What is the Murray Springs Clovis Site?
Today, scientists think that the Murray Springs Clovis Site was created by nomadic hunters who stayed in the area to pursue large game, such as mammoth, horses, and bison. Archaeologists have named these early hunters “Paleoindians,” and due to their distinctive artifacts, the “Clovis” people, after the first site having these types of artifacts, which was found in eastern New Mexico in the 1930s. The Murray Springs Clovis Site was named for the nearest natural feature that appeared on the maps of the area in 1966; Murray Springs, which is actually located about one half of a mile further mile east.
The Murray Springs Site is one of the most important and well documented early human sites in North America. The site has yielded the most evidence of Clovis stone tool manufacture in the entire Southwestern United States, and the evidence of large mammal butchering and use at the site is unsurpassed. The Murray Springs Site was created between 12,000 and 13,000 years ago, in the late Pleistocene era, by a small group of Clovis people, who camped nearby, and who probably hunted large animals as they came down to water in the arroyo.
Artifacts of the Ice Age
The site was first discovered in 1966 by Dr. C. Vance Haynes and Dr. Peter Mehringer of the University of Arizona. Dr. Haynes excavated the site from 1967-1971, as part of a large project funded by the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation. National Geographic Magazine featured the excavations at Murray Springs in two issues, and it was considered one of the most important archaeological sites of the day. Many unique and wonderful stone artifacts and fossil bones were found during excavations, all of which allowed archaeologists, paleontologists, and other scientists to develop a much better idea of what life was like for both hunters and hunted in the late Pleistocene.
Thirteen thousand years ago the climate of the San Pedro river valley was quite different from today. The trees and plants were more like those of current mountainous areas, because it was cooler and wetter. There may have been running water in the arroyo that cuts through the Murray Springs Site, and the San Pedro River probably had more water in it all year long than it currently does. The San Pedro River valley where the Murray Springs Site is located was probably a much different place, located in a lush grassland, along a small creek, with plenty of material nearby for fires and shelter.
In 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar designated the Murray Springs Clovis Site as a National Historic Landmark. As one of the most extensively excavated and most accurately dated Paleoindian sites in North America, the Murray Springs Site is of national and international importance. The site contained the remains of several bison, a mammoth, an early type of horse, and animals related to modern camels. Several thousand stone tools and artifacts produced during stone tool manufacture were found in association with the remains of the Pleistocene animals, and at the campsite on the south side of the site. The indisputable evidence of humans hunting and butchering Pleistocene fauna, with irrefutable carbon-14 dates more than 10,000 years old, caused a complete revision of how the scholars of the 1960’s and 1970’s thought about the human occupation of the Americas.
The Murray Springs Interpretive Trail is 1/3-mile-long loop, and offers 10 exhibits on life in the late Ice Age (Pleistocene). Benches and shade structures are located intermittently along the trail. There is no drinking water available along the trail, so make sure you pack your own.
There is also another trail heading east from the Murray Springs Site parking lot, along the abandoned Fort Huachuca-to-Lewis Springs railroad line. This trail is maintained for 1.8 miles, up to the intersection with the San Pedro Trail. From that intersection, you can still follow the abandoned railroad grade east for another 2.2 miles to the San Pedro River. You can also hike, bike, or ride north and south on the San Pedro Trail to several other points of interest.
Some Rules - Just a Few
The hike around this site is moderately strenuous and a part of the hardened pathway is accessible to wheelchairs, strollers and bicycles up to the point of the first arroyo crossing. At this large arroyo, a bridge has washed out, temporarily disallowing further access of wheelchairs, strollers, and bicycles. To keep the pathway smooth, no horses or motorized vehicles are permitted. Fossils or artifacts are protected by law - please do not pick them up or remove them. If you think you've identified an artifact or fossil, please notify the BLM using the contact information below.
For Your Safety and Comfort
Bring adequate water for the conditions; there are toilet facilities at the site parking lot. Water and restrooms are also available nearby at the San Pedro House. Please pack out your own trash. Beware of snakes and other venomous animals.
From Sierra Vista, go east on Highway 90 four miles from the intersection of Fry Boulevard (90) and Highway 92 to Moson Road. Go left (north) 1.1 mile to the entrance road on the right (east).
The site will continue to be used for public enjoyment, scientific research, and education purposes. Suggestions from visitors are always welcome. Please use the visitor register book for your ideas and comments; contact the Bureau of Land Management at: (520) 439-6400, or by email at TFOWEB_AZ@blm.gov.
San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
4070 South Avenida Saracino
Hereford, AZ 85615
Manager: Vi Hillman
3201 E. Universal Way
Tucson, AZ 85756
Phone: (520) 258-7200