Although the Sinagua people vanished from Arizona’s red rock country 600 years ago, they still speak to us today through the petroglyphs they carved on rocky outcrops, like those found at the V Bar V Ranch Heritage Site.
Searching for messages from Arizona’s ancient past
Obviously snowbirds from the Midwest weren’t the first people to land in Arizona.
Various people have lived here for thousands of years, but from about 900 to 1350 AD one particular group, known to us today as the Sinagua, left a library of sorts tucked into protected niches in the red rock walls of central Arizona’s Verde Valley. A good place to try to read one of the books in this library – and step into a lost world for a moment – is the V Bar V Heritage Site.
Although located near the main highway to Sedona, the site feels far from the hikers, bikers, jeepers, and seekers that converge in the popular heart of Red Rock country. Maybe it’s the gravel road . . . or maybe the Sinagua simply marked this land as theirs forever before slipping away.
More recently this land was part of the sprawling V Bar V ranch. While all that remains of property’s ranch house is the stone fireplace bearing the ranch’s brand, much of the surrounding land is still a working ranch – although now run by the University of Arizona as an agricultural experiment station.
You are reminded of this part of its past as you circle around that lonely fireplace as you follow the path that runs along the edge of the cottonwoods above the Wet Beaver Creek.
(It’s easy to image cattle grazing in the meadows here.)
The path ends at a low ridge with a protected rock face.
You see the petroglyphs as you approach.
Reading the rocks at the V Bar V Ranch
Here, below a sheltered cliff on the V Bar V ranch, the Sinagua people shared their stories with each other and with us today.
Over a thousand distinct figures have been identified here, each carefully chipped into the rock during the four hundred years or so when the Sinagua lived in the area. While the full meaning of the symbols largely remains obscure, the modern Hopi of northern Arizona recognize many. The wall includes a sun dial that still tracks the changing seasons, human figures engaged in a variety of activities, clan symbols, animals, migration symbols, and more, much more.
If you listen carefully, you might even hear the spirits of the Sinagua whispering in the cottonwoods.
Visit the V Bar V petroglyphs
The V Bar V Heritage Site is located just south of Sedona, Arizona.
A Red Rock Pass or national park pass is required to park at the site. The small visitor center has a gift shop that sells the Red Rock Pass.
The site is open to the public most weekends (Friday- Monday). Keep that in mind and check the site’s hours before driving out as it is not at all accessible at other times – as we discovered on a previous trip.
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