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Cline Creek Ruins
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mini location map2016-02-20
23 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Cline Creek RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Feb 20 2016
Hiking5.50 Miles 1,143 AEG
Hiking5.50 Miles   5 Hrs   43 Mns   1.30 mph
1,143 ft AEG   1 Hour   30 Mns Break12 LBS Pack
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Wanted to hike somewhere new but didn't want to drive a long way so decided to check out the Cline Creek Ruins in the southwest corner of the Tonto National Forest near New River. There are two fairly well known hilltop Indian ruins in this area and I've seen both referred to as the Cline Creek Ruins. I'd been to the west ruins so this time it would be the east ruins. The east ruins are visible on Google Earth. I chose to start the hike at the north end of 20th St. The more common entrance is at the north end of 12th street where FR53 starts. The N 20th St entrance reduces the length of the hike by about 2 miles and appears to be popular with off-road enthusiasts. There is quite a network of ATV and 4x4 roads in this area, none of which are identified with forest road markers except for FR53. A quick look at the Tonto Nat. Forest website indicates they have not yet released a Motor Vehicle Use Map so use of these "roads" does not appear to be regulated yet.

The hike started out following a well used 4x4 track which could have accommodated my FJ Cruiser with minimal AZ pin striping. About a half mile up the road I encountered a large pickup truck parked by the side of the road with a guy dressed in camouflage enjoying a late morning beer sitting on the shady side of his truck. A few minutes of conversation revealed that he had been hunting javalina (rifle season) all morning and was taking a break. After discussing the peculiarities of these elusive beasts and my destination, I started to depart but first spotted a pottery sherd laying on the ground nearby. Deciding to check out the area for ruins on my way back, I continued up the road. After an easy approximately 2 mile hike on 4x4 road I started off trail more or less following the 1/20/2013 track posted by HAZer, azwildguide. The off trail hike is steep in some areas but fairly easy as off-trail ruin hikes go. Wildflowers were starting to show on this south facing hillside, mostly the brittle bush yellow flowers, adding to the beauty of this desert scenery. The cholla were annoying. The buds had dropped and were hiding in tall grass so I had to keep stopping to pull the spines out of my boots. Unfortunately my light weight desert hiking boots were not much protection for the more formidable spines on the buds dropped by the stag horn cholla so the encounter was somewhat painful.

I passed three other hikers coming back down on my way to the top - the only other hikers I would see all day. We briefly talked about the origins of the ruins. One of them thought the ruins might have been built by the army as a fortified observation post during the Apache war because he could find no pottery sherds at the site. After seeing the ruins, I highly doubt the validity of his speculation because these ruins have the typical layout and construction of other hilltop fortress type Indian ruins. One example is the fortress ruin at Elephant Mountain which is within sight of this ruin. The ruins were fairly impressive with some sections of the defensive wall still standing 5-6 feet high. The perimeter defensive wall enclosed an area approximately 130 feet long and 30 ft to 40 ft wide. (measurements made on Google Earth). The only interior structure was a circular wall at the east end roughly 20 ft in diameter. From GE it appears to be more rectangular with rounded corners.

I dawdled at the fortress site for almost 1.5 hours enjoying the pleasant spring temperatures and spectacular views while eating lunch and then snooping around for pottery sherds (none found). On the way back I took a slightly different route and came across the site of a small pueblo style ruin. The outlines of the walls were barely visible and some had probably been destroyed where the ground had been cleared of all rocks for a circular vehicle turn around at the end of a 4x4 track. The ruin was in a saddle at the base of a small hill (knob). On top of the knob I found a bunch of boulders with petroglyphs. These are obviously well known because there is a trail leading to the top. It was a nice collection of glyphs on 10 boulders.

Along the road on the way back I encountered two guys enjoying beer and the views while sitting on the shady side of their large 4-passenger ATV. They were perfectly content sitting there and seemed to be surprised that I was out hiking in this hot sun (couldn't have been more than 80 deg). When I told them in response to their query that I had just hiked to the top of that nearby peak, the more fit looking of the two exclaimed "I don't hike!!" The other one said they were enjoying a break from the chaos of their children and grandchildren. Now that I can understand. Further down the road I made a quick search for Indian ruins where I had found the pottery sherds earlier in the day. Sure enough, there was the rock outline of 3 to 4 rooms hidden in brush at the base of some fairly large trees along with a lot of sherds. It was a surprising find since it was in an area that would have been ravaged by floods over the many years since they were built. But the builders had used large rocks, enough of which remained to show the outlines of the walls. This Cline Creek area must have been a real hive of Indian activity 700-800 years ago. Unfortunately I also found a more recent artifact, an empty beer bottle which had been left by the javalina hunter I had encountered that morning. I don't understand, you've got a cooler sitting right there under your left elbow, why not just throw the empty into it? Oh well, other than this one minor negative it had been a great day.
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