November 2015 —
Water, water, water… There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount, a perfect ratio of water to rock, of water to sand, insuring that wide, free, open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here, unless you try to establish a city where no city should be. ~~Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
Driving south on I-17 in Arizona, between Flagstaff and Phoenix, looking for a place to camp, we pulled into Agua Fria National Monument, on a rainy afternoon. In the summer, this place is scorching hot and dry, but on this November day, it was cool and wet.
The Agua Fria River flows intermittently in the monument, depending on the weather. Because there’s water here, the monument contains a large number of prehistoric sites. Pueblo la Plata (below) originally had 80-90 rooms and is named for nearby Silver Creek. Less than 1/4 mile away, a trip to get water would involve a steep hike into the canyon. The pueblo’s location above the canyon, however, afforded a view of approaching enemies. (Read more here.)
About 1/2 mile from the pueblo there’s what may have been a defensive wall built around a narrow peninsula above the canyon. Would the whole village retreat here during an attack, leaving the city to be raided? Who knows . . . but whatever it is, it was a lot of work to build.
Pottery fragments are scattered about . . .
. . . as well as examples of more recent human activity: fragments of beersidian.
We also visited Badger Springs, another prehistoric site in the monument. The trail leads down Badger Springs wash to the Agua Fria River.
The Agua Fria had water on the day we visited, but it is often dry in the summer.
There’s a panel of petroglyphs above the river.
We found this nest which Larry identified as home to a “Desert Tweety Bird.”
All in all, a fine place to camp.