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Agua Fria Baby Canyon Ruins, AZ
mini location map2021-03-20
33 by photographer avatarJohn10s
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Agua Fria Baby Canyon Ruins, AZ 
Agua Fria Baby Canyon Ruins, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 20 2021
Hiking7.16 Miles 802 AEG
Hiking7.16 Miles   6 Hrs   7 Mns   1.74 mph
802 ft AEG   2 Hrs    Break
1st trip
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After exploring Perry Tank Canyon ruins last month, we wanted to check out more of the seven "Ancient Cities" of the Perry Mesa Tradition. Today, we started with a quick stop at Pueblo La Plata [ triplog ] before exploring Baby Canyon. I was surprised to see two other cars parked near our starting point, though it seemed like there was more traffic in Agua Fria in general today--possibly people getting out during spring break.

We approached a drainage to drop down into the canyon, and about a quarter mile from where we parked, we already saw a few petroglyphs on the rocks along the drainage, which was a nice start. We made our way down into the sandy, dry bed of Bishop Creek and followed that toward the ruins. The canyon had a lot of unique geology, with a bunch of boulders with swirling black and white steaks mixed throughout. It was easy hiking through the sand, and the canyon had a variety of landscapes, including some areas with deciduous trees, though only one brief stretch had any hint of water in the bottom.

In one area below the main ruins complex, we did some exploring and found a lot of pot sherds, at least one metate, and possibly a second metate that was carved into a low boulder. From there, we made our way up to the rim of the canyon to one of the two main ruins complexes, this one perched on a high point. The west side had a lot of petroglyphs along a ledge directly below some of the ruin walls. That site was my favorite of the three "Ancient Cities" I've visited thus far, between the view from that hilltop and the impressive quantity, size, and color of the pot sherds, many of which had a beautiful mix of red and black. We found one unique piece that must have been the curved lip of a bowl or cup. Seeing the remarkably smooth, consistent thickness and the shiny coating on the pottery and knowing that all those pieces were hand-made is always impressive. That complex also has some well-defined walls, and at the base of the hill, several grinding stones were set in a row.

Next, we hiked over to the second ruins site. When we first approached, I thought it was going to be a smaller version of the first complex with less to see, but it was full of unique items and ended up being another very interesting stop on our loop. There were multiple grinding stones, and after finding one small, painted pot sherd set out on one of the walls, I found a beautifully-decorated sherd on the ground, with an intricate red, white, and blue pattern--the nicest piece I've personally found.

East of the complex, the boulders were covered with petroglyphs, including a unique bird glyph and one rock with a large, circular, wheel-like pattern carved deeper into the surface. We also noticed two rock slicks in that area, and we explored more ruins located on a lower point jutting out into the canyon. The were a few walls in good shape in that smaller complex, and the views from that spot were fantastic. [ youtube video ]

From there, we looped back to our starting point along the rim, and we saw a few "free range" petroglyphs along the way, plus one more modern carving on a random rock...made a guy named Tom who was apparently there in 1917. All of my visits to Agua Fria have exceeded my expectations, and I hope to return soon to visit some of the other sites.
Indian Paintbrush
Rock Slick
Named place
Named place
Baby Canyon Turret Peak
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