To Camp Verde Along Ancient Trails

March 02, 2018

By Lynn and Ernie Pratt

The 12-foot high freestanding pueblo wall at the Atkeson Pueblo overshadows a 33-room archaeological site dating from 800 years ago.

Although every Sedona Westerners hike is an experience unto itself, it is on the Tracker Hikes that we purposely try to hike and learn by inviting a local expert in some field (i.e., archaeology, botany, geology, history) to accompany us.   Our recent Tracker Hike was no exception, as we met with Ken Zoll, Executive Director of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center, who led us on a hike through the Atkeson Pueblo site, which is located at the confluence of Oak Creek and the Verde River.  The first known, detailed examination of this site was by Dr. Mearns, a U.S. Army surgeon, who was stationed at Fort Verde from 1884 to 1888.  The site contains 33 rooms on the cliff and still to this day, it has the highest, freestanding, preserved pueblo wall in the Verde Valley.  It is one of a number of prehistoric sites located at regularly spaced intervals, of about 2 miles, along the upper and middle Verde River and its tributaries.  Ken Zoll capably took us through the site while providing us information about its construction and the lives and culture of the occupying peoples.  This site is owned by the Conservancy and is fenced, only accessible to the public through the Center’s Field Seminar program.  A wonderful, educational tour on a beautiful day!

We next journeyed to the Verde Valley Archaeology Center, which currently occupies a building on Main Street in downtown Camp Verde.  The Center exhibits rotating collections of Verde Valley artifacts and has a conference room, a library, and a small laboratory.  Ken briefly described the current exhibits and then left us to our own explorations, answering specific questions as they arose.  Visitors are currently welcome to tour the Center from Tuesday through Saturday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

The Verde Valley Archaeology Center, Inc. is currently planning, permitting, and fund raising in order to build a permanent Cultural Center on fifteen acres of land located on the edge of Camp Verde. One of its main objectives will be to, “preserve and interpret stories of the people of the Sedona/Verde Valley area through innovative exhibitions and exceptional educational programs.”  The Center will be able to properly maintain current collections, like the extensive Paul Van Dyck collection, and to attract once again collections that have been removed from this area by other museums.  A gallery, bookstore, laboratories, library, an integrated learning center, and administration rooms are all planned.  The building site is surrounded by ruins, which will be viewed through interpretive pathways on the property.  

After lunch, Lynette Kovacovich, a Director of the Center and an employee of the Town of Camp Verde, who also works with the Camp Verde Historical Society and the Visitor Center, met with us.  She led us on a tour of the historic downtown area and described Camp Verde’s history, spanning the timeframe between 1871 and 1933.  The buildings range in construction method from adobe brick and hand-milled limestone blocks, to rough-hewn pine boards and even ferro-cement.  Most of these buildings have been adapted and are still currently in use to this day.  Our tour of Camp Verde ended at the nearby Fort Verde State Historic Park, where we were turned over to the Park Manager, Sheila Stubler, and an historically dressed volunteer.  The Fort was the base for General Crook’s U.S. Army scouts and soldiers in the 1870s and 1880s.  Four of the Fort’s original buildings are still standing and are on display.  The buildings are open for self-guided tours and are furnished with many authentic pieces from the 1880s.  The Visitor Center also houses an interesting museum with many displays, photos, and videos.  It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

It was a long day for us, but one that was well spent.  Although we did not put a lot of miles on our boots, we did exercise our minds to the fullest and returned happily back to Sedona.

If you are interested in joining the club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at  You are invited to our next monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 8, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road.  Sedona Westerners, written this week by Ernie and Lynn Pratt, appears every Friday in the Sedona Red Rock News.


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