The V_V Ranch Petroglyph site is operated by the National Forest Service. It is located 2.8 miles east of the junction of I-17 and SR179 (FR 618). Watch for the entrance on your right less than one-half mile past the Beaver Creek Campground. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (entrance gate closes at 3:00 p.m.), Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas). A Red Rock Pass is required for visitors, a daily pass can be purchased at the V_V Ranch visitor center for a fee of $5.00.
The V_V Ranch began just as you would image from the name, a cattle ranch. Settled in 1900 by Benjamin Franklin Taylor and his wife Newman Taylor, the Taylors stayed here for only eight short years. In 1908, James G. and Rowena Van Deren would take ownership of the ranch. 1917 would see a change in ownership yet again with William G. and Frank L. Dickinson taking over. This same scenario would be played out again and again until the University of Arizona acquired the ranch in 1994, and they traded it off to the Forest Service for other property further south.
The V_V Ranch petroglyphs have been known to archeologists since 1945, when it was reported as part of a landmark survey of the Beaver Creek area. It was only visited prior to the forest service taking control a few times so it was never well documented until mid-way through the 1990’s.
It is believed that these petroglyphs date back to the Southern Sinagua people who inhabited the Verde Valley between A.D. 650 and 1400. These same people built cliff dwellings in the area which include nearby Montezuma Castle, and Montezuma Well along with many additional locations in the Verde Valley.
A total of 1,032 individual petroglyphs have been counted and documented on the four main panels at V_V. One panel alone contains 67% of the rock drawings. The particular style of petroglyphs is called Beaver Creek Style, and can be found throughout the eastern section of the Verde Valley. The style is known for it precise execution, and contains a large amount of anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and geometric forms.
Zoomorphs make up the largest portion of the designs at V_V. Consisting of snakes, turtles, coyotes, dogs, deer and antelope. One of the most interesting zoomorph features is the heron-like water bird. While the heron has shown up at other sites within the Verde Valley, the frontal view with its feathers extended is found nowhere else.
The anthropomorphs, geometrics, random pecking and amorphus shapes are made up of foot prints, bear paws, crosses, stick-figured humans, lizard forms, stick figures with circular stomachs, and young girls. Geometrical forms include lines, astericks, rectangles, grids, spirals, dots, and concentric circles.
As for my personal experience at V_V Ranch, it was different from what I am used to. I have never been to a protected petroglyph site. All of the previous sites that I have explored, and found are off of the beaten path with far and few visitors. There are no signs pointing out the petroglyphs, no rope to keep you back from these amazing pieces of art. The draw back to the sites not being protected is the vandalisim, the positive is not having to share your moment with people who you don’t know.
The one thing that did bother me at V_V was the man that volunteers and watches the petroglyph site, answers questions, and gives interpretations of the petroglyphs. One of the things that I have learned while doing my investigations of rock art is that interpretations are usually wrong. There is nobody alive today that can give any true meaning to these designs. Sure, we can pick out animals, people, etc., but that is about it. To give an interpretation and make it sound as fact, instead of an opinion is wrong.
Overall V_V Ranch is an impressive rock art site. Most of the petroglyphs are vibrant and well-preserved, and I believe that as long as the Forest Service administers this site they will be there in the same impeccable condition for many years to come.