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Arizona State Park Saved: Homolovi Reopens

March 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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In an earlier post (Homolovi, AZ: What’s in a Name?), I reported that cooperation between the Hopi Tribe and Arizona State Parks would soon result in the reopening of Homolovi Ruins State Park. The Hopi entered into a one-year agreement with Arizona State Parks, contributing $175,000 for the operation of Homolovi Ruins State Park near Winslow. The state will pay the remaining $48,000 to operate the park for a year. The park will retain fees collected from visitors.

Hopi female dancer. Photo courtesy Todd Roth/Navajo Hopi Observer

The city of Winslow and Navajo County were also involved in efforts to reopen the park.

The agreement with the Hopi Tribe allows for two one-year extensions. If the park isn’t profitable, it could close again.

The park, originally home to the Hisat’sinom (the “long-ago people,” better known as the Anasazi), which encompasses seven ancestral Hopi pueblos that were occupied from about 1260 to 1400, officially reopened March 18.

State Park System

Homolovi was one of 13 state parks forced to padlock its gates as a result of statewide fiscal problems.

By February 2010, a phased series of park closures was started with Homolovi Ruins one of the first to close to the public.

But state officials worked to get financial commitments from counties and community groups to temporarily keep several parks open. Tubac Presidio State Historic Park is being operated in conjunction with Santa Cruz County and the Tubac Historical Society. McFarland State Historic Park is being operated by the town of Florence and the Florence Main Street project, a non-profit tasked with improving the local economy.

With Homolovi reopened, only three state parks remain closed—Oracle State Park in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, Lyman Lake State Park in northeastern Arizona, and San Rafael State Natural Area near the Arizona-Mexico border. State park officials have indicated they are hopeful that an agreement will be in place to reopen Lyman during the summer.

Name Change

The Arizona Parks Board reported that during initial negotiations this past November, the Hopi Tribe requested the word “Ruins” be replaced with another word or removed from the park’s name.

To the Hopi, the word “Ruin” in the park name refers to ‘something dead.’

Yes, Homolovi has reopened!

The state park is the ancestral homeland for the tribe. Tribal members still use the site and consider it to be spiritually alive.

The parks board voted unanimously, during its March 17 meeting in Winslow to drop the word “Ruins” from Homolovi Ruins State Park. The park will also have a new tagline that reads, “ancestral Hopi villages.”

Place of the Little Hills

Homolovi Ruins State Park, located on State Route 87 just north of Interstate 40, is 4,000 acres in size and has a visitor center, pull-outs for observing wildlife, picnic tables, and camping facilities.

Homolovi, a Hopi word meaning “place of the little hills,” features a cluster of some 300 archaeological sites including several separate pueblo ruins built by various prehistoric peoples from 1250–1400. The park serves as a center of research for tribal migration of that time period and while archaeologists study the area and confer with the Hopi to unravel area history, Arizona State Parks provided an opportunity for visitors to personally experience two of the seven ruins.

Large Kiva at Homolovi II. Photo courtesy freeopinions, Flickr

Most visited, Homolovi II, the largest excavated site with about 1,200 rooms, 40 kivas or underground ceremonial chambers, clusters of pit houses, and three large plazas. Petroglyphs can be found along certain sections of the nearby Tsu’vo Trail.

Many of the early peoples paused their migrations to stay awhile in these high grasslands and find a home along the Little Colorado River, tilling the rich flood plain and sandy slopes before continuing north to join peoples already living on the mesas, peoples known today as the Hopi.

The migrations ended when the people settled at the center-of-the-world, the Hopi Mesas north of the park. Today’s Hopi tribal members, referred to as the world’s greatest dry farmers, still consider Homolovi and other Southwestern pre-Columbian sites to be part of their homeland and make pilgrimages to the locations to renew ties with the people of the land.

Location and directions

  • Homolovi Ruins State Park is located 3 miles northeast of Winslow
  • Take I-40 to Exit 257, then travel 1.3 miles north on Highway 87

Worth Pondering…

Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.

—Jalal Ad-Din Rumi

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