October 26, 2014 – I made a quick trip to Phoenix to visit my company’s warehouse there. I flew in early on Sunday and decided to go for a long drive and knock a couple more national parks off the list. The first stop was Casa Grande National Monument. Casa Grande are ruins left behind by Sonoran Desert Ancestral People some 650 years ago. Nothing is known, but much is projected, about what these ruins were. Were they the center of a thriving community (there is much evidence of extensive canals and farming in the region)? Or perhaps a waypoint in an extensive canal and trading network? What is know is that the structure and surrounding ruins are impressive. In an era of simple structures, Casa Grande was certainly special, as it is quite large and is 4 stories tall.
Like many of our national treasures, it was abused as a tourist attraction for many years in the 1800’s before being protected in 1892 by President Harrison as our country’s first cultural preserve. In the years that have followed a structure has been built over the main structure to help protect it from the elements, and the site has been studied extensively. Today, a visitor and interpretive center allow modern tourists to visit the site as a cultural and educational site, and to do s with much more respect than earlier visitors afforded the site.
I enjoyed the 20 minute park video and made my way around the site, taking in the interpretive displays. It was interesting that the movie made a point of clarifying that the descendents of the former inhabitants prefer the term Sonoran Desert Ancestral People, and find the more common term Hohokam offensive. It was apparent that the interpretive displays were installed before this understanding was gained, as all of the displays refer to the people as Hohokam. The park website is in line with current terminology though.