Wupatki National Monument Created (1924)

By executive order, President Calvin Coolidge created the Wupatki National Monument in central Arizona, on December 9, 1924.  The monument stands out for its exceptionally high density of archeological sites created by Native Americans of the desert Southwest.

The Wupatki region has been inhabited by Native Americans for at least 10,000 years.  Over the centuries, various Indian groups occupied the area, with fluctuations in population depending on specific climatic conditions.  The most recent major colonization occurred after the 10th Century, when the Sunset Crater volcano, a few miles southwest of the monument, erupted and coated the entire region with layers of volcanic ash.  The ash nourished the soil and held water, improving the conditions for agriculture.  The low plains of the region were dotted with settlements of Native Americans, known primarily as the Sinagua people.

The Sinagua built large structures from stable red sandstone rock, held together firmly by mortar.  Consequently, they were able to build multi-story settlements with as many as 100 rooms.  The Indians abandoned the structures around 1250, for unknown reasons, but presumably because less favorable climate caused failure of local agriculture.

The monument was designated “…to preserve and protect thousands of archeological sites scattered across the stunning landscape of the Painted Desert and the grassland prairies….”  A survey during the 1980s catalogued an estimated 2700 archeological sites in Wupatki, and several thousand more exist in nearby areas.  Some are the large structures for which the monument is well known, but other are distributed throughout the monument’s 56 square miles (about 35,000 acres).  The museum contains nearly 500,000 catalogued archeological items, making it a highly significant historical research repository.

Wupatki National Monument also has significant natural resource value.  The large acreage is mostly undeveloped and at some distance from major human settlement (Flagstaff is about 26 miles away).  Consequently, the monument provides a wilderness-like setting (although not formally designated as a wilderness), with unbroken vistas of juniper woodlands, grasslands and desert scrub communities against a backdrop of sandstone cliffs and the looming San Francisco mountains.  More importantly, it provides dark night skies and natural soundscapes.  As the noise of modern civilization increases, the natural soundscape of Wupatki is a natural resource all its own, useful as a baseline for understanding changes in soundscapes across the region and nation.

References:

Desert USA.  Wupatki National Monument.  Available at:  https://www.desertusa.com/wup/du_wup_desc.html.  Accessed December 7, 2017.

National Park Service.  2015.  Foundation Document, Wupatki National Monument, Arizona.  May 2015.  Available at:  https://www.nps.gov/wupa/getinvolved/upload/WUPA-Foundation-Document-Web-Final-May-2015.pdf.  Accessed December 7, 2017.

National Park Service.  Wuptaki National Monument, Arizona.  Available at:  https://www.nps.gov/wupa/learn/historyculture/places.htm.  Accessed December 7, 2017.

This Month in Conservation

September 1
Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon, Died (1914)
September 2
President Roosevelt Dedicated Great Smoky National Park (1940)
September 3
Wilderness Act passed (1964)
September 4
Fort Bragg, Home of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Established (1918)
September 5
UNESCO Established First World Heritage Sites (1978)
September 6
Alcide d’Orbigny, French Naturalist, Born (1802)
September 7
Edward Birge, Father of Limnology, born (1851)
September 8
UN Millennium Declaration ratified (2000)
September 9
First “Bug” Found in Computer (1945)
September 10
Henry Hardtner, Father of Southern Forestry, Born (1870)
September 11
World Wildlife Fund Began Operations (1961)
September 12
Canyonlands National Park Established (1964)
September 13
Walter Reed born (1851)
September 14
Marc Reisner, Author of Cadillac Desert (1948)
September 15
Darwin reaches the Galapagos Islands (1835)
September 16
Ed Begley Jr., Environmental Advocate, born (1949)
September 17
Edgar Wayburn, Wilderness Advocate, Born (1906)
September 18
Grey Owl, Pioneering Conservationist in Canada, Born (1888)
September 19
Urmas Tartes, Estonian Nature Photographer, born (1963)
September 20
AAAS Founded (1848)
September 21
Assateague Island National Seashore Created (1965)
September 22
Peace Corps becomes law (1961)
September 23
Rose Selected as U.S. National Flower (1986)
September 24
President Kennedy Dedicated Pinchot Institute (1963)
September 25
Pope Francis Addressed the UN on the Environment (2015)
September 26
Johnny Appleseed Born (1774)
September 27
“Silent Spring” Published (1962)
September 28
National Public Lands Day
September 29
Steinhart Aquarium opens (1923)
September 30
Hoover Dam Dedicated (1935)
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