The mission of California State Parks includes protecting its most valued cultural resources.  The over 5000 cultural resource sites recorded in the Colorado Desert District represent an irreplaceable heritage of California prehistory and history.  To assist with the protection of these resources, the District’s cultural resources staff has developed an archaeological site stewardship program. The trained volunteer archaeological site stewards of the Colorado Desert Archaeological Society provide invaluable assistance to State Parks in the documentation and protection of the District’s unique cultural resources.

Site stewards training in the field.

Learning to recognize an archaeological site.

Site stewardship training includes learning how to recognize archaeological sites and their components. Stewards are taught how to identify artifacts and features such as bedrock outcrops with grinding and milling elements.  In addition, site stewards learn to identify and document impacts to sites caused by both natural and human activities. Natural impacts might include damage from a flood or wildfire. Human impacts include disturbances caused by off-road or off-trail traffic, unauthorized camping and ground fires, artifact collecting, and outright vandalism. All site damage is reported to District cultural resource and law enforcement staff.

Bedrock milling identification

Bedrock milling identification.

Site stewards are trained by professional archaeologists, park rangers, and law enforcement specialists. They are instructed on how to detect and document illegal activities at a site and to provide that information to State Parks staff for action.  Training occurs both in the classroom and in the field. Site stewards visit their selected cultural areas on a biannual basis. The data the stewards collect is included in a systematic information database that is used to track the preservation status of the District’s cultural resources.

Joan Schneider classroom training.

State Parks archaeologist Joan Schneider gives training in the classroom.

Identifying historic bottles  Stewards identify ground stone artifacts.

A site steward examines a historic bottle base is pictured on the left.
On the right, stewards are given instructions on how to identify ground stone artifacts.

Ranger explains methods of information collection.Ranger teaching stewards about footprints.

State Park Ranger explaining methods to collect crime scene information is pictured at the left.
On the right, a ranger teaches stewards to analyze footprints.

Steward recording milling features.

Site steward recording milling features.

Angelina Springs Stewardship class

Stewardship Class at Angelina Springs.