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Agua Fria National Monument

Summary: Agua Fria National Monument was created by President Clinton in 1996 and consists of 71,100 acres of mesa and canyon. The area is currently administered by the BLM, which allows cattle grazing throughout much of the area. Though not terribly interesting at first glance, the area is actually one of the most significant prehistoric sites in the southwest. The Monument contains more than 450 archaeological sites, most of which were constructed between A.D. 1250-1450 (though some are older). The BLM only provides directions to one 'showcase' ruin (Pueblo la Plata), however, many of the roads in the monument lead right to some significant sites. The other hint they provide is to look for sites 'located at the edges of steep canyons', which I've found to be true. You know the drill for these archaeological areas - leave everything the way you found it!
Directions: From Phoenix, drive north on I-17 to the exit for  Bloody Basin Road (exit #259). Turn right off the exit ramp onto Bloody Basin Road which soon crosses a cattle guard and becomes well graded dirt before reaching a kiosk (stop and pick up a map). To go to Pueblo la Plata, drive 8.3 miles to an unmarked dirt road on the left (north). You can identify this road by the earthen cow tanks a short distance down it. Turn left on this road which is suitable only for high clearance vehicles, though even then you may want to park and walk the final 0.5 mile, which is rather rough. Follow the main track staying right and the first branch, left at the second, and left at the third. The road then passes through a gate and crosses a metal pipe before ending in a small parking area and register.
Road Conditions: High Clearance Vehicle
Navigation: Easy, Moderate if your heading cross country on foot looking for ruins
Length: Many ruins & petroglyphs can be reached within a short walk from a road
Date Hiked: February 2004
Weather Conditions: Sunny and cool
Required Skills: None
Hike Description: From the car park at the Pueblo la Plata ruin, simply walk the short distance to the site which consists of many rock walls and is littered with potsherds. The ruin is one of the largest sites in the monument and is thought to have been a village containing an estimated 120-150 rooms. The site is named for Silver Creek to the north, which was likely the water source for the residents. The prehistoric people survived by growing foods, hunting and gathering. When ready return the way you came, or venture deeper within the monument in search of other discoveries.
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife spent a day poking around Pueblo la Plata, then looking for and finding other interesting sites. I found the rock walls to be rather uninteresting, but the artifacts and petroglyphs are some of the best anywhere. Below are a few photos of some of the sites we found.
Maps: Pick one up at the kiosk at the entrance to the monument.
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.

Typical ruins.

More rock walls.

Mano & matate. Potsherds galore.
Petroglyphs. A large petroglyph panel.