By Jill Bernstein
Arizona is home to a diverse array of distinct landscapes filled with natural beauty and the echoes of past civilizations. These hidden gems in and around small towns are the heart and soul of our state. Many of these small towns are finding ways to showcase their uniqueness in ways that enable both residents and visitors alike to deepen their connection to these places. The city of Holbrook is no exception.
Over the last few years, Hidden Cove Petroglyph Park in Holbrook has been getting the polish it needed to show off its assets and sustainably accommodate visitors. Surrounded by flat-topped mesas, the park invites visitors to walk through beautiful desert landscapes, discover ancient petroglyphs, explore the ruins of an old ranch, and even take in a round of golf.
The area that surrounds and includes Hidden Cove Petroglyph Park was obtained by the city of Holbrook a couple of decades ago to utilize reclaimed wastewater. The water is used at the Hidden Cove Golf Course, as well as feeds a large pond that provides sustenance to an abundance of wildlife. The pond in Hidden Cove Park is one of the top areas in Navajo County for birdwatching.
The city of Holbrook worked with the National Park Service (NPS) to complete an environmental assessment of the area. In October 2015, the city council awarded a contract to Flagstaff-based American Conservation Experience to design and construct sustainable trails, retaining walls, water bars and switchback details. The work was completed in November of 2015 and has made the features of the park easier to access. The new trails and improvements allow visitors to safely explore the beautiful but extremely fragile environment.
For some slightly more recent history, the park contains remnants of an old ranch. Over a century ago, the Zuck family raised cattle and farmed in this area, channeling the water that flowed from the nearby cliffs. The remaining ruins include old cabins, fences and a windmill.
A truly special treat for visitors to the area is the abundant rock art. Hidden Cove is home to hundreds of ancient petroglyphs, as well as some more modern carvings. Mike O’Dell, a longtime city employee who leads tours through the park, has been involved in the area since the 80s. “There’s a lot that’s special about this place,” said O’Dell. “The more time we learn about these carvings, the more we realize just how old they are. Some may be from the Archaic period, which goes back to B.C.” The carvings are extremely fragile and irreplaceable, so visitors are asked not to touch the rock art. But O’Dell points out that there is something about the place that visitors just seem to sense when they come. “I’m out there all the time and I almost never see any litter,” he added. “It’s almost as if people just know how special this place is and they take special care.”
If you plan to explore Hidden Cove Petroglyph Park, be sure to carry some water, wear sturdy shoes, and protect yourself from the sun. Binoculars will help you spot petroglyphs high up on rocks, as well as the variety of birds and other wildlife in the park.
For more on Hidden Cove Petroglyph Park, visit goholbrook.com. For tour information, contact Mike O’Dell directly at 928-241-0293.
Jill Bernstein is the Executive Director of Keep Arizona Beautiful, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering communities to take care of their environment through litter abatement, recycling and beautification.
Photo by Mike O’Dell.