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Friday, January 6, 2012

A HARD-WON LOOK AT A RARE SITE


BLACK MESA RUINS
Black Canyon City
The East Face of the Fort

Of the hundreds of known archeological sites in the Agua Fria National Monument (AFNM), only one (Pueblo La Plata) is publicized by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  However, several others are frequented by local hikers, including this bastion of boulders teetering over I-17 near Black Canyon City. Although it's well documented in popular hiking books and web sites, getting to this Hohokam fortress is no easy task.  Route finding, barbed wire, cat-claw-infested washes, and a short section of vertical hand-over-foot climbing, thwart all but the most determined hikers.
Archeologists think this multi-room structure was constructed between 800 – 1150 C.E..  Unlike other ruins in the area, this one is remarkably intact with two-man-high walls shielding its eastern flank.  The layout of the site is still clear, making it easy to imagine how the numerous rooms with peepholes looking out over the canyons were used to monitor activities on the surrounding grasslands where the builders may have farmed, hunted and stood guard over their communities.  At the eastern base of the mesa, hundreds of petroglyphs—including some interesting footprint designs--- decorate volcanic boulders. As with all heritage sites: leave everything as you found it.  Take only pictures; leave only footprints.
Overlooking Black Canyon City

LENGTH: 1.5 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate-difficult (route-finding, steep climb)
ELEVATION: 2,200' – 3,163'
BEST SEASON: October -April
GETTING THERE:
From Phoenix, go north on I-17 past Black Canyon City. Park in any of the dirt pullouts along the freeway between mileposts 245 and 246.  From here, locate a BLM gate (closer to MP246) with an AFNM sign.  The gate is usually locked, but it’s easy (and legal) to squeeze through.  From here, there's a rough path for about 0.1 mile, then, you'll need to bushwhack uphill while aiming roughly 100 feet to the north of the ruins on the tip of the mesa where a break in the cliffs makes for a manageable 25-foot hand-over-foot climb to the site.
The BLM Gate. Destination is the peak on the left.

Footprint Rock Art
GENERAL INFO: Bureau of Land Management, Agua Fria National Monument

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