The Park You Cannot Visit

The U.S. National Park Service currently has 394 units, with one more arriving soon. These include all manner of parks, monuments, historic sites, battlefields, seashores, recreation areas, trails and various other interesting designations. Each one is a beloved national treasure whether famous like Yellowstone National Park or more obscure such as Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.

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One site, however, cannot be visited. Even though it’s located within a major metropolitan area with more than four million residents, you cannot go there. You can touch it ever so briefly but you can never truly experience it legally. Tourists are strictly prohibited. The site is the Hohokam Pima National Monument on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona.

This National Monument was established to protect Snaketown, an ancient village of the pre-Columbian Hohokam people who once inhabited a swath of the desert southwest. It is believed that they settled Snaketown sometime around 2,300 year ago, and abondoned it for unknown reasons (possibly drought) about 900 years ago. It was a large cultural center with a couple of thousand residents, intensive agricultural cultivation and a large system of irrigation canals. Archaeologists excavated Snaketown in the 1930’s and again in the 1960’s. When done, they completely reburied the site to preserve it for future generations.

Hohokam Pima National Monument falls within the boundaries of the Gila River Indian Community. According to the National Park Service, "The Gila River Indian Community has decided not to open the extremely sensitive area to the public." This is as close as you can get to Snaketown without permission:

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Is it really closed? Yes, that’s true in a general sense, but thousands of people travel through the National Monument every day and probably never realize it.

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That’s because, in spite of the site’s sensitivity, Interstate 10 cuts through a corner of it. I guess "visit" depends on whether one considers a 30-second drive sufficient or not. In full disclosure, I’ve visited counties for less time and counted them, although I think that’s a bit different than experiencing a National Park Service unit.

People who collect parkstamps wouldn’t consider a freeway jaunt sufficient. No, they would insist upon on official National Park Passport Stamp to complete the deal and no stamp exists for Hohokam Pima.

12MC reader "Scott" mentioned these passports to me and I gave them a brief shout-out in one of the recent Utah articles. Scott also provide me with lots of National Park trivia that I will use in future articles.

I asked Scott if I could talk a little about the National Park Travelers Club‘s 9th Annual Convention and he said that would be fine. These are people who collect parkstamps avidly as a hobby, which is something I can understand completely with my somewhat-related desire to count counties.

If you happen to be in the Washington, DC area on Saturday, August 6th between 9:30 am and 5:00 pm, and you’re curious about parkstamps, then stop by the Columbia Ballroom of the Holiday Inn Capitol, 550 C Street SW, Washington, DC, for the Annual Convention. It is free to attend! I am seriously considering attending myself if I can work it into my schedule even though my stamp collection now stands at only 2.

This is a "big deal" year, the 25th anniversary of the creation of official stamps managed by the Eastern National organization. There are currently over 2,000 of these cancellation stamps in existence. As an added enticement, there will be an official park passport stamp available at the convention to commemorate the event but only for that one day. It would be a great, extremely rare stamp to jump-start one’s collection.

I am sure Scott will answer any comments you may have below if you would like further information. Likewise I’d be glad to provide contact information for Scott if you’d prefer to send him a message offline.