Maricopa County Parks and Recreation


White Tank Mountain Regional Park History

Eleven archeological sites, occupied during the time period A.D. 500-1100, were located within the boundaries of White Tank Mountain Regional Park. All of these sites can be attributed to the Hohokam Indians. The White Tanks were apparently abandoned by the Hohokam about A.D. 1100. There is no further indication of human occupation until the historic period, when the Western Yavapai controlled the area.

Ruggedness of terrain and scarcity of water restricted the sites to large canyons leading out of the mountains. In these canyons, the sites include seven villages, varying from 1 to 75 acres in area, a rock shelter in the face of a steep cliff overlooking the white tanks, and several sherd areas. Several of the villages appear to have been occupied for long periods by sizeable populations, while the sherd areas may represent temporary camps of hunters and gatherers.

Most of the sites in the area are concentrated around the White Tanks themselves. The Tanks probably held water the year-round and thereby drew people to the region. Petroglyphs on rocks indicate the Indians were more than transients. Pottery sherds along the Agua Fria and Hassayampa signify the presence of villages and a good possibility that an Indian trail connected the streams with the White Tank long before Europeans came into the area. The discovery of possible agricultural terraces or check dams indicates that farming may have been carried on in the various canyons of the White Tank Mountains, by utilizing seasonal runoff and rain water.

About the Petroglyphs

Ancient Arizonans pecked hundreds of figures and symbols on the rock faces of the White Tank Mountains. Some may approach 10,000 years old. All have withstood sun, rain, and vandals for 700 or 800 years or more.

The Black Rock Trail circles through a Hohokam village site, though the pit houses and trash mounds are hidden to all but the trained eye of an archeologist. The largest group of rock-art panels is along the Waterfall Canyon Trail at "Petroglyph Plaza". Another big group is near the entrance to the box canyon that gives the trail its name.

A rock drawing was serious business to its maker. While no one can say precisely what most of them "mean", we know they had important functions in the lives of their makers. They were not simply stone-age graffiti. The symbols recorded events and marked locations. They were a magical way to control nature so rain would fall or mountain sheep would let themselves be caught. Some served as trail markers and maps. Others represented religious concepts.

Please do not try to make "tombstone rubbings" of the petroglyphs. It doesn’t work at all and you will erode the dark areas, making the petroglyph dimmer. Look at and photograph these figures and symbols of history, but please don’t touch the petroglyphs, skin oils can also damage them. 

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