Not The First Footprint
You really should take a look. There is much to gain by spending time on the land among the remains of its ancient inhabitants. But please remember, there are ways to visit that are appropriate and those that are not. Any and every site visit lends to its eventual destruction. Erosion is imminent. Keep the following in mind and your visit will be more rewarding for you and will minimize the impact on the land and its treasures.
- Get an attitude. Remember, you are walking on the land and in the homes of a people whose objects and other remains are considered by the modern day Pima and Tohono O’odham descendants to be "alive." Consider yourself a guest in another’s home and act appropriately.
- Get an education. If your interest in visiting sites is new, you can learn much by going to other protected and remote locations in the area, such as Hovenweep, Chevelon Canyon, Mesa Verde, Wupatki, Chaco Canyon, Navajo Canyon and Canyon deChelly. A local education can be attained by visiting the Casa Grande ruins, Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park in Phoenix, or the Heard Museum of Phoenix and Scottsdale. Take a walk with a ranger, talk to park archaeologists and…ask questions.
- Consider your approach. Middens are the soft, charcoal-stained soil of prehistoric trash heaps usually located immediately downslope of an alcove or cliff site. They contain valuable evidence of day to day activities revealing changing preferences in pottery, food, tools and even treatment of the dead. Enter a site by avoiding the midden.
- Stay off the walls. Any leaning, standing, or sitting upon ancient structures weakens the bonding material and eventually destroys them. Keep you distance and respect it as private property.
- Leave artifacts where they are found. In its original context, each artifact contains a wealth of valuable information. Each potsherd or flint flake tell a story to knowledgeable eyes. Relics should not be removed or even moved. Well intentioned, but ultimately careless visitors who have displayed their finds for viewing or photography remove the ability to establish context and invites others to steal. We all find it overwhelmingly tempting to take these treasures home, but please practice restraint and remember that others would like to experience the same "discoveries" that you have enjoyed.
- Do not camp in sites. Smoke damages rock art, charcoal from you fire precludes the ability to radiocarbon date a site and you may be sleeping on an ancient burial. The spirits will haunt you!
- Preserve Rock Art. Please, please don’t touch it, chalk it, or attempt to rub a paper impression. Even the slightest amount of human oils can erode petroglyphs and destroy delicate pigments.
- Document and preserve historic inscriptions. Often times these names and dates left in bullet lead and charcoal are the only means of retracing the routes early excavation parties took, thereby allowing artifacts stored in eastern museums to be connected to their original home. Look for names like Wetherill, J.L. Ethridge, C.C. Graham, McLoyd, C.B. Lang, W.J. Billings, Harry French, D. W. Ayers, Emory Knowles, and Orian Buck. Granted, this is not rock art of ancient people, but it is heritage of significance nonetheless.
- Report suspicious activities. Please report acts of vandalism or abuse to the appropriate land management agency as soon as you witness it. Photograph evidence from a distance when you can, and try for faces and license plate numbers.
- Become involved. Governmental agencies and some non-profit organizations are seemingly always in the process of making decisions that should and do require public involvement. Volunteer your services to public interest groups like the Nature Conservancy, local area land trusts and other environmentally concerned groups.