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From the Sears catalogue
While researching the Picacho Mountain Petroglyph Sites, I became aware of a significant cluster of petroglyphs located on the volcanic basalt outcrops along the Gila River between Yuma and Gila Bend. I set off for Sears Point on a recent Saturday morning determined to cross this hike off my "To Do" list.
When I exited the I-8 at Spot Road and doubled back east along the frontage road to Avenue 76E, I found a vast, empty wilderness broken only by the occasional patch of black volcanic rock. As I continued north along the dirt road towards the Gila River, I could begin to make out the Eagletail Mountains on the horizon. With lush greenness approaching from the north, it could only be the Gila River. The dirt road dipped down into the flood plain and became a potential sand trap. Word of caution here... do not attempt to drive this section if it has rained recently! The double-track path is a bit of a maze zigzagging back and forth avoiding potholes, mud holes, and the like. It will soon emerge at the Sears Point trail head.
Hiking Sears Point Petroglyph Site
Sign the trail register at the trail head kiosk. Assuming the register is accurate, I'm the first visitor in 8 days! No sounds of civilization here, only a light breeze rustles through the ample mesquite bosque punctuated occasionally by a woodpecker drilling away... love it!
After signing the trail register, I gazed to the immediate south and could see some rock art near the upper ridge. I scrambled up a visible trail looking back at the trail head. As I continued to climb, I entered "Glyph City". Some of the panels look remarkably similar to Painted Rocks and Picacho Mountain sites. I walked past a boulder covered in glyphs only discernable when I had the sun situated at my back. This serves as an important lesson when searching for glyphs... don't give up easily, lighting can make rock art invisible!
The light trail heads south and follows an inner contour just below the upper rim. As you gaze to the west, the area has an appearance of being inside a crater. Given the volcanic landscape, this could be the explanation for the landscape. The trail to the south soon disappears, as does the frequency of petroglyphs. I found single glyphs scattered about in this area. Where the inner rim trail begins to bend to the west, I heard a distinct buzzing sound... I'd stumbled into a beehive! Holding my breath (recalling a biologist friend had told me carbon dioxide allows bees to track their perceived enemies), I scrambled down the slope into the inner basin.
I decided it was time to explore the ridges to the north side of the trail head register. I was soon rewarded! Pipettes, crosses, and various animal forms figured predominantly on this panel. I suspect these panels are visible from the trail head register.
I continued to follow an outer contour trail with views of the Gila River flood plain. Another large panel came into view. Whimsical animal forms are featured on multiple panels in this area. As you continue to the west there are boulders covered in rock art. From the boulders, look back for great views of the petroglyph panels. This alcove area has enough shelter to provide us pristine rock art.
Continuing west, another outcrop with rock art panels comes into sight. Below the panels are boulders covered in rock art. Further to the west, there is significant rock fall and the glyphs begin to disappear. Some graffiti markings from early settlers and travelers is evident.
I popped up on top of the mesa and began following the aboriginal trail to the west. The aboriginal trail takes you to the west end of Sears Point. From this vantage, you have a great view of the Gila River flood plain. I noticed a faint trail following the contour below the rim. A number of rock art panels can be found here.
The Sears Point area has at least two miles of basalt cliff edges that exhibit petroglyph panels. It is estimated that several thousand petroglyphs exist within the area. Many different design elements have been observed on these panels, including curvilinear, rectilinear, anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, abstract, and stylistic figures. In several places, flat basalt rocks were used for petroglyphs to mark trails. Several major petroglyph panels may be associated with Native American myths and legends. The Sears Point area also has historic graffiti. Many of these historic names and dates have been affiliated with early trappers, "49er" gold rush groups, and early settlers who passed through the area between 1840 and 1900. The area embraces a wide array of archaeological sites, including rock alignments, cleared areas, intaglios, petroglyphs, and aboriginal foot trails. The Arizona BLM has designated this site an ACEC. ACEC stands for Area of Critical Environmental Concern. It is an area of public land where the BLM has determined that; "Special management attention is required to protect and prevent irreparable damage to important historic, cultural, and scenic values."
I couldn't find any information about the origins of the name "Sears Point". Would appreciate hearing from anyone who knows.
This little-known site combines many of the rock art elements seen at the better-known Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site. Both are located along the Gila River corridor utilized by the Ancients, early Spanish explorers, and 1800's settlers as an important travel route. I didn't explore the southwest mesa or the isolated mesa further west - will save those for another time. My home library contains a couple of books on the topic of rock art. Having visited these impressive glyphs, I'm very surprised that Sears Point isn't mentioned in either of them. Maybe it's time for a new "definitive bible" to be released. Enjoy!
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