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Partnership Protects Petroglyphs

BLM Archaeologist Kierson Crume discusses the Oregon Basin petroglyphs with Felinda Hall & 
Randy Meabon of Marathon.

The Cody Field Office recently partnered with Marathon Oil Company to protect a petroglyph site in the Oregon Basin near Cody. The Oregon Basin petroglyph site has been subject to vandalism for many years. In 2008, the BLM initiated the Wyoming Site Stewardship Program with the State Historic Preservation Office to train volunteers to assist in monitoring the site. In 2009, volunteers filled eight industrial-sized garbage bags with trash left from parties held at the petroglyph site, removed the remnants of wooden pallets used for bonfires and worked to obscure off highway vehicle tracks. However, bullet holes in the sandstone and modern graffiti alongside prehistoric rock art aren’t so easily removed.

BLM Archaeologist Kierson Crume knew something needed to be done to protect the cultural history found here. "In an area away from the main petroglyph panels," Crume said, "a school group inscribed their names, without realizing they were covering several layers of prehistoric teepee designs."

During an on-site visit with Randy Meabon of Marathon, which has operated in the area since 1917, Crume talked about future management of the petroglyph site. He thought that a protective fence keeping vehicles in a parking area at a reasonable distance would discourage parties and the associated trash and fires that have the potential to damage the sensitive cultural resources, without limiting public access. The only problem was that a wooden fence could end up in a bonfire.

Meabon had the idea of using drill stem as posts instead of wood. "We had all this extra pipe that would go to scrap metal if it wasn’t used," Meabon said. Not only did Marathon donate the pipe, but Marathon welders cut the pipe into approximately 40, 4½ ft. lengths and welded a cap on each one. A BLM contractor pounded the finished posts into place and strung cable leftover from previous BLM projects between them.

The resulting 2½ ft. fence keeps people from driving right up to the base of the cliff face that contains the petroglyphs but still allows people to walk and see them. Access for emergencies and for people with disabilities was incorporated into the post and cable fence design. Both the BLM and Marathon hope the fence will result in better protection of the site and an improved experience for visitors.

"It's nice to help save something of significance like this for the future," said Meabon. "It was great we could be a part of preserving this area."

Photos and captions:  www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/news_room/2010/september/08cyfo-oregonbuttes.html

Last updated: 12-22-2010