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Wednesday, September 29, 2010


PALATKI HERITAGE SITE Coconino National Forest For centuries, Native American cultures including the Clovis, Southern Sinagua (ancestors of the Hopi people) and Tonto Apache have inhabited the cliffs of Arizona’s Verde Valley. For most of the 11,000 years that the area around Palatki teemed with life, the climate was much cooler and wetter than it is today and the vast fields in Red Canyon yielded crops of beans, corn and grains. Then came the drought of 1276-1299 and the clans scrambled. Some stayed longer, but eventually, around 1400, the Sinagua abandoned the site. From the mid 15th century until 1875, the Tonto Apache inhabited the cliffs. Then, European settlers showed up with fruit trees. What remains is a rich historical site with some of the best Native American pictographs in the Southwest. Faint images from the Archaic period (11,500 – 8,000 B.C.E. ) mingle with painted flute players and charcoal drawings made by more recent Apache people. The site also features “Willard Cave” where the European settler Charles Willard lived for about a year while building his nearby homestead in the early 1920s. Visitors may enter the cave, provided the resident bats are feeling hospitable. The site has two 0.25-mile trails. One leads to a series of alcoves and the pictographs. The other goes to some cliff dwellings. Forest service guides are very knowledgeable and put on a thoroughly enjoyable tour that lasts roughly 2 hours. On the day we visited, the trail to the dwellings was closed due to rock slide danger and signs posted elsewhere warned that either trail could be closed at any time for safety reasons and/or maintenance, so it’s a good idea to call ahead if you’re hell-bent on seeing everything. LENGTH: 1 mile total (two trails) RATING: easy (some rocky steps) ELEVATION: 4,800 – 4,850 feet BEST SEASONS: September - May DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 137 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From the “Y” intersection of Highways 179 and 89A, go left through the traffic circle and head south on 89A (toward Cottonwood). Continue 3.2 miles to Dry Creek Road, turn right and go 2.9 miles to a stop sign, veer left and go 1.6 miles to another stop sign, turn left onto FR152C and go 4 miles to FR525. Turn right on FR525 and go 0.1 miles to a fork in the road, veer right onto FR795 and continue 1.7 miles to the parking area. The last 6 miles are rough dirt, a high clearance vehicle is recommended. NOTE: once on Dry Creek Road, it’s easy to follow the signs to “Palatki”. HOURS: 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 pm daily. The site is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas and when the access roads are impassable due to snow or storm damage. Call (928) 282-4119 for current conditions. FEE: A Red Rock Pass ($5 daily per vehicle) or equivalent is required. Call to find out what other passes are accepted. FACILITIES: Vault toilet, hand pump for water, visitor center. Forest Service staff stays on site. INFO: RESERVATIONS: Call Palatki at (928) 282-3854 between 9:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to make a reservation. Reservations are highly recommended---without them, you may be turned away at the gate. PETS: not allowed NOTE: Please respect the cultural and archeological significance of this fragile site. Do not touch the ruins or art and never pick up or remove any artifact. If you feel compelled, you may call the Forest Service to report a “find”, but please, do not touch!! Also, feel free to photograph any low-lifers (and their license plates) you may see defacing the ruins and forward to the Forest Service. MORE PHOTOS:

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