How hikers can protect archaeological sites

Friends of Cedar Mesa devises 18 tips for safeguarding our past.

(Zak Podmore | The Salt Lake Tribune) Louis Williams, a Diné guide who runs Ancient Wayves River and Hiking Adventures in San Juan County, looks up at an inaccessible ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling in Bears Ears National Monument on April 16, 2021.

National parks and monuments in southern Utah are seeing record numbers of visitors. While there are dramatic examples of destruction to cultural sites, such as a rock climber who recently bolted through prehistoric petroglyphs near Moab, most damage is caused by visitors who simply don’t know best practices.

To that end, the nonprofit conservation group Friends of Cedar Mesa, in partnership with the Colorado Plateau Coalition, put together these 18 tips for an educational program called “Visit with Respect.”

1. Leave all artifacts where you find them.

2. Don’t touch rock imagery or make your own.

3. Steer clear of stone walls.

4. Pack out your poop.

5. Guide children through archaeological sites.

6. Dogs and archaeology don’t mix.

7. Camp and eat away from archaeology.

8. Avoid building rock cairns.

9. Use rubber-tipped hiking poles.

10. Pay your fees.

11. Use a fire pan and pack out ash.

12. Don’t touch prehistoric corn grinding slicks.

13. Don’t bust the soil crust or create new trails.

14. Turn off GPS services on your devices and don’t share site locations online.

15. Stay on designated roads.

16. Don’t use ropes to access archaeological sites.

17. Don’t disturb fossils or bones.

18. Historic artifacts, like old rusty cans, aren’t trash.

Source: Friends of Cedar Mesa.

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