Thursday, December 17, 2009

Leave What You Find

On a recent trip to Canyonlands National Park in Utah, I learned about a way that the National Park Service helps to limit the visitation and use of delicate archaeological sites. Before heading out, a friend told me of an archaeological site in the park that was accessible to visitors but not officially advertised in any information or maps published by the NPS. However, park officials were required to disclose the location of the site if a visitor asked for directions.

Still, I was a little shy when I walked up to the desk in the Island of the Sky Visitor Center and asked the Park Ranger about the site. To my surprise, he did not hesitate at all to begin describing the hike to the archaeological site. He then explained to me how the National Park Service minimizes the number of visitors to fragile cultural resources. Some sites, such as the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park are openly advertised in park publications. These sites are denoted as "Class 1" archaeological sites. "Class 2" sites are those that are never mentioned by park employees unless someone inquires about them. The site I visited in Canyonlands was such a site. "Class 3" sites, however, are off limits to any visitor: even if someone asks for their locations.

So next time you visit a National Park, take advantage of the opportunities to visit archaeological sites that are not well-known to the general public. But please do so responsibly, and Leave What You Find!

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