National Park Service

State of the Park Reports

State of the Park Report for Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Cultural Resources

Columnar Cactus Habitat at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Columnar Cactus Habitat at Organ Pipe Cactus NM

View list of cultural resource information sources

The Status and Trend symbols used in the summary table below and throughout this report are summarized in the following key. The background color represents the current condition status, the direction of the arrow summarizes the trend in condition, and the thickness of the outside line represents the degree of confidence in the assessment. In some cases, the arrow is omitted because data are not sufficient for calculating a trend (e.g., data from a one-time inventory or insufficient sample size).

Condition Status Trend in Condition Confidence in
Assessment
Condition of resource warrants significant concern Warrants Significant Concern Condition is improving Condition is Improving High confidence in the assessment High
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern Warrants Moderate Concern Condition is unchanging Condition is Unchanging Medium confidence in the assessment Medium
Resource is in good condition Resource is in Good Condition Condition is deteriorating Condition is Deteriorating Low confidence in the assessment Low

Examples of how the symbols should be interpreted:

Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment.
Prehistoric Archeological Sites Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment.
Indicators of Condition Specific Measures Condition Status/Trend Rationale
Inventoried Sites Damage from:
  • Natural Forces
  • Vandalism/Theft
  • Vehicular Incursions
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; medium confidence in the assessment. At this time, less than 5% of monument lands have been surveyed for archeological resources and fewer than 350 prehistoric sites have been recorded in the park. The monument is working towards increasing the number of site condition assessments performed each year. Ten to twelve inventoried sites are assessed each year for site condition status, threats, and disturbances. This monitoring program allows us to quantify the nature and extent of damage to sites. Impacts from natural forces vary from year to year. In 2010 and 2011 several severe and localized rain events occurred within the monument resulting in as yet unknown levels of damage to sites. Currently, the levels of vandalism and theft at prehistoric sites are believed to be low. Monitoring data indicate that damage due to vehicular incursions is increasing. Such incursion events are known to occur within site boundaries. Prevention and restoration programs addressing incursion issues are currently being developed.
Non-inventoried Sites: Archeological Surveys and New Sites Inventories Damage from:
  • Natural Forces
  • Vandalism/Theft
  • Vehicular Incursions
Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Work to increase the documentation of new archeological sites is ongoing and the number of newly-surveyed acres is increasing yearly. Between 2010 and 2012, approximately 1000 acres were surveyed for cultural resources, resulting in the discovery and recording of 21 new archeological sites. Continuation of this work is a high priority for the park. As each new site is recorded it is typically given baseline site condition and National Register eligibility assessments. Monitoring data indicate that damage due to vehicular incursions may be increasing which is concerning.
Prehistoric Trails Damage from:
  • Vandalism/Theft
  • Vehicular incursions
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. The nationally-significant Salt Trail passes through the monument. It was a major trade route from the Sea of Cortez to the core areas of the Hohokam culture and other areas to the north. Salt and seashells from the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific as well as obsidian and additional items from Mesoamerica were transported over this trail and throughout a broad region of the Southwest. The trail is not well documented on the ground, but evidence of its presence can be found throughout the monument.
Pictographs/ Petroglyphs Damage from:
  • Natural Forces
  • Vandalism
  • Illegal Traffic
Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. There are many pictograph and petroglyph sites throughout the park. At one of the monument's most important sites, a project to assess and correct long-term damage to pictographs due to water seepage and resulting mineralization was initiated in 2011. There has been no evidence of vandalism noted at any rock art site in the park, most likely due to their remote locations even though some are used by illegal aliens as lay-up sites. Virtual tours are under consideration for display at the Visitor Center in the future.

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The Status and Trend symbols used in the summary table below and throughout this report are summarized in the following key. The background color represents the current condition status, the direction of the arrow summarizes the trend in condition, and the thickness of the outside line represents the degree of confidence in the assessment. In some cases, the arrow is omitted because data are not sufficient for calculating a trend (e.g., data from a one-time inventory or insufficient sample size).

Condition Status Trend in Condition Confidence in
Assessment
Condition of resource warrants significant concern Warrants Significant Concern Condition is improving Condition is Improving High confidence in the assessment High
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern Warrants Moderate Concern Condition is unchanging Condition is Unchanging Medium confidence in the assessment Medium
Resource is in good condition Resource is in Good Condition Condition is deteriorating Condition is Deteriorating Low confidence in the assessment Low

Examples of how the symbols should be interpreted:

Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment.
Historic Sites (Post Spanish Contact) Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; medium confidence in the assessment.
Indicators of Condition Specific Measures Condition Status/Trend Rationale
Historic Ranching and Farming Damage from:
  • Natural Forces
  • Vandalism/Theft
  • Illegal Border Traffic
  • Vehicular Incursions
Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Monitoring of the monument's historic ranching and farming sites has revealed substantial damage from natural forces, vandalism, and vehicle incursions. Erosion, heavy rains and flooding, high winds, sun and high heat exposure act constantly upon the vernacular Sonoran Desert architecture typically found at historic ranching and farming sites within the monument. Work to assess and prioritize treatments is ongoing. Unfortunately, vandalism has been on the rise and vehicle incursions continue to impact these resources. In response, a number of stabilization projects have been developed. Each year between 2009 and 2012 ruins preservation field schools, held in collaboration with the University of Arizona and heritage preservation partnerships, have addressed the degraded condition of structures at Bates Well Ranch, Armenta Ranch, and Gachado Line Camp.
Historic Mining Sites Damage from:
  • Natural Forces
  • Vandalism/Theft
  • Illegal Border Traffic
  • Vehicular Incursions
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Historic mining sites have suffered degradation as a result of natural forces, vandalism, lay-ups by illegal aliens, and vehicular incursions. In 2012 the monument conducted a field school at Victoria Mine to stabilize its primary vernacular masonry structure, the historic Levy's Store. Cultural resource surveys in 2010 resulted in the identification of previously unrecorded mining assets in the San Cristobal Valley and other locations in the monument. In 2011, numerous hazardous mine features were permanently closed for safety reasons. Many additional mining assets require similar stabilization and management actions.
Historic Roads and Trails Damage from:
  • Natural Forces
  • Vehicular Incursions
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; medium confidence in the assessment. Historic routes include El Camino del Diablo; the Yuma mule train route; Bates Well Road; Armenta Ranch Road; the Gunsight to Sonoyta Road; and numerous other wagon trails. Some of these historic routes are being degraded by the high levels of vehicular activity occurring throughout the monument and by the related effects of natural forces.

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The Status and Trend symbols used in the summary table below and throughout this report are summarized in the following key. The background color represents the current condition status, the direction of the arrow summarizes the trend in condition, and the thickness of the outside line represents the degree of confidence in the assessment. In some cases, the arrow is omitted because data are not sufficient for calculating a trend (e.g., data from a one-time inventory or insufficient sample size).

Condition Status Trend in Condition Confidence in
Assessment
Condition of resource warrants significant concern Warrants Significant Concern Condition is improving Condition is Improving High confidence in the assessment High
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern Warrants Moderate Concern Condition is unchanging Condition is Unchanging Medium confidence in the assessment Medium
Resource is in good condition Resource is in Good Condition Condition is deteriorating Condition is Deteriorating Low confidence in the assessment Low

Examples of how the symbols should be interpreted:

Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment.
Ethnographic Resources Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment.
Indicators of Condition Specific Measures Condition Status/Trend Rationale
Relationship with Associated Tribes
  • Level and frequency of engagement
  • Status of the relationship
Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Tribal consultation occurs frequently with culturally-affiliated tribes. Such dialog is important to maintaining good tribal relations. Towards this end, during 2010, and again in 2012, we worked with tribal counterparts to coordinate a successful tri-national symposium with representatives of the Tohono O'odham Nation, Mexico, and the U.S. Tribal representatives have also recently participated in a number of cultural resource management projects at both prehistoric and historic sites. During 2011, the monument also completed a NAGPRA consultation process which involved the four southern O'odham Tribes of Arizona, the Zuni Pueblo, and the Hopi Nation.

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The Status and Trend symbols used in the summary table below and throughout this report are summarized in the following key. The background color represents the current condition status, the direction of the arrow summarizes the trend in condition, and the thickness of the outside line represents the degree of confidence in the assessment. In some cases, the arrow is omitted because data are not sufficient for calculating a trend (e.g., data from a one-time inventory or insufficient sample size).

Condition Status Trend in Condition Confidence in
Assessment
Condition of resource warrants significant concern Warrants Significant Concern Condition is improving Condition is Improving High confidence in the assessment High
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern Warrants Moderate Concern Condition is unchanging Condition is Unchanging Medium confidence in the assessment Medium
Resource is in good condition Resource is in Good Condition Condition is deteriorating Condition is Deteriorating Low confidence in the assessment Low

Examples of how the symbols should be interpreted:

Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment.
Cultural Landscapes Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment.
Indicators of Condition Specific Measures Condition Status/Trend Rationale
Documentation of Significant Cultural Landscapes Number of Cultural Landscape Inventories (CLI) completed Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. CLIs have been completed for Victoria Historic Mining District (NPS 2002b) and Blankenship Ranch. A new Quitabaquito Cultural Landscape Inventory is complete and has been nominated to the National Register (NPS 2002a). Documentation of additional landscapes, possibly including an early Ak-Chin agricultural and irrigation system associated with Hohokam culture is a priority for the monument in the near future.

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The Status and Trend symbols used in the summary table below and throughout this report are summarized in the following key. The background color represents the current condition status, the direction of the arrow summarizes the trend in condition, and the thickness of the outside line represents the degree of confidence in the assessment. In some cases, the arrow is omitted because data are not sufficient for calculating a trend (e.g., data from a one-time inventory or insufficient sample size).

Condition Status Trend in Condition Confidence in
Assessment
Condition of resource warrants significant concern Warrants Significant Concern Condition is improving Condition is Improving High confidence in the assessment High
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern Warrants Moderate Concern Condition is unchanging Condition is Unchanging Medium confidence in the assessment Medium
Resource is in good condition Resource is in Good Condition Condition is deteriorating Condition is Deteriorating Low confidence in the assessment Low

Examples of how the symbols should be interpreted:

Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment.
Museum Collections Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; medium confidence in the assessment.
Indicators of Condition Specific Measures Condition Status/Trend Rationale
Inventoried Objects, Specimens and Archives
  • Number of items and documentation
  • Meets museum standards
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; medium confidence in the assessment. Accessioned museum objects, specimens, and archives are 71% cataloged (FY2012); funding is obligated to catalog the remaining archives and a portion of the herbarium specimens. Considerable work remains to bring park accession and catalog records up to minimal standards.
Preservation and Protection Meets museum preservation standards Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; medium confidence in the assessment. In the park collection items are maintained in two recorded facilities which meet 47.61% of the preservation and protection standards (FY2012). Most of the museum collection is curated at the NPS Western Archeological Conservation Center (WACC) in Tucson, AZ, a state-of-the-art curation facility. Efforts to catalog and move a backlog of objects, specimens, and archives to WACC are ongoing.
Documentation Current and appropriate core museum documents Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. The park lacks 8 of 9 core museum documents including a current Scope of Collections Statement, Collection Management Plan, collection condition survey, fire and security surveys, Housekeeping Plan, and inclusion of museum collections in the Emergency Operations Plan and Structural Fire Plan.
Comparative Collections Completeness of projectile points and ceramics collections Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; low confidence in the assessment. Projectile point and ceramic collections are less than 10% complete, and work is progressing in these areas. The typing and dating of projectile points and ceramics will be applied to a local Organ Pipe typology within the overall framework of regional southwestern Arizona typologies and the park's cultural chronology.

Numerous prehistoric site types in OPCNM include year-round villages, seasonal open campsites, roasting pits, sleeping circles, trade routes and trails, rock shelters, and rock art sites. Many of these sites are associated with the Hohokam culture, which dates from approximately A.D. 150 to A.D. 1450. Evidence for year-round prehistoric village sites on park lands is increasing, challenging the previous notion that aboriginal peoples practiced only a dual-residence system; practicing Ak-Chin floodwater-farming in the desert lowlands during the summer and moving to the mountains during the winters.

Crossing the park, running north-south, is the Salt Trail. Known as the primary salt and shell trading route used by the Hohokam (and probably by earlier cultures as well), and ethnographically by the O'odham tribes, this trail is nationally significant. In the future, the park hopes to document its alignment more extensively and nominate it to the National Register of Historic Places.

Important historic sites also occur throughout OPCNM, dating from the Spanish contact era (ca. A.D. 1540) and after. These sites are primarily related to mining and cattle ranching, with mining beginning in earnest in the mid-1800s. Cattle ranches followed, in part to satisfy the miner's demand for beef. These historic resources, in combination with prehistoric sites, are important in interpreting themany lifeways that are associated with the access to, and control of, water in the Sonoran Desert without which life here would never have been possible.

Because the ore from the mines could not easily be processed without water, some high-grade ore was sent by mule train to Yuma where it was shipped around Cape Horn to Wales for processing. A primitive grinding mill often powered by burros, called an arrastra, was used to pulverize ore, where it was not so rich. Pulverized gold ore could be amalgamated with mercury in the bottom of the arrastra and refined in a distillation retort. Because arrastras used much less water than other refining processes, the miners built them where access to water was limited. In the park, the remains of arrastras can be found at Bates Well Ranch and the Lost Cabin Mine.

Although historic resources can date back further, the period of significance for most of the park's historic structures begins with the start of mining in the 1850s, and runs to the early 1900s when most of the small mines played-out and ranches began to fade away. However, because some ranchers stuck it out, some resources have periods of significance running up through the 1930s and 1940s.

General Culture History of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Lands

Period Approximate Dates
Malpais Tradition Associated with the Malpais Pluvial∼30,000–18,000 B.C. (?)
Pre-Paleoindian Period (Western Stemmed Projectile Point Technology Overlapping with Clovis Technology) ∼16,000(?)–10,000 B.C. (?)
Paleoindian Period – Clovis Technology ∼13,000 B.C. to 7500 B.C.
Archaic Period-Early, Middle, and Late 7500 B.C. to A.D. 200
PRE-AGRICULTURAL and PRE-CERAMIC Time Prior to ∼2000 B.C.
AGRICULTURAL 2000 B.C. to A.D. 200
Invention & Spread of the Bow & Arrow ∼A.D. 500 to 700
Late Prehistoric Period A.D. 200 to 1400
CERAMIC A.D. 150 to 1900
Hohokam A.D. 150 to 1450
Patayan A.D. 700 to 1850
Trincheras A.D. 700 to 1900
Protohistoric Period A.D. 1400 to 1540
Early Historic Period A.D. 1540 to 1848
Mid Historic Period A.D. 1848 to 1940
Arizona Territorial Period A.D. Feb 24, 1863 to Feb 14, 1912
World War II & Cold War Period A.D. 1940 to 1989
Modern Period A.D. 1989 to Present
Adapted 2012 by Connie Thompson Gibson from Ahlstrom (2000, 2001); Huckell (1984); Mabry (1998); Foster et al. (2002); Beck and Jones (1990, 2009, 2010); Rogers (1929, 1939, 1945, 1958), Hayden (1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1976); Rankin (1995); Hartmann and Thurtle (2000); Rogers (1929, 1939, 1945, 1958); Altschul and Rankin (2008); and Jenkins et al. (2012).

Levy's Store at the Victoria Historic Mining District
Levy's Store, as it appeared in the mid-1900s, in the Victoria Historic Mining District

The monument contains numerous abandoned gold, silver, and copper mines, including examples of early deep-shaft silver mines such as the Victoria Mine, which is nearly 400 feet deep. Other mine features in the park include glory holes, tunnels, adits, ore-cart runouts, leaching vats, and thousands of prospect pits. Ruins include the infrastructure associated with mining camps such as supply stores; blacksmith shops; miner's outdoor kitchens and quarters that are constructed of ocotillo and cactus ribs plastered with mud; cisterns; and dynamite storage bunkers. Stone buildings are located in the Victoria Historic Mining District and at Lost Cabin Mine. In early 2012 a ruins preservation field school, conducted in collaboration with the University of Arizona, was held at Levy's Store (right), a mud-mortar-and-stone masonry structure at Victoria Mine.

The remains of an arrastra, an early ore processing appliance at Bates Well Ranch
The remains of an arrastra, an early ore milling appliance at Bates Well Ranch. Its location adjacent to the bunk house suggests that it was no longer in use when the bunk house was built since the building would have interfered with its operation.

Numerous structures and features remain from early cattle ranches in the park including ranch houses, cowboy line camps, tack barns, bunkhouses, chicken coops, hay barns, windmills, charcos, represos, water pipelines, canals, terraced fields, berms, wells, fences, cattle chutes, corrals, stock troughs, and historic wagon roads and horse trails. Vernacular Sonoran Desert architecture is frequently represented by scavenged building materials including railroad ties, whole buildings that were moved from nearby mines, and by sandwich-style corral fences made from mesquite branches.

Historic and prehistoric archeological sites within the monument have valuable research potential. Historical sites can augment the 500-year historical record of the region by confirming, disproving, or adding to the written record and thus support or enhance the interpretive story of OPCNM. Prehistoric sites contain important diagnostic artifacts and features from time periods ranging from the Paleoindian through the Early, Middle, and Late Archaic and Late Prehistoric periods. Diagnostic projectile dart points have been recovered that date back thousands of years, and ceramic shards from three major cultures—the Hohokam, Trincheras, and Patayan—have been recovered. Research on these sites can add to the archeological record of southwestern Arizona and, as above, enhance the interpretive story of the monument.

Research is ongoing at several sites in the park where there was access to water year-round, and many desert water-control devices such as wells, represos, irrigation canals, and charcos have been identified. While not on the scale of the extensive Hohokam canal works in the Tucson and Phoenix basins, the water control devices on ORPI were actually a part of the Hohokam irrigation and agricultural complex—they are outliers of the Hohokam system, and representative of the akchin floodwater farming that went on at nearly every wash on the monument during the monsoons (Rankin 1995, Altschul and Rankin 2008).

Distribution of artifacts at an OPCNM rock shelter site Early akchin agricultural motifs depicted on petroglyphs at OPCNM
Left: Distribution of artifacts (indicated by the pink flags) at an OPCNM rock shelter site.
Right: Early Ak-Chin agricultural motifs depicted on petroglyphs at OPCNM.

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Last Updated: April 07, 2014 Contact Webmaster