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Cultural Resources

Photograph of pottery dating to the Pueblo II period.

Pottery dating to the Puebloan period (AD 700-1200) is commonly found at archaeological sites along the Colorado River (USGS photograph by Amy Draut).

The lower reaches of Glen Canyon and the river corridor through Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, have been used by humans for at least 13,000 years. Today, at least nine contemporary Native American Tribes claim traditional cultural ties to this area.

Grand Canyon National Park contains more than 4,000 documented prehistoric and historic sites, and about 420 of these sites are located in proximity to the Colorado River. The lower reaches of Glen Canyon contain an additional 55 sites. In addition to archaeological sites, cultural resources along the Colorado River corridor include historic structures and other types of historic properties, as well as biological and physical resources that are of traditional cultural importance to Native American peoples such as springs, unique landforms, mineral deposits, native plant concentrations, and various animal species. All of these cultural resources have the potential to be affected indirectly, and in some cases directly, by operation of Glen Canyon Dam. Since 2005, Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center scientists and their cooperators have been developing and testing new monitoring methods for tracking the status and trends of cultural resource conditions in the Colorado River corridor downstream of Glen Canyon Dam. Currently, these efforts include (1) developing baseline geomorphic data needed to detect future changes in site conditions, (2) evaluating new methods for monitoring changes in site condition, such as the use of Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) surveys, a laser-based topographic mapping method to quantify changes in the surface topography of sites, and the establishment of a network of automated weather monitoring stations to track the effects of wind and precipitation at these same locations, and (3) compiling data for the development of a geomorphic model that articulates current scientific understanding of the factors and process affecting site conditions. At the same time, several Native American Tribes that are active participants in the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program have been exploring alternative monitoring methods that incorporate traditional ecological knowledge and western scientific methods to evaluate cultural resource conditions. The end goal of these current research and development activities is the definition and implementation of a long-term cultural resource monitoring program for assessing status and trends of cultural site condition and elucidating effects of Glen Canyon Dam operations on downstream cultural resources.

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Last Update: November 3, 2011