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

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October 2
San Diego Zoo Founded (1916)
October 3
James Herriot, English Veterinarian, Born (1916)
October 4
Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Ecology
October 5
Catherine Cooper Hopley, British Herpetologist, Born (1817)
October 6
Mad Hatter’s Day
October 7
Henry A. Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture, Born (1888)
October 8
World Octopus Day
October 9
Vajont Dam Disaster (1963)
October 10
Dnieper Dam Began Operation (1932)
October 11
Big Cypress and Big Thicket National Preserves Created (1974)
October 12
William Laurance, Tropical Conservationist, Born (1957)
October 13
International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction
October 14
Timpanogos Cave National Monument Created (1922)
October 15
Isabella Bird, Pioneering Eco-traveler, Born (1831)
October 16
World Food Day
October 17
Oliver Rackham born (1939)
October 18
Clean Water Act established (1972)
October 19
Research Vessel Albatross Launched (1882)
October 20
OPEC Oil Embargo (1973)
October 21
“Ding” Darling born (1876)
October 22
Wombat Day
October 23
Cumberland Island National Seashore established (1972)
October 24
Antoni von Leeuwenhoek born (1632)
October 25
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October 26
Erie Canal Opens (1825)
October 27
Golden Gate and Gateway National Recreation Areas Created (1972)
October 28
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October 28
First Ticker-tape Parade Held (1886)
October 29
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October 30
UNESCO Designates 9 Natural World Heritage Sites (1981)
October 31
Lincoln Highway Dedicated (1913)
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