South Mountain Park

 South Mountain Park/Preserve Map

The world's largest municipal park, South Mountain Park,  is  a vast, 16,500-acre mountain range lying along the southern flanks of the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area. Protected as part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, it provides not only an oasis from city life and dozens of miles of hiking trails, but also a unique opportunity to view and ponder an incredible open-air gallery of ancient rock art, which is found throughout the park. 

Rock Art is a term used for designs made on rocks or on the earth's surface by people of recent or ancient history. The Hohokam peoples, who are believed to have made the rock art at South Mountain Park, occupied a wide area of south-central Arizona from around 300 BC to about 1400AD.  They were the skillful irrigation farmers, developing an elaborate irrigation network using only stone instruments and organized labor. 

South Mountain Park has 58 miles of trails for horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking. The trails vary in length and difficulty. 

The South Mountain Park/Preserve Interpretive Center is designed to help visitors understand the ecology of the desert. The main building houses display areas, classrooms, a library, and gift shop. A second structure houses a conference center and auditorium. 

"Despite their arid and forbidding appearance, the South Mountains are full of life," writes Todd Bostwick in his book Landscape of the Spirit. "More than 274 species of plants and 157 species of animals have been identified here, including 51 species of birds and 54 kinds of mammals." 


Landscape of the Spirits:
Hohokam Rock Art
at South Mountain Park

by Todd W. Bostwick
The University of Arizona Press, 2002
order online 

Together with photographer Peter Krocek, archeaologist Todd Bostwick documents hundreds of rock art sites in South Mountain Park of metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona. Both a professional study and a handy guidebook, Landscape of the Spirits identifies the locations of these images and discusses what they may have meant to the people who made them.

Bostwick, the Phoenix City Archaeologist, has studied the Hohokam and their artwork for more than 20 years. This book is the product of hundreds of trips that he and Krocek made into the mountains over a five year period to locate, photograph, measure and sketch the rock art.

"Our study resulted in thousands of photographs, sketches, and field notes on the fascinating rock art in the South Mountains. We recorded more than 1,500 "panels" (discrete clusters) of petroglyphs but do not believe we have found them all; for on many trips to examine known sites, we found previously unknown petroglyphs. Rock art is present in areas with good visibility but also in not-so-easily-seen,
difficult-to-reach places."

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