Glen Canyon has been periodically used by a a variety of human groups from about 11,500 years ago through the present. Currently these groups are classified by archeologists into a system that divide the Native American culture history of Glen Canyon into five different temporal and/or cultural periods.
ca. 11,500–8,050 BCE (Before Common Era)
Characterized by nomadic big game hunters known by their distinctive Clovis and Folsom projectile points of which a few have been found within the recreation area. This period is relatively poorly represented in Glen Canyon.
ca. 8,050–400 BCE
Characterized by development of a more broad-based hunting/gathering lifeway. Distinctive artifacts of the period are sandals, which have been found in several sites. This period is well represented in Glen Canyon.
Preformative or Basketmaker II period
ca. 400 BCE–500 CE (Common Era)
Marks a transition from a hunting and gathering lifestyle to one that ultimately included the cultivation of corn and squash. Pottery had not yet been developed and the bow and arrow comes into use late in the period. This period is relatively poorly represented in Glen Canyon.
The most recognizable period within Glen Canyon is characterized by a strong reliance on agriculture, permanent or semi-permanent habitations, and pottery production. This period includes both Fremont and Anasazi occupations, with each group having its own distinctive material culture. It has only recently, in the last ten years, been identified that this period is relatively well represented in Glen Canyon.
Late Prehistoric period
This temporal period falls right on the heels of the migration of Anasazi goups from the area, and includes the expansion of Paiute groups into portions of Glen Canyon. The Late Prehistoric period remains one of the most poorly understood eras within Glen Canyon.
This information for Glen Canyon is sparse with some evidence for Navajo, Paiute, and Hopi use of the area prior to the Spanish arrival in 1540.
This span can roughly be divided into early and late subdivision by the expedition of Dominguez and Escalante in 1776, and its termination roughly coincides with Mormon exploration and colonization of southern Utah
The Spanish Friars expedition is the only documented Spanish incursion into the immediate area. Other historic activities unfold through periods of government expeditions, Indian wars, Mormon settlement, gold mining, mineral exploration, and finally, recreational use.
Several different prehistoric cultures and current Native American groups are represented in the culture history of Glen Canyon, and the recreation area represents a cultural interface zone where different groups were periodically coming into contact with one another over long periods of time. Today, many modern descendants of these groups still have important cultural ties to the area, and specific places in Glen Canyon possess enormous ongoing cultural value to these groups.
In addition to the Native American presence in Glen Canyon, many historic sites are located in the recreation area, including early Latter Day Saints (LDS) settlements and later mineral exploration sites.