History & Culture

Spiral Petroglyph

The Kaibab National Forest Archaeology and Heritage Program

Written By:  Neil Weintraub, archaeologist

The archaeologist's role has changed substantially over our Forest Service tenure. Originally hired to conduct archaeological surveys prior to timber sales, we now coordinate the forest's Arizona Site Stewards program; manage projects involving volunteers; conduct educational programs across northern Arizona; conduct Passport in Time (PIT) projects; facilitate tribal consultations for forest managers; maintain heritage databases in the forest's Geographic Information Systems; nominate sites to the National Register of Historic Places; and survey, record and protect sites in accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

More than 6,000 archaeological and historic sites have been recorded on the Kaibab National Forest, which represents an incredible amount of historic and pre-historic information. The majority of these sites are associated with "Cohonina," who occupied the Kaibab between AD 700 and AD 1100. They left stone houses, pottery sherds, stone tools, grinding stones and rock art across the forest. Our Williams Region Arizona Site Stewards monitor many of these sensitive sites, helping to report and deter vandalism.

We are also mapping many of the forest's logging railroad grades, which date to the late 1800s. Long since abandoned, their rotting wooden ties and volcanic rock paths remain.

You can learn about the forest's prehistory and history at numerous interpretive sites. Hikes to Keyhole Sink and Laws Spring lead you to prehistoric rock art sites. Bike down Old Route 66 to revisit the road that helped open the West or, for longer ventures, try hiking the Overland Trail or Beale Wagon Road. In addition, forest historian Teri Cleeland nominated several of our most important sites to the National Register of Historic Places, including Hull Cabin, Big Springs Administrative Site, Laws Spring, Route 66, Jacob Lake Ranger Station, Williams District Ranger Station and eight rock art sites in Snake Gulch.

We are reconstructing a prehistoric Cohonina ruin located at the Williams District Ranger Station. During our 1993 and 1994 PIT projects, 40 volunteers helped us unearth the history of this 1,000-year-old site. We found numerous projectile points, axes, pot sherds and grinding stones. We also found more recent items such as horseshoes, nails and even an imported French toothbrush!

We organized our first PIT project in September 1991. Twenty volunteers helped us locate 50 rock art locations in Snake Gulch on the North Kaibab Ranger District. We camped in the forest and hiked two miles to the project area, locating and making scale drawings of the rock art. Many of these sketches will be used to nominate additional rock art sites to the National Register of Historic Places. Eight sites in Snake Gulch are already on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of these paintings may date to the Basket Maker period -- about 2,000 years ago!

Our fall 1992 PIT project took us deep into the heart of the Saddle Mountain Wilderness on the North Kaibab Ranger District. Here, 18 volunteers spent a full week camped in the wilderness helping us survey and record 20 new prehistoric pueblo sites.

In October 1996, we conducted a PIT rock art recording project south of the Grand Canyon. Twenty volunteers helped us record 23 new rock art sites in Rain Tank Wash. The volunteers drew more than 100 scale drawings! In late 1997, our PIT project took us back to Snake Gulch. Seven volunteer artists helped us record 23 prehistoric site locations and made 72 drawings.

The PIT projects and other volunteer work efforts have continued to this day. We simply couldn't accomplish as much as we do without the continued support and enthusiasm of our volunteers. 

To learn more about the Kaibab National Forest Archaeology and Heritage Program, please review the "Passport in Time," "Posters," and "Highlights" areas on this page.