An Archaeology Survey Project in Moab, Utah

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13266A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Work with Bureau of Land Management to survey for artifacts, rock art, and structures
  • Collect data, record photos, and use a GPS as part of an archaeological survey 
  • Enjoy some of the finest canyon views, arches, ruins and red rock formations in the Four Corners


  • All food
  • Access fees
  • Camping fees


DatesMay 5–11, 2013
StaffMichael Stahulak

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Trip Overview

The Trip

The archaeologists in the BLM office in Moab are responsible for locating, documenting, and monitoring archaeological sites on thousands of acres in the Moab, UT area. This is classic red rock desert canyon country with arches, slickrock, wide vistas, excellent hiking, amazing sunsets, and many archaeological ruins.

We will work with BLM archaeologists to locate and document some of the 100+ sites in the Moab area. There will be an opportunity to take a day off during the week to explore the area and hike to arches and other local archaeological sites. Arches and Canyonlands National parks are nearby.

The Project

We will be working in small teams, along with BLM archaeologists. Our work will involve driving to specific locations and using a GPS to locate areas previously identified as possible archaeological sites, as well a surveying new areas to locate new sites. Once they are located, we will carefully survey the area using pin flags to mark the location of lithics, pot shards, tools, and other evidence of historic use. Once a site has been flagged we will be taking photos of features, confirming the GPS location, and writing up a site description on an IMACS form. After the site is fully documented, we'll look for any nearby undiscovered sites. Our work will include site documentation using IMACS forms to establish a permanent record of the site and its features. We will provide the forms and instructions to you prior to the outing so that you can become familiar with documentation.

Some of the sites we will be looking at are in danger of being destroyed by road work or vehicle traffic. In many cases we will be making recommendations for protection of sites with unique features so that the archaeologists can begin the process of protecting them.

Some of the sites may require long hikes (5-6 mile round trip) to reach, but options each day will be available for participants who would prefer less hiking. Although archaeology outings typically require long walks over rough terrain, the nature of this survey makes this outing attractive to volunteers who have always wanted to do archaeology but didn't want to commit to long walks in the desert.


Please be at Windwhistle Campground no later than 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 5th.  After camp is established we’ll have several hours available for introductions and visiting nearby locations of interest. We'll have dinner early and start our documentation training with the archaeologists at 6 p.m.

A typical day will start with breakfast around 7 a.m. and the workday around 8 a.m. Cooler morning temperatures make working early in the day the best option. We’ll pack lunch after breakfast and eat it in the field. When it gets hot, usually around 3:30 p.m., we normally take the rest of the day off to clean up, go exploring, or relax. If we have located an interesting site, the day can go longer.

On our optional day off, small groups with a common interest usually go off to hike or explore the many interesting places nearby. The option of continuing to perform archaeological surveying is usually available.

On Saturday there will be no organized activity after breakfast, other than breaking camp. You can expect to be on the road to your next adventure or homeward bound by 9 a.m.



Getting There

The closest major airports to Moab are Grand Junction, CO and Salt Lake City, UT.  There are rental cars available. 

Accommodations and Food

Our campsite will be a group camp at Windwhistle Campround on BLM land in the Canyon Rims Recreation. This BLM campground has vault toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, hardened gravel tent sites, and running water for cooking, cleaning, and filling shower bags for an occasional solar shower. We recommend everyone bring a folding camp chair to relax and eat in. This will be luxury car camping so bring whatever will make things comfortable for you. If you would like to camp in your vehicle (camp trailer or camper), please make arrangements with the leader in advance as there is limited space available.

All locations will be accessible by regular low-clearance, two-wheel drive vehicles unless a recent storm has damaged the roads. If you are willing to offer your personal vehicle for carpooling from Moab to our campsite and for accessing our worksites, please let the leader know. The BLM will have some limited transportation available to support our group.

The meals will be vegetarian-friendly and will include fish, chicken, beef, cheese, eggs, and other dairy products and soy products. Final menus will be arranged to satisfy dietary limitations of the trip participants.

Each participant will be asked to volunteer to assist with preparation of several group meals. All group cooking utensils, food, and instruction for meal preparation will be provided. A leader will be available at each meal to direct the process and be the chef.

Trip Difficulty

The location and accommodations in the camp make the tenting and food preparation portion of the trip easy and allow for luxury car camping. The desert can be hot, windy, and dry at any time of the year. We may get occasional wind and dust, which make meal times a bit more challenging, but overall the weather this time of year is very pleasant. You can prepare for desert conditions by bringing the correct clothes and drinking adequate quantities of water during the trip. Dehydration in the desert can lead to discomfort at the best and serious health threats at the worst. Please be in reasonably good physical condition with the ability to handle short walks at a slow to moderate pace.

Equipment and Clothing

The equipment list below spells out nearly everything you will need for this location at this time of year. Essentially this is luxury car camping so feel free to bring whatever equipment, special snacks, food, and clothing you need to be comfortable. You must bring your own cup, bowl, dishes, water bottles, and cutlery for your meals, and a plastic container for your lunch. All specialized archaeological tools will be supplied by the BLM. Many people like to bring their own compass, binoculars, GPS, and digital cameras, and volunteer their use during survey work. If you have a laptop computer and are willing to bring it with a recharging (car battery) capability, we will provide the needed software and forms for the IMACS input in advance. All the cooking equipment for group meals will be provided. You are welcome to use the stoves and cooking equipment for your personal needs, except during group meal preparation.

Camping Equipment:

  • Tent (Three-season or better, with rain fly and bug screen)
  • Sleeping bag (Bring an extra sheet or insert in case it gets warm or too cold)
  • Sleeping pad/pillow (Air mats sleep cold!)
  • Headlamp
  • Cup, bowl, plate, silverware, water container(s) (At least two full liters)
  • Knife
  • Ten essentials or survival kit
  • Two one-gallon water containers for filling personal water bottles

Personal Gear:

  • Day pack (Large enough for two liters of water, lunch, and personal hiking gear)
  • Boots (Required for work days)
  • Camp shoes
  • Long sleeved, light-colored cotton or poly shirts (At least two)
  • Long legged heavy cotton pants (Jeans or other work pants are fine)
  • Camp clothes
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Wide brim sun hat, plus at least one baseball cap (Light colors recommended)
  • Sunglasses and at least one pair of safety glasses for working in
  • Sunscreen and lip conditioner with sun block
  • Toiletries
  • Insect repellant (Usually the bugs are non-existent but conditions vary from year to year)
  • Rain gear -- top and bottoms. When it rains here, it really comes down.

Optional Gear:

  • Camp chair (folding variety)
  • Swimming suit, towel
  • Reading materials
  • Jacket or pile shirt for the cool evenings
  • Pen and paper
  • Maps for Arches NP and Canyonlands NP for day hikes (available locally)
  • Camera and film
  • Hiking poles
  • Binoculars
  • Compass
  • GPS
  • Solar shower


If you do some reading and research before coming, you will better know how to spend your free time.



  • Adkison, Ron, Utah’s National Parks. Wilderness Press.
  • Desert Southwest. The Sierra Club Guides.
  • Dunmire, William W. and Gail D. Tierney, Wild Plants and Native Peoples of the Four Corners.
  • Morrow, Baker H. and V. B. Price, Anasazi Architecture and American Design.


The BLM has been charged with managing the largest amount of public lands of any land management agency (USFS, NPS, Fish and Wildlife, etc.) They also have the smallest budget and the fewest employees to get the job done. Our volunteer efforts to support them are highly valued and much needed.

There are many sites on BLM land designated as wilderness study areas (WSA), which are unique, wonderful, remote, and pristine. Many other sites are located near large population centers and are under tremendous pressure from special interest groups (mountain bikers, ATV, ORV users etc.) who often use the land in a very hard way and refuse to be held accountable for their actions. We will spend some time discussing the big picture of public land use. If there are local land use issues near where you live, we would like to have you share those issues with the group. There are many conservation and preservation opportunities to discover and participate in near your home.



Michael Stahulak has been loving and exploring southern Utah since he moved to Salt Lake City almost 20 years ago. Experiencing the landscapes and artifacts of the ancient peoples who lived in the Four Corners region has become a vital part of his life. This will be his fourth Sierra Club archaeological service outing focused in the four corners area. He is a serious student of photography. Michael's background includes degrees in the physical sciences, teaching high school physics, singing in a choir in Vienna, and owning a small business. He currently keeps a roof over his head (and the heads of his two sons) by developing computer software.


From Lisa Coash's first service trip with the Sierra Club she knew it was the beginning of something great in her life. She studied archaeology in college, but choose different paths. One path that has not changed is her love of being outside, especially in the red rock deserts of Utah. She has been spending time there biking and camping since the mid 80s. Currently she lives in the mountains outside Boulder, Colorado, where wildlife abounds and a walk or ride in the woods is right out the back door.

Assistant Leader:

Jeanette Bonnell

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