Written by Andy Laurenzi
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument (CGRNM) in Coolidge, Arizona, is among the state’s best-known cultural landmarks because of its striking “Great House,” one of the largest-known prehistoric structures in the United States. Established as the first archaeological reserve by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892, CGRNM is not only the largest protected Hohokam site, but also the sole National Park unit that preserves and interprets Hohokam culture. The area enclosed within the park’s current boundary also preserves some of the once-extensive village associated with the impressive adobe structure.
As the Center for Desert Archaeology’s Field Representative, I am working with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, City of Coolidge, Town of Florence, Friends of Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Pinal County Historical Society, and others in support of a National Park Service (NPS) proposal to expand the boundaries of this unique monument. In fact, our local partnership recommends an even more expansive vision that would preserve a significant portion of this vanishing cultural landscape.
Between A.D. 300 and 1450, people known to archaeologists as the Hohokam lived and farmed in the river valleys of southern Arizona. Over time, they built and maintained irrigation canal systems to support agricultural production. At least two dozen systems that watered tens of thousands of acres have been documented in the Phoenix area alone, along the lower Salt River and the middle Gila River. Villages containing about 200 to 400 people—sometimes as many as 1,000—stood every two to three miles along the canal systems.
These strings of neighboring villages formed irrigation communities. The settlement at CGRNM was one of five large villages along the Casa Grande Canal, which ran along the south side of the Gila River. Adamsville Ruin, about five miles upstream, is another large village in that community. A shorter canal, the Escalante Canal, ran north of the Gila River. This northern irrigation community included the sites of Escalante Ruin and Poston Butte Ruin.
In keeping with its mission to preserve, interpret, and educate the public about CGRNM, the NPS is proposing to bring more of the original village, part of the Casa Grande Canal, and a significant portion of the Adamsville Ruin within its boundaries—and thus within NPS’s ability to protect those resources. Possible additions include an interpretive trail between CGRNM and Adamsville Ruin, which would give visitors a better sense of the Hohokam landscape and ease of interaction between neighboring villages in an irrigation community.
... Read More →
The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.