I got to go tour the Smith Family Archaeological Preserve on Saturday and had a great experience. The preserve was created in 2013 when the Smiths deeded nearly 200 acres of land to the Archaeological Conservancy. This protects the land from being sold or developed.
What’s so special about this place that it needs to be preserved? Primarily, this area has hundreds of petroglyphs and prehistoric artifacts. People have attempted to take various artifacts, and some have even tried chiseling out the petroglyphs. This destroys these ancient peoples’ histories as well as prevents others from enjoying these things. There is an amazing diversity of markings on the rocks ranging from as far back as 8,000 years–soon after Lake Bonneville drained–to as recent as 700 years ago. Several of the panels show petroglyphs from different eras, indicating that various groups of people have lived around Utah Lake for a very long time.
On the tour, we also learned about some of the history of Utah Lake. Throughout the past several centuries, lake levels have fluctuated significantly, at times being low enough for people to travel across sections of it without boats! During the 1930s, the lake was once again very low. Because of this people found ancient artifacts on and in the lake bed. From burial mounds to small dwellings, it was obvious that the land was well used by this prehistoric civilization.
What was most impactful about this tour was the emphasis on developing a connection with those who lived here in the past. Too frequently we as a society forget that we weren’t the first people here; there is such a rich history that needs to be remembered. These ancient people were not too different from each of us. True, they didn’t drive cars and weren’t consumed by the media; but they traveled, provided for their families, and enjoyed themselves. The records they left are some of the only ways we can still get a glimpse into their lives. There were no journals, no magazines, and no selfies–though some of the carvings may well have been their version of these.
At the end of the tour, I asked one of the guides, Jen, to share her thoughts about the preserve. She has been volunteering as a steward to show guests around and take care of this incredible area since the creation of the preserve almost a decade ago. See the video to hear her perspective about the site.