Gatlin Site - Gila Bend, AZ | HikeArizona
for free!

Gatlin Site - Gila Bend, AZ

Guide 2 Triplogs  3 Topics
  2 of 5 
18 2 3
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
tap icons for details
Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Loop 1.15 miles
Trailhead Elevation 705 feet
Elevation Gain 50 feet
Accumulated Gain 75 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 1.53
 Interest Ruins & Historic
 Backpack No
 Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All MineFollowing
13  2011-12-18
Along the Gila Trail - Dec2011
18  2009-01-24 Randal_Schulhaus
author avatar Guides 71
Routes 98
Photos 9,967
Trips 1,009 map ( 9,248 miles )
Age 63 Male Gender
Location Ahwatukee, AZ
Associated Areas
list map done
Southwest Region
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred Dec, Jan, Feb, Nov
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:59am - 6:28pm
0 Alternative

Hohokam platforms at the crossroads!
by Randal_Schulhauser

If the site is closed, do not jump fences or enter illegally. Do not contact HAZ on this listing, contact the author. Employees of the city of Gila Bend claim there is false information on this page.

Back in the 1950s in an area just north of Gila Bend where Slick Gatlin was running cows, the locals could always count on finding projectile points or pot sherds whenever the mood struck to go Indian artifact hunting. Bring a shovel along and you might even unearth a complete pot or some bone fragments. It wasn't uncommon in the 1950s to find extensive private collections of ancient artifacts in the homes of some Gila Bend residents. So it was in Arizona prior to the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979...

On July 25th, 1957 the Army Corp of Engineers began construction of the Painted Rocks Dam. As part of the project, an extensive archeological survey of the Painted Rocks area was funded. One contract under the Reservoir Salvage Act was awarded to the Arizona State Museum (ASM) led by William Wasley and Alfred Johnson to excavate the Fortified Hill (aka Fortaleza Site), the nearby Gatlin Site, and numerous satellite locations. When the $13.7M dam construction was completed on January 18th, 1960 Wasley and Johnson focused their attention on the ever-expanding Gatlin Site.

Wasley and Johnson published their report in 1965 detailing the Gila Bend region as a distinctive variant of Hohokam culture. Between 800 AD and 1200 AD, the Gatlin Site was the center of an important Hohokam farming and manufacturing community. Situated at the crossroads of the east-west transportation corridor along the Gila River and the north-south salt route from Phoenix to the Sea of Cortez, it was also an important trading center. The Gatlin Site was the largest community in the area, home to over 500 people. The presence of two ceremonial ball courts and one of the earliest platform mounds confirms the community prominence. Some of the artifacts unearthed including rare copper bells, stone mirrors, macaw feathers, and marine shells indicate trade with Mesoamerica to the south whereas Kayenta polychrome indicates trade with the north.

Despite the 1964 designation as a National Historic Landmark, the Gatlin Site lay in disuse until the early 1990's when the Town of Gila Bend in cooperation with the Agua Fria Chapter of the Arizona Archeological Society began to rehabilitate the site with a vision to make it a public park. Dr. David Doyel was lured away from Pueblo Grande in Phoenix to lead this venture.

Operating on a shoe-string budget, but supported by a fanatical base of patrons and volunteer workers, the vision of transforming the Gatlin Site into a historic public cultural park is close to a realization...

Look for the gated south entrance along Stout Road. Starting from the south parking lot near the visitor's center, we gather to meet our guide, site archeologist, Dr. David Doyel. Dr. Doyel welcomes the group and begins to explain the significance of this site and his vision of a public archeological park along the lines of Pueblo Grande or Casa Grande.

Our first stop along the interpretive trail is the 1960 Wasley and Johnson platform mound excavation site. Dr. Doyel explains that the excavations were buried in the early 1960s and recent work by site volunteers has focused on stabilizing the platform mound leaving much of it undisturbed for a future generation. It's Dr. Doyel's opinion that until the archaeological park has about $0.5M available to "Do it Right", it should remain undisturbed.

Continuing north along the interpretive trail, a spur to the east offers a view of the remains of an ancient irrigation canal. Dr. Doyel says that the presence of multiple irrigation canals confirms the importance of farming to this Hohokam community.

The next series of stops highlight the transportation crossroads at the Gatlin Site - ancient trade routes, Gila Pioneer Trail, the Butterfield Stage Route, and the Old Phoenix Highway. All of these traversed the grounds of the Gatlin Site...

The interpretive trail winds its way between platform mounds and the reconstruction of some ancient pit houses. Many monochrome pottery sherds are noted beside the trail. At the trails northern terminus near the Gila River, views of Fortaleza Ruins Site can be seen to the west.

We started the day with an interesting lunchtime lecture by Dr. Dave Morris at the Gila Bend Community Center. We ended the day back at the Community Center with a comprehensive dinner time lecture by Dr. David Doyel on the "Archeology of the Gila Bend Frontier". In between, we toured the "soon-to-open" Gatlin Site with the site archeologist viewing the ruins of a Hohokam Indian village and platform mound dated approximately 1000 A.D. A new round of site development began in 2004 when the Town of Gila Bend was awarded an Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund Matching Grant allowing construction of a 6,772-foot interpretive trail that winds its way through the site. This 110-acre site is a labor of love for the many volunteers. Their dream of an archaeological park and desert botanical gardens for public visitation is close to realization. Enjoy!

2009-11-02 Note
From Page 7 of the November 2009 issue of "The Petroglyph", the monthly newsletter of the Arizona Archaeological Society:

Due to changes in the makeup of the city government of Gila Bend, the Agua Fria Chapter will no longer be associated with the work at the Gatlin Site. After 16 years of toil, sweat, time, and money, Roy and Ella Pierpoint are no longer the driving force behind the project and as a result, our advisor, Dr. Dave Doyel, and the Chapter "laborers" have withdrawn their support. We with the town of Gila Bend the best as they search for a "better" way to conduct the work at the site.

Check out the Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2009-02-01 Randal_Schulhauser
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

     Permit $$
    Special Use

    No public access. Guided tours only.

    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    Notice: If the site is closed, do not jump fences or enter illegally. Do not contact HAZ on this listing, contact the author. Employees of the city of Gila Bend claim there is false information on this page.

    Directions to the trail (synopsis): From Phoenix, take the I-10 East towards Tucson. At exit 164 for Hwy 347, travel west and south 15 miles to the rapidly growing town of Maricopa. Turn right at the Hwy 238 (aka Maricopa Road) intersection and travel 38 miles to the town of Gila Bend. At the Hwy 85 intersection, turn left (West) and as you pass through an underpass at the east end of town, look for Old Hwy 85. Turn right (north) and as Old Hwy 85 begins to fork right, take Stout Road straight north about 1 mile where you will meet the stop-signed intersection with Watermelon Road. Continue north about 1/2 miles until you pass an electrical power plant on your right-hand side and on your left (West side) you will see signage for "Gatlin Site".

    GPS coordinates for trailhead parking at the Gatlin Site Visitor Center are 32o 58.800'N, 112o 42.110'W. The Gatlin Site is not currently open to the general public, but private tours can be arranged through the Town of Gila Bend. The Agua Fria Chapter of the Arizona Archeological Society frequently leads field trips to the Gatlin Site.

    For more information, contact;
    The Town of Gila Bend
    644 W. Pima Street
    P.O. Box A
    Gila Bend, Arizona 85337
    Phone: (928) 683-2255
    page created by Randal_Schulhauser on Feb 01 2009 7:34 pm

    end of page marker