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When you first see the Deer Valley Rock Art Center, it doesn't look very prepossessing. Local architect Will Bruder purposely designed it to blend into its landscape.
|Deer Valley Rock Art Center Entrance|
The Deer Valley Rock Art Center is a Phoenix Point of Pride, managed by the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. Its mission is to preserve and provide basic public access to the Hedgepeth Hills petroglyph site. With over 1500 petroglyphs, it's the largest collection in the Phoenix area. Not only is it a museum and a repository for the American Rock Art Research Association library, the "DVRAC" is also a wildlife preserve.
Denis and I visited at high noon, which isn't the best time of day to view petroglyphs-- especially when you're talking about sunlight as strong as it is here in the desert-- but we were eager to experience as much of it as possible.
We almost galloped through the interior....
|A few of the exhibits at the DVRAC.|
On the outside once again, we started out on the easy quarter-mile trail that led past the Neil Nelson Heritage Memorial Garden which showcases crops that Native Americans may have planted in this area hundreds (even thousands) of years ago, and a cactus garden and agave roasting pit. Here's what we were eager to see....
|Denis photographing a big pile of rocks.|
Wow... we wanted to see a big pile of rocks! Exciting, huh? Actually, yes-- that big pile of rocks is pretty darned exciting. Back several millennia, molten rock bubbled up through fissures in the earth, When it cooled, it fractured into thousands of pieces of basalt. Native Americans, like the Hohokam who lived here in the Phoenix area, loved basalt. They used it to make grinding tools for their grain, and the "taggers" of the day discovered that if they pecked away at the dark varnish, it left much lighter marks just below the surface. Lo and behold-- artists were born!
|A few of the over 1500 petroglyphs at the DVRAC.|
As I mentioned before, high noon is not the optimal time to see or photograph petroglyphs, but Denis and I both discovered that, the longer we stood there, the more we saw. Our eyes had to get accustomed to the rocks and the sun. We definitely intend to go back at varying times of day!
|Chuckwallah: If I can't see you, you do not exist!|
You'd never dream you were in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States while you're walking along the trail at the DVRAC. The peace, the quiet, and the abundant wildlife tell you that you're out on the desert somewhere far, far away from urban sprawl. That immense pile of basalt was teeming with all sorts of squirrels, a male Gambel's Quail called for his mate (expertly keeping tall grass and tree branches between him and my camera), and a chuckwallah sunned itself on a rock as if we weren't even there.
|Squirrel checking out the ancient grinding stones.|
Denis and I loved how the place teemed with life-- lizards, quail, squirrels, hummingbirds zipping back and forth... these are only a few of the critters we saw while we were there. All too soon, it was time to head back through the museum and head for the parking lot.
|Leaving the Deer Valley Rock Art Center.|
Denis and I appreciated the shade for a few moments before leaving, that's for certain. If you're ever in the Phoenix area, this is one place you should definitely visit!