On-line Book

A Survey of the Recreational Resources of the Colorado River Basin







The Colorado River Basin


Plant and Animal Life

Prehistory of Man

Recreational Benefits of Reservoirs

Potential Reservoirs

The Grand Canyon

Canyon Lands of Southeastern Utah

Dinosaur National Monument

Conservation of Recreational Resources

Life Zone Map


A Survey of the Recreational Resources of the Colorado River Basin
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Chapter IV:

Wherever one travels in the Colorado River Basin he is certain to be impressed, sooner or later, with the abundant and basin-wide evidence of prehistoric occupation and use by man—extensive ruins of ancient buildings; early camp sites strewn with broken pieces of pottery; shaped stones; ancient ears of corn; and strange symbols and drawings on rocks and cliffs. Curiosity and interest are immediately aroused. Exploring the ruins and learning the dramatic story of these early peoples is one of the recreational activities of the basin. These evidences of prehistoric settlement and use of the lands and waters of the Colorado River Basin constitute a resource of important recreational and historical significance—of unique and irreplaceable value to the Nation.

Nowhere in America is the story of man's struggle with environment so vividly told. Here, to survive, man had to develop an uncommonly keen sense of things about him. He had to know what plants were natural providers of food and where they grew; the habits of game animals; how to go from place to place over long waterless wastes; the location of fertile lands for planting and how best to coax his crops from these lands, whether by taking advantage of natural subsurface moisture or by directing water to them by means of canals; and above all the source of water, the elemental necessity for human existence, affecting directly, along with the food supply, the stability and population density of a sedentary people. Since geography plays such an important part in determining the pattern of culture of a people, the following review of man's history in the Colorado River Basin must consider the physical environment as the back drop against which the cultural achievements can be projected.

The archeological story of this region is laid essentially in the valleys, for here the prerequisites of land and water were at their best. And our modern twentieth century civilization follows precisely the same pattern, since water is still the most precious asset of this entire region. Consequently, the priceless and irreplaceable ruins and relics of the prehistoric peoples of the region are found concentrated primarily along the streams including the major waterways which modern civilization is essaying to control and harness. As the reservoirs rise behind the new dams, and as lands below are modified, archeological remains not excavated in advance will be forever lost.

It was the permanence of abode—dictated by the tremendous investment in the construction of the canal systems by the people along the Gila and Salt Rivers, or the labor expended in the founding of great communal settlements, the Pueblo apartment houses of the Colorado Plateau, wherever land and water permitted that led to the notable achievements for which the native folk here have become renowned.

As pointed out in Chapter I, the full range of environmental types, from the hot, barren, inhospitable desert to the cool, forested altitudes of the mountains, is found within the basin. Accordingly, the archeological picture is exceedingly complex and the following review is not more than a brief inspection of the general historical and cultural elements.

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