Doug and Melanie at Sears Point, AZ

Hey everyone!

Last year we published pictures of a site in Arizona called Painted Rocks where we saw hundreds of petroglyphs.  Sears Point is a little-known location about 150 miles west of Painted Rocks where there are about 2,000 panels of rock art containing around 10,000 petroglyphs.  They are located on two miles of basalt cliffs and rocks near the Gila River. 

There were no known settlements of Indigenous peoples in the Sears Point location, but there were five or six different tribes/cultures in the surrounding areas.  The ages of the petroglyphs are from 500 to 2,000 years old, and (with only a couple of exceptions) all predate the Spanish arriving in the area.  The older pieces are very faint while the newer works are much bolder.

To preserve the art and limit traffic, the location of the site is not widely published.  The seven miles of dirt roads are not maintained and require a four-wheel drive, high-clearance vehicle to navigate.

We camped just a couple hundred yards away from the hills/cliffs that rise 350 feet above the surrounding area.  While the hills were covered with boulders and rocks, the flat lands where we were camping consisted of very dry, powdery dirt that would puff into the air with every step. 

Step outside, and in less than 60 seconds you were filthy and covered with dust.  Add to that hundreds of honey bees that swarmed the trailer looking for water, and it wasn’t a pleasant place to camp.  We put a bucket of water out for the bees to get them to leave us alone.  We stayed only three nights, enough time to see the petroglyphs and not die from dust inhalation. 

The petroglyphs were amazing.  To see them you had to climb about 300 feet up steep hills covered with boulders and small round rocks.  Some of the art is on boulders but most are on the cliffs that top each hill. 

Each was etched by using a stone to remove the desert varnish from the rock face to show the lighter rock underneath.  Desert varnish is the darkening of stone by minerals deposited by rain and blowing sand.  It takes around 10,000 years to fully darken the rock face which barely penetrates the stone.

The top of the mesas are flat and offer a great view of the surrounding area.  The tops are covered with desert pavement; this is a natural phenomenon.  Small rocks are spread out evenly on the desert floor, and over time dust fills in the spaces between the rocks.  While this can last for thousands of years (the rocks have desert varnish on the top but bare rock on the bottoms), it is very delicate and even walking across it can disturb or ruin the pavement. 

On the top of one of the mesas, we found the partly mummified head of an Arizona Badger.  Cool find.

Doug and Melanie

Doug and Melanie are avid explorers and hikers. They travel with their Kimberly Kamper, and their home base is Ohio. (For more posts by these authors, click on their names, above.)

2 thoughts to “Doug and Melanie at Sears Point, AZ”

  1. That’s just amazing! It’s sad that the location has to be kept quiet like that but given how people are with that kind of thing are I’m glad they are and have survived!