National Public Lands Day, September 26, 2015!
The events of this past Saturday will go down in the annals of “time-well-spent” for this nerd! I joined the Friends of Nevada Wilderness (FNW), along with several other lucky volunteers, at Mountain Springs Pass in order to restore an illegal trespass path near an ancient Native American archaeological site.
Located along Route 160, also known as Blue Diamond Road to Las Vegans, there is a spring not too far from the Spring Mountains summit. This location was a stop along the Old Spanish Trail from Santa Fe to Los Angeles, where travelers would stop to water and feed their pack animals (Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, 2010). The area was home to lush meadows and hosted Native American peoples for many thousands of years, possibly as far back as 12,000 years ago (USDA).
The spring is still there today, although by appearances the untrained eye might not realize it. It is no longer a flowing stream, but a seepage spring. The water is present and can be located by observing the vegetation present. Standing on the aquatic grasses and plants will reveal a ‘squishy’ or spongey texture to the ground beneath.
Located near the spring are several donut shaped structures, known as agave roasting pits. These pits were used for roasting various foods, including agave. The Native Americans are long gone, but there is still evidence of their lives in this area. These sites are precious historical resources and must be protected from further vandalism and ruin. There will never be any more of these archaeological sites, so preservation is of the utmost importance.
Our work on Saturday was performed with the intention of preventing trespassers from driving mechanical vehicles such as dirt bikes and ATVs through the protected area. The illegal trespass path was restored with vertical and horizontal mulch. We smoothed out the berms created by tires. We removed litter.
After a couple hours of very fulfilling work, the Friends of Nevada Wilderness folks fed us a great lunch—we actually dined right next to one of the agave roasting pits. What an exciting time! We dined in the same spot where Native Americans dined for thousands of years.
Nevada State Historic Preservation Office. (2010). Old Spanish Trail – Mountain Springs Pass. Retrieved from State Historic Preservation Office: shpo.nv.gov/historical-markers/142
USDA. (n.d.). Cultural Background of the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. Retrieved from USDA.gov: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsm9_025922.pdf