The Archeological Excavations at Willow Beach, Arizona

Author(s): Albert H. Schroeder

Year: 1961


Willow Beach, a prehistoric camp site excavated by the National Park Service, is located on a river terrace 15 mi. south of Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. This site was occupied sporadically over many years by several groups of people. It was not the permanent village of a sedentary group.

The materials and tools left by the various people who camped at Willow Beach were periodically covered by sediments and silts laid down by the Colorado River during seasons of flood. As a result, the different levels of human occupation were separated by sterile flood deposits, a situation which simplified the task of excavation and interpretation.

This site probably existed because any travel between the high plateau area of the Arizona Strip and the Mohave Desert of southern California was channeled by geographical features through a restricted area, and at this point a good campsite happened to be available. This travel lane developed into a trade route which in ceramic times joined with the Mohave-Pacifictrail across southern California.

In 1936 the first investigation of Willow Beach was undertaken. An area 40 by 38ft. was excavated to a depth of 9 1/2 ft. by the C. C. C. with M. R. Harrington as collaborator for the National Park Service. The party was in the field from March 18 to April 8, and again from September 8 to November 13, 1936. Nine hundred and twenty-seven specimens were cataloged from these excavations and six human burials and one dog burial were recovered. In a brief report on this work, Harrington (1937, 86-9) indicated that the lower levels were preceramic in content, the projectile points being similar in workmanship to those of the Basketmaker II culture. Above this material was a barren layer averaging 2 ft. in thickness. Resting on this barren layer were 4 ft. of deposits containing pottery and points which he compared to the early Pueblo culture. Near to and on the surface, Paiute points were found, representing the last occupation of the site.

During the 1947-48 excavation program of the National Park Service, two additional tests were made under the direction of Gordon C. Baldwin, archeologist at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. One excavation was set down along the northwest face of the 1936 excavations. It was about 25 ft. wide and extended 15 ft. to the northwest to a depth of 8 1/2 ft. A second test about 20 ft. wide was run into the terrace from the river side for a distance of about 15 ft. In his MS. report on this work Baldwin (1948, 67, 70) stated that though there was evidence of stratification, frequently the lines of demarcation between layers were indistinct, due mainly to the soft sand and ash contents of the deposits.

The project described in this publication took to the field February 8, and completed operations April 14, 1950. Two tests were conducted in the course of the work. The first was set down and extended to the northwest of the 1947-48 excavations. Cultural material was recovered to a depth of 1.5 m. Below this, tests revealed sterile earth to a depth of 3.5 m. below datum, beyond which no further testing was -conducted. The second test was laid out on the southeast edge of the 1936 excavations and it was here that the great majority of material and information was gathered. Excavations reached a depth of 4 m. in the deepest spot, and, throughout the trench, stratigraphy was clearly evident.

Cite this Record

The Archeological Excavations at Willow Beach, Arizona. Albert H. Schroeder. Anthropological Papers ,50. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press. 1961 ( tDAR id: 393909) ; doi:10.6067/XCV88W3F7W

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: -250 to 1150

Spatial Coverage

min long: -114.728; min lat: 35.815 ; max long: -114.623; max lat: 35.916 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Sponsor(s): National Park Service

Prepared By(s): Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

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