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Enjoy the outdoors at Rock Art Expo

March 25, 2008

Did you know that ASU has a nature preserve, archaeological site and museum rolled into one? Under the auspices of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, the Deer Valley Rock Art Center is just such a place, and on March 29, it will play host to visitors from all over the state with its major event of the year—the free, family friendly Rock Art Expo.

Offering musical performances, agave tasting, ancient spear throwing, a Lakota storyteller, artists’ exhibits and more, including unique kids’ activities like a mock archaeology dig and face painting with natural pigments, this year’s Rock Art Expo is expected to be the biggest and best yet. Food vendors will be on site, and an awards ceremony recognizing artwork from around 170 local K–8 students will kick off the event.

Located in the Northwest Valley, the center comprises over 47 acres of pristine desert, a hill of basaltic boulders covered in upwards of 1,500 ancient petroglyphs, an ethnobotanical garden, a museum, native wildlife and, at this time of year, copious wildflower blooms.

“It’s the perfect time of year to visit,” says Kim Arth, the center’s executive director. “The weather is great, and people are looking for things to do outside. They should keep us in mind. There is something for everyone here.”

An incredible variety of desert plants are found throughout the grounds and along the ¼-acre trail that winds past the petroglyphs. There are also roadrunners, bobcats, quail, squirrels, javelinas, lizards and hawks. Signage informs visitors of the identity of plant species, and the center’s longtime educator, ranger and naturalist, Desert Little Bear Gonzales, boasts a wealth of knowledge of the center, its flora and fauna and the cultural significance of the site, which is linked to the Hohokam and Patayan peoples of ages past.

The center’s main goal is to protect and preserve the petroglyphs of the Hedgpeth Hills, but it also aims to educate the public and provide a means for visitors to connect with the past and its peoples. As Gonzales explains, the site is linked to the Hopi, Yavapai and O’odham tribes, but should be of import to everyone because “it is a site for all of us, a place occupied by people who were here long before Columbus arrived. It is part of our heritage as human beings.”

In addition, the museum currently houses an education/lecture room, a small theater, a permanent exhibit, an award-winning photography exhibit, a gift shop and the American Rock Art Research Association Library, featuring collections and archives open to the public by appointment. Outdoors, picnic tables and an amphitheater area offer ideal places for picnicking.

The Deer Valley Rock Art Center’s 2008 Rock Expo will be 10 a.m.-4 p.m., March 29. The event is free. The center’s normal operating hours through April are 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday; noon–5 p.m. Sunday. Regular admission is $7/adults; $4/seniors and students; $3/children 6–12; children 5 and under free. The center is located at 3711 W. Deer Valley Road in Phoenix. For more information, call (623) 582-8007.