western Sure Stay Plus hotel (or check in later that evening.)  There is an option to travel with the CFI staff starting in Moab at 1:00 p.m. at the CFI office; CFI vehicles will go directly to the Museum and check in later at the hotel.

At the Museum, the parking and entrance is actually on the north side of the building (via 100 or 200 East streets.) Your entrance fee is covered by CFI.  Following introductions, Dr. Tim Riley will conduct a special tour of the Museum for our group. After the tour, we will get to know each other and discuss field trip plans over a light dinner in the Museum meeting room.

Days 2-3

On these days, we will set out on our educational adventures after a quick overview and look at the maps. We will travel both paved and backcountry roads in CFI’s vehicles and spend the days stopping at various points of historic interest. We will take short walks to various cultural sites, have discussions about native and Anglo history, and hear about the modern issues facing these areas. We will return to our lodging in the late afternoon for free time and have dinner at a nearby cafe or by CFI.

Day 4

We will have our last breakfast, and check out of our lodging before venturing out for the morning’s activities. After a final lunch and closing reflection, we will return to Price around 2:00 to say our goodbyes and head home. Dr. Riley will join us in the field on the last morning to visit both public and private land locations. Our discussion includes cultural resource management issues and ways to get involved.  You’ll leave this area with a renewed sense of awe and appreciation for the diverse cultural history of the desert southwest.

Need to Know

  • CFI staff are trained educators and guides with first aid and CPR certifications. Back-country trips carry satellite communications devices.  
  • All cook and dishware, meals, snacks, and river gear are provided by CFI.


Some people say food is the most important part of the adventure. On all our overnight trips, CFI will provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a morning and afternoon snack, and an appetizer before dinner. If you have a dietary restriction or food allergy, note it on your medical form so we can best prepare.

Depends on the trip. As a general rule, CFI provides all group gear related to fully outfitting your trip. Specialized gear like PFDs, wetsuits, dry bags, educational materials are all provided by CFI. Additionally, we take care of all kitchen and dishware needs. 

Find out more about trip specific packing.

Most importantly, a willingness to slow down, connect to your surroundings, and experience the moment. Additionally, participants are required to bring a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, personal clothing, medication, and other essential personal items. Many gear items are available for rent. Reach out to us if you are interested in seeing a trip specific packing list, or learn more about trip specific packing here.

CFI provides options to rent gear:

  • Two person tent: $30 / trip
  • Sleeping bag: $20 / trip
  • Kid sleeping pad: $7 / trip
  • Adult sleeping pad (paco pad): $15 / trip
  • Package deal: Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and one tent per two people: $40 / trip

For any CFI summer camp, gear rentals are free!

Every CFI guide has either a Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder certification. Your trip leader will have a Wilderness First Responder certification. Anyone working with youth has passed a background check, and shuttle drivers are insured with clean driving records. Backcountry trips carry In-Reach satellite communication devices for emergencies. All guides have been evaluated by Canyonlands Field Institute as possessing the judgement, skills, and disposition required for mitigating risk in the field. 

As technology grows more and more invasive by the day, CFI promotes connection to what matters. To achieve this, all school and youth programs are unplugged and students are not permitted to bring electronic devices. Not only is there rarely cell service, devices are a distraction to our ability to connect to the present moment. On Private Group Trips or Adult Seminars, the use of devices is permitted but discouraged.

CFI works hard to ensure a positive experience for all guides and participants. Because of the unpredictable nature of outfitting, we have created a series of policies so maintain our ability to manage risk in the outdoors.

For critical information regarding cancellations, deposits, and other participant responsibilities, please view our trip policies page or contact us with any questions.

Thanks for asking...We know this can be an awkward subject. The fact is, our guides work extremely hard and appreciate getting tipped! 

On school trips tips are greatly appreciated. 

On an adult or private trip, an industry standard is for each customer to tip $25 per day.

If you wish to include a gratuity, cash is preferred, but sending a check or a payment to CFI's Venmo: @canyonlandsfieldinstitute is also a great way to thank your guides for their hard work.  Tips are always pooled and distributed.

CFI is a non-profit organization and fees are not taxed. By choosing CFI, you are supporting our efforts to provide lifechanging outdoor experiences for hundreds of children per year.  Scholarships are available on an as needed basis.