Administrative History
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Chapter VI:

Stabilization III
1963 to 1975

In April 1962, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument was expanded to incorporate more archeological sites, including the TJ Ruin, which became a detached unit of the monument. This expansion ultimately stemmed from brief explorations of Campbell, Richert, and Vivian seven years earlier. In 1962, construction also began on a paved road to the remote site that was expected to bring in a lot of visitors. As part of preparations for the anticipated increases in visitation, Vivian and Dee Dodgen excavated most of the site to salvage what archeological material remained. Although their work was primarily scientific, some stabilization work was performed. The excavation of Room 10 required that the trail entering the ruin be moved from that room to Room 9. Sani-soil, a dust palliative, was applied to the rest of the trail in Cave 3. A plate and turnbuckle was set in Room 27, anchoring the northeast corner to a large boulder across the room. [10]

By his own admission Vivian's stabilzation was stop-gap, but the archeologist felt that more thorough work should await the planned development of a better trail system through the ruins. [11] In August 1967, however, William Gibson, acting superintendent of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, reported that the northeast corner of Room 27 was again deteriorating. [12] After visiting in November to assess the condition of the ruins, Richert, by then chief of the Mobile Stabilization Unit, recommended a general program that included repairing undercut areas, capping walls, tightening masonry around openings, some replastering, and trail work. [13]

Richert's major concern was controlling the flow of visitors, which had increased from 711 in 1955—the last time he had visited the cliff dwellings—to 25,000. He even suggested that staffing shortages might necessitate partially closing the fragile ruins to adequately protect them from further deterioration.

Trails and the control of visitors subsequently became a major topic of discussion as Richert's recommendations for stabilization were reviewed, and opinions divided on the issue of partial closure. In the regional office, some suggested that the visitors' trail terminate in Cave 3, with a viewing platform in Room 19. The wooden stile could be removed and the east wall raised to prevent entry into Caves 4 and 5; after looking into the farther caves, visitors would then turn around and exit through Room 9, the same way they had come into the ruins. [14] Other staff members—including Richert, who had raised the issue initially, and William Lukens, the new superintendent at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument—felt the proposal to close the ruins beyond Room 19 was too severe a measure, one that might aggravate bottlenecks in the flow of traffic and that would surely and perhaps unnecessarily compromise the interpretation of the prehistoric site. [15] They favored a one-way trail through the caves, beginning in Room 9 and exiting just west of Room 25 by means of steps cut into the rock or with a wooden ladder.

archway in Cave 3
The archway in Cave 3 was stabilized with a metal rod and cement in 1963. Visitors enter the ruin through this arch. In 1968, the addition of a ladder descending from Cave 4 permitted a one-way path for people to walk through the ruins. Note the threatening cavity beneath the two-story structure.

Ultimately, staff at the regional office concurred with the trail recommendations of Richert and Lukens. The ruins were kept open, and the current trail through the architecture, with the wooden ladder descending from Cave 4, has remained essentially unchanged since Don Morris and a crew of San Carlos Apaches improved it in July 1968. Although soil cement had been proposed as a trail surface, a heavy application of Sani-soil to packed earth was found to sufficiently alleviate the problem of dust kicked up by visitors.

The ruin itself was extensively stabilized, [16] and Morris deemed the cliff site able to withstand heavy visitation for years to come, although he cautioned that the impact of visitors should be carefully observed, "particularly in Room 25, which could offer real difficulties should collapse ever threaten." [17] After stabilizing the ruin, the trail that had been built to pack construction supplies to the site was improved so that visitors leaving the ruins would not have to return the same way they came, reducing congestion on the canyon trail by half.

In November 1970, Lukens wrote to the regional director, requesting permission to stabilize the cave area below Room 25, where runoff from the mesa above had undermined four boulders. [18] These threatened to roll off the cliff onto the trail below. Since Lukens's proposal entailed some excavation, he suggested that it be performed by George Chambers, the archeologist at Wupatki National Monument, who was slated to visit Gila Cliff Dwellings soon. After fixing the boulders in place sufficiently to act as a retaining wall, Chambers reinforced with iron rod the lintel of the doorway in Room 27.

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Last Updated: 23-Apr-2001